3-9 November 1914: Sir Walter St John’s School

November saw the publication of the first edition of Sir Walter St John’s school magazine since the outbreak of war. Much of the magazine included the usual reports of passed exams and cricket matches, but a member of Form IVA had been in Paris at the outbreak of war and wrote it up for the magazine. The outbreak of war had not been the immediate signal for him to return home and, with the exception of a difficult journey, his experiences were rather uneventful – especially in comparison to Wandsworth residents who were in Switzerland when war broke out (see this post).

The magazine also features lists of old boys and staff who had already joined up and were on active service. Like their sister institution, Battersea Grammar School, a number of them were with the local territorial 23rd County of London regiment, who were based on St Johns Hill, so had perhaps gone from being in the school cadet force to the TA. The school rifle range was being made available for members of the Old Boys Association on Saturday afternoons from November 7th – although they were expected to bring their own ammunition. Quite how many rifle ranges existed in the borough at the time is difficult to establish, Sinjuns clearly had one and there were at least three in Wandsworth (for more on rifle ranges see here).

Four members of staff had been called up for service. Gymnasium instructor W S Broadbent had gone to the 4th London Infantry Brigade and been temporarily replaced by a Sergeant Williams, and A R McIvor had received a Captain’s Commission in the 9th Battalion, Royal Sussex Regiment and been replaced by H Cooper. Caretaker William Lewis was a Petty Officer, 1st class, on board the HM Trawler Bellona, which was on mine-sweeping duty in the North Sea. An edited version of the letter appears in the magazine, describing his work and the hazards at sea – which include one of the crew capsizing ink all over the table and a lamp nearly setting fire to the cabin, let alone the mines they were responsible for clearing.

Finally, for anyone considering attending a fireworks display this week, you wouldn’t have been able to do that in 1914 – the headmaster refers to “darkened streets and forbidden fireworks”.

 

Sir Walter St John’s School magazine, ref: S17/2/5

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