11-17 April: Holy Trinity School, Ambulances and Shakespeare

Holy Trinity School in Upper Tooting, was last mentioned on the blog with regard to the pupils knitting socks for soldiers in August 1914 – an endeavour which presumably continued but unfortunately isn’t regularly noted in the school log books.  The school was affected by the war in other ways, one of their teachers – D J Davies – was called up to the London Welsh Regiment in October 1914 and did not return to the school until February 1919, by which time he had been awarded a Military Cross.  He took a day off to formally receive it in June 1920.  Another teacher, John Moody left to go to Malta in September 1914 with the territorial army, he was killed on 1 July 1916 (the first day of the Battle of the Somme) and is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial.  Assistant A C Swain was called up in June 1916, returning to school in March 1919, and another assistant, B C Moore, went for medical examinations but was presumably found unfit to serve, as he remained the school for the rest of the war.

The pupils also continued to contribute to the war effort, including being part of the fundraising across Wandsworth Schools for an ambulance. On 17th April, the ambulance visited the school so that “the boys might see it and its arrangements before going to France”.

Ambulance S12-2-4

 

The Wandsworth Borough News referred to it as a “splendidly equipped ambulance”, having followed the progress of its fundraising in previous weeks. It was to be presented to the “Mayor’s battalion” and visited all the schools across Wandsworth.  The Mayor himself was unable to go with it, being occupied with the Tribunals, but Alderman Cresswell and Miss Edwards, who had organised the fundraising, went round the schools instead.

The ambulance wasn’t the only disruption to the timetable that morning. 2016 marks the four hundredth anniversary of the death of Shakespeare, and you would be forgiven for assuming that the tercentenary in 1916 was over-shadowed by the war and perhaps not marked.  In Holy Trinity School, however, it was marked with Shakespeare songs and recitations, and on the same day as the ambulance visited the last two lessons of the morning were cancelled for standards 1, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 in favour of a combined practice of the Shakespeare songs for the tercentenary.

Practice Shakespeare S12-2-4

Holy Trinity School, Upper Tooting, logbook, ref: S12/2/4

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29 February-6 March 1916: Sir Walter St John’s School Magazine – News from Old Boys

The March issue of the Sir Walter St John’s School Magazine was a Special War Number. This stemmed from the boys in the school attempting to get in touch with all the old doys on active service so that they could send them a Christmas greeting and some cigarettes, resulting in a selection of the letters home in response being selected for publication.

The cigarettes were gratefully received, one old boy writing that they “arrived at an opportune moment. I was in the trenches and had run out of tobacco – a greater calamity than an attack”.  Several of the old boys had come across each other in neighbouring battalions, although some had more unusual meetings:

One night, on sentry duty, outside a war-demolished mansion, I discovered a garden filled with choicest fruit. Against the rules, I ventured in and by the light of a match filled by pockets, when I was surprised by a slight rustle.  A German! I thought at once; or perhaps a rat.  To be astonishment, however, it turned out to be one of my old Sir Walter St John’s School friends…

Several described life in the trenches, including the phrase “We sit in mud, sleep in mud, and eat mud”, whilst others were currently billeted behind the lines, or elsewhere round the world:

As I pencil this note I am smoking one of the cigarettes in my billet, within sound of the guns…

 

We have just come out of the trenches for a fortnight’s rest in a small village not more than three miles from the line. Unlike most villages round here it has not suffered in any way from bombardment, but jogs its way along seemly oblivious of the ruins all around.  The women here especially are very active, nearly all the farm work being in their hands… The slightest noise from the lines can be heard distinctly.  We heard a bugle band recently that was playing three or four miles behind the Huns’ lines…

 

Your kind packet was forwarded me from Fort William, where we were stationed for 13 months. I cannot say how long we shall be at Lucknow, but expect before very long to go to the Gulf, where things are pretty lively.

The magazine also contains as full a list as the school could manage of old boys and staff who were on active service. It lists their rank and regiment, and carries an update to the school’s Roll of Honour, listing 4 old boys killed and giving details of what happened to them as far as possible.  Harvey Haysom only has “killed in France”, whilst Herbert Bonnell, G E Kosmann and Harold Wilsher all have more detailed accounts.

SWSJ Roll of Honour SWSJ Roll of Honour - the dead

Elsewhere in the magazine, news of everyday school life continued. Meetings of the Debating Society were reported, as were football, fives and cricket scores.  The Speech Day prize list was published, as were the names of the four best boys in each form following the Christmas exams.  The Christmas collection subscription list and where the funds went was listed, as well as the cigarette purchase, money was donated to Queen Mary’s Hospital or Soldiers and Sailors who have lost limbs and the Wandsworth Schools Motor Ambulance, in addition to other local, non-war-related causes.

Sir Walter St John’s School Magazine, ref: S17/2/6

23-29 November 1915: Putney St Mary’s School

The log book of the boys school at Putney St Mary’s School is divided into several sections, each recording different aspects of school life that the standardised book thought were important. Some of these are in the miscellaneous section and details visits to the school, school holidays and other special occasions. For November 1915, the only two events recorded in this section were a visit from the Nurse to examine all the boys and a visit from Dr Verdon Roe to carry out a medical inspection.

