R.A. ‘Raser’ Smith (1941-49): The War Years

SmithThe Headmaster, W.D. Fraser died of a stroke whilst on a walking holiday in Scotland at Michaelmas half-term 1941. He was eventually succeeded by Harold Moodey in 1942.

Mr Moodey was an Oxford graduate (Chemistry) as per regulations, and probably secured his appointment by having recently had a book published on Analytical Chemistry. I am afraid I endeared myself to him by finding three errors in it.

In my time Mr Moodey never took a chemistry lesson, even when Nick Nicholson was ill. He concentrated on religious instruction, usually using the period to harangue pupils on their poor performance. One of his early acts was to change the house system from one where boys were allocated by area of the town or to the same house as their fathers had been in, to a random distribution. At a time of severe clothes rationing this made him very popular.

Not mentioned so far are Hilda Press; she was a thug who taught French. I am sure many B form members will remember being whacked on the back of the head by this virago. There was also Norman Cleave who returned after the war (Tank group commander) to resume his post as senior English master but left after a term, to become headmaster of Poole Royal Grammar School. In his absence the English posts had been filled by Jake Hammond and Cyril ‘the weed’ Edlin. Cleave taught the Lower Sixth Science Logic for one term. I believe woodwork was abandoned in 1942 due to lack of materials, After the departure of Davis, the subject was taken over by Jenkins who also taught Latin. This master left in 1942 and Jake Hammond took over Latin.

Chemistry was not taught until one reached form 2, George Cooper took us for our first year, his degree was in Chemistry despite being Senior Maths Master. George always played the piano for assembly and the organ at Speech Day, etc. He was organist at Horninglow Methodist Church. Bill Read, Jake Hammond and Ronny Illingworth favoured the Wyggeston Hotel as their watering hole. Unfortunately Bill, who lived at the top of Foston Avenue, was found asleep in the front garden of a member of 4b halfway home, this took some living down.

Tom Parkin achieved notoriety by standing up in the middle of a church sermon and accusing the vicar of using the pulpit as a coward’s castle. He retired at the end of the war to be succeeded by Shorthose (the Drip-after an end of nose feature), another author. His book, ‘The Properties of Matter’ occupied 75% of the teaching time, but only 10% of the examination questions. He was the only master who came to school in a car, a Ford Popular, and had the distinction of being caught in the car in the middle of a level crossing with the gates closed. Schoolboys have eyes and ears everywhere.

Charlie Brown taught History and some Geography and was press ganged into teaching American history to 2A in 1942. He did this by reading a chapter in the text book during the preceding week then regurgitating it as a lesson. One week Charlie, always rather scatter brained, lost his text book. Charlie also kept bees and several times interrupted assembly with “Excuse me Headmaster, has any boy in the Field Lane area seen my bees?”

‘Old Nick’ Nicholson, an Irish communist, was the senior Chemistry master. He had previously been employed in industry which he left under a bit of a cloud. He was held responsible for a gas explosion in a large calciner which disintegrated. Chemistry lessons lasted two periods, for the first part, a lecture/demonstration, the class sat in a circle in an alphabetical order clockwise with Nick at 12 O’clock and Timber Woodcock at 11.30. Consequently Timber got the pleasure of sniffing any obnoxious gasses produced in the demonstration. There was one fire extinguisher, which after use, remained empty for a term.

In Harold Moodey’s time the procedure was for the extant prefects to send a list of preferred candidates for the next year to him, he then amended it. Up to the end of the 1940s prefects had a fair amount of power, they could set lines, put a persistent offender in detention and administer a smart clip on the ear. Discipline was pretty tight.

The War Years

Turning to the war years I started as one of twenty scholarship pupils in September 1941, eight from Grange Street eight from Horninglow Rd. four from the rest of Burton. The total of new entrants was made up to about forty, from the outside districts and the Prep form. The intake was lager than usual due to families moving out of Derby and Birmingham to the Burton area and commuting to their wartime jobs by bus or train. Their sons passed the entrance exam for paying pupils. We were divided into 1A form master Bill Read and 1B. We were taught identical lessons until the February exams and from the results reallocated to 1A&B. These results virtually governed whether you were in the ‘A’ or ‘B’ stream throughout your school career. This had the knock-on result that many of the brighter boys trapped by the scheme were removed and sent to the technical school in Guild Street. This school had a very good reputation thanks in part to the efforts of Arthur Blake, Burton’s very competent Director of Education.

School hours were 9.00 am till 4.05pm with lunch from 12.20 until 2.00pm. The problem of going home in the dark did not occur as single and double summertime were adopted throughout the war years. However detention was moved to Saturday mornings in the mid winter months. As a general rule school could start at 10.00 if the air raid warning had lasted for more than three hours in the preceding night. This was frequently the case in the winter of 1940 but not subsequently.

After school activities were severely limited in the winter months due to the blackout which despite the adoption of summer time, could be as early as 4.45. It was impossible to blackout the school though I think an attempt was made with A room and the adjoining corridors.

Their was also the deterrent of boys having to cycle home in the blackout and masters having to do fire-watching about once a week. An air raid shelter was constructed in the garden where U & V rooms were later constructed and several more in Peel Croft between the grand stand and Lichfield Street. They were relatively shallow shelters due to the possibility of flooding. I can only recall their use on one genuine occasion and several practises. Ironically the ATC’s uncamoulflaged Bulldog bi-plane was parked about 20 yards from the shelters.