Other sections give more insight into the life of the school – the recorded absences for teachers this week notes that Albert Hyslop and A H Rood were absent for half a day as they were “at recruiting office – attempting to enlist”. This was obviously not a successful attempt, as on 7th December Albert Hyslop was again absent, having “Gone to Manchester to try to enlist”. A H Rood continued at the school throughout the war, but Albert Hyslop’s trip to Manchester was a success – his marked absence and recorded last day as staff on 10th December carry the note “Enlisted + gone to Dublin”. It is possible that A H Rood was ineligible for service due to health reasons, in March 1916 he was absent as having been called up for a medical exam by the military but as he wasn’t subsequently called up to service we could guess that he failed it.Logbook - half page

Logbook - gone to ManchesterHyslop’s absence meant that the Head Teacher was “obliged to take charge” of his class. Another part of the log book records how often the Head Teacher taught, and through December and January he is noted as frequently in charge of a class through the absence of a teacher, as well as being in “constantly in charge” of the whole school. Eventually a new teacher was transferred to the school from Brandlehow School for the duration of the war – Mrs Evelyn Faulkner.

Logbook - Head teacher

Elsewhere in the borough, a meeting was held of Battersea Borough Council. They too were dealing with issues around staff joining the Forces, a new Group system of recruitment was coming in (the Derby Scheme) which meant they had to consider if staff joining up through that should receive the same benefits as those who had joined up earlier. The recommendation was that they should, if they joined up before 4th December. Staff now had to be given permission to join up, and at the meeting three men were granted it – W Marsh, public lighting attendant, A J Spriggs, coal trimmer, and G Wright, groundman, Morden cemetery. The Derby Scheme recruitment will feature more next week, and in weeks to come, as we look at the Military Service tribunal records.

Putney St Mary’s school log-book, ref: S11/3/3

Battersea Borough Council minutes, ref: MBB/1/15

19-25 October 1915: Battersea Grammar School

October saw the publication of the Michaelmas Term edition of the Battersea Grammar School magazine. The magazine contains the usual mix of school and Old Boy news, demonstrating that some aspects of life carried on unchanged by the war, whilst others were more affected.

The Headmaster’s notes make clear some of the things which had changed:

…a large proportion of our Sixth Form boys, instead of spending about two years longer with us, have either joined the army, or taken up work in which their scientific and other knowledge could be turned to immediate use. We congratulate them on their patriotism, and are thankful that, notwithstanding this depletion, the total number of boys in the School has been well-maintained.

He also refers to a former Captain of the school who had recently obtained a commission in the Second 5th Yorkshires and to a large number of others who had joined the army – there were plans to publish a list in the next edition. A former master – A C Martin – had also gained a commission in the Royal Field Artillery.

The House Notes section of the magazine shows areas which were less affected – mainly the reports of sporting achievement. Bolingbroke house felt that they’d had a good cricket season, despite their Juniors losing all their matches, as the Senior team beat both St John’s and Trinity. St John’s did not feel they’d done so well in the cricket, although did note that they had been Champion House at the athletic sports this year and that they had put forward the largest number of entries in the Swimming Sports. It had obviously been a good year for Spencer – they did not lose a match in either cricket or football all year, and came top in the Swimming Sports as well. Trinity house had unexpectedly lost both their Captain and Vice-Captain at the time of the magazine, presumably some of those who had joined up rather than stay on at school, as the report refers to their late Captain, W G Game, having got his commission in the Yorkshire Regiment following training in the London University Officers Training Corps. The losses made it difficult for them to record how cricket and football had gone, but they could report on reasonable success in Swimming, coming second in the team race.

W Game makes a further appearance later in the magazine, writing about his experiences of an OTC training camp with the London University OTC. It’s a fairly light-hearted account, including reference to making “the acquaintance of a few interesting NCO’s who, among other things, will introduce you to a new feature of military life, viz, its phraseology” and an account of the perils of kit inspection and the difficulties of getting buttons to shine as they should. His is not the only account of life in the Forces, two other old Boys had also written back to the school to update them on their experiences. Captain Henry Inman had spent some years with the Civil Service on leaving school, then returned to the UK and immediately joined up, his letters refer to his experiences in the Dardanelles – although by the time the magazine was published he had been invalided home, possibly suffering from shell-shock. There were also extracts from letters written by Robert H Maddocks, in France with the 15th London Regiment, including notes on using a table found in a ruined house and finishing “our rum, into which I put some café au lait”.

 

Battersea Grammar School magazines, ref: S21/2/12/5

21 August 1914: Knitting Socks for Soldiers in School

On 21st August the school log book for Holy Trinity School in Upper Tooting records that the older girls in the school had been allowed to continue knitting socks for those at the Front instead of taking part in the General Knowledge lesson.  Presumably this was part of encouraging everyone to be a part of the war effort – the older girls in the school were Standard 6 and 7, meaning they were aged 11 or 12.  School was actually supposed to start back this week – term was meant to begin on the 24th but the London County Council brought the start of term forward to the 12th due to the outbreak of war.  The log book for the 12th records that several of the older girls had started to knit, and a few weeks later on 9th October records that most girls were still knitting and up to present had knitted 32 pairs of socks and 15 pairs of bedsocks.  Sadly the log book does not give any more figures on socks after that, so the total of socks knitted by the girls of Holy Trinity School during the war is unknown.

Holy Trinity School log book, reference: S12/2/5   School log books are like diaries of what was happening in the school.  We hold school records for Church of England schools in the borough, London School Board records can usually be found at London Metropolitan Archives.

Patterns for First World War era socks seem to be widely available online, for anyone who would like to try knitting some!