Woodwork classes were abandoned in 1942 and with the advent of hit and run raids it was decided that the Art Room with its glass roof, was unsafe. This meant the loss of two class rooms and to compensate rooms were occupied in Bond St infants school which had been closed in 1939 and the Mission Hall in Bond End. As neither locations had an allocation of fuel, classes were conducted in gloves and overcoats. Infant size desks also caused problems. The Mission Hall was however successfully blacked-out, and was used by the Scouts, the ATC and the Aircraft Spotters Club. The Chess Club also functioned during the war years.

Most boys and masters came to school by cycle in all weathers. If it rained or snowed it was impossible to get on the buses unless you lived within two stops of the terminus. Waterproof capes and leggings were in short supply and required clothing coupons for purchase, so assembly and the first lesson were frequently accompanied by a steamy atmosphere. The school yard was surrounded by cycle racks, mostly undercover. All were numbered and you were allocated a number for the year. Cycles had to be pushed along Bond Street  and mounted in Lichfield Street. Lichfield Street had to be crossed by the pedestrian crossing. Scooting on one pedal across the Ferry Bridge was not permitted and detention was the punishment.

In common with other schools the toilets were outside and froze in winter, smoking in the toilets was a caneable offence. Gas masks had to be carried from lesson to lesson until 1944 when regulations became less stringent. The school bell, traditionally rung by the weeks duty prefect, was not rung between 1940 and 1944.

Sport took its usual pattern during the war except that rowing had been abandoned. Rugby was played in the Autumn term and the first few weeks of the Spring term. House matches were played on Peel Croft as Burton rugby club was not functioning. Inter-school matches on Wednesdays and Saturdays were played at Senior and Junior level, travel usually being by Stevenson’s yellow peril. Cricket was also played at the same levels. Amongst the school opponents were:-Lichfield GS, Coton College,Denstone College,Uttoxeter GS, Burton Tech., Ashby GS, Newport GS, Trent College, King Edwards GS Aston & Five Ways, Radcliffe College, Nottingham High Pavement GS, Nottingham GS, Tamworth GS. Some fixtures were cricket only. Photo’s of the Cricket 1st XI are confusing, in general they were taken of the XI chosen for the Old Boys match which began at 11 am and frequently coincided with A level exams. This explains why a number of stalwarts are missing.

The school had a very strong swimming team and thrashed most opponents, the climax came in 1948 with a match against Motherwell GS which we narrowly lost. The opponents had three team members who subsequently swam in the London Olympic Games.

Cross country was the main athletic event in the second half of the spring term. The senior course started on the Ox Hay, then across the Ferry Bridge, through the back streets of Stapenhill, up to Brizlincote Hall Farm, across to Winshill Clump, down Tower Road and Ashby Road to Elms Road; across Stapenhill Road, through the Riverside Gardens and back to the Ox Hay via the Ferry Bridge. Track athletics were not taken very seriously until the arrival of Norman Jones and Norman Paine after the war.

The easing of blackout restrictions in 1944, lead to the renewal of evening activities. The Scouts held Gang shows in the school hall and the drama group got back into full swing.

The Fauld explosion has already been written about. There has been no mention of the fairground fire in 1943, which conveniently started at about 3.50 pm so had most ot he school as audience.

1945 saw many changes, partly due to the influx of new masters, contacts with the Girl’s High School previously fround upon were increased , initially with the Circle Francais (Wood),drama selection of plays with more female characters and by 1947 joint ballroom dancing classes. The cafe at the Ritz cinema also proved a great Saturday morning attraction.

E J Ward (Ernie as we new him then) partially took over rugby from Jake Hammond though there was a slight problem as Ernie had played the dreaded Rugby League as scrum-half for Bradford Northern. The opposition consequently received an unpleasant surprise. ernie also ran the radio society which operated from the sports pavilion, he had a very early so attracted a lot of contacts on the air waves.

There was also a man called Paine about 6’4″ tall, ex-Nottingham University, who took over part of Ronnie Illigworth’s cricket for a time. He lived up to his name, if you dropped a catch , mis-fielded or bowled a wide you were sent to run round the boundary several times.

Norman Jones boosted the interest in athletics and organised a visit to the 1948 Olympic Games. At that time you accumulated points for your house by acheivng a certain standard.

On Sports Day points were also awarded for the positions in the races and the house with the highest aggregate of the combined set of points won the cup. David (Spike) Finch who was Athletics Captain of Drake house caused some embarassment by turning out his house members to achieve the standards to such an extent that the difference between Drake’s pre Sports Day total and that of the other houses could not be made up by results on the day. Another entertaining incident was when Norman introduced and demonstrated the hammer. He got it wrong somehow and the hammer finished in the circle and Norman on his back outside. He had some diffculty in persuading Ronnie Illingworth that those spectators who applauded the effort should not be put in detention. It was quite noticeable that the attitude to the boys, of most of the post 1945 staff arrivals differed considerably from the pre-war ones.

The diagram of the lay out of the school is correct for the late 1940s except that L room was not divided fom the Art Room and J room was the home of 2a Charlie Brown in charge in the early 40s. Incidentally the photo Pre-World War II b is of the Art room not the Woodwork Room. In the early 40s the other form rooms were 1A in F (Frank Reed),4A in G (R Illingworth), 5A in C (H Pitchford), 2B in L, 3B in M (J Daffern), 4B in D (H Press) 5B in B ( J Hammond) Lower 6th Modern in N 6th Science in O (G Cooper). On completion of S and T rooms 2B went to S and the Lower 6th Science to T.

T room was fitted out with a demonstration bench, gas and water taps and basin, though it waas rarely used for its original intention as a supplementary physics lab.. However the was a perforated ventilation brick in the wall between between T and S and in free periods it was not unknown for a fine spray of water to be directed via a rubber tube and the ventilation brick on to the head of the master teaching in S room. It was surprising how often the roof of S room was examined for leaks.

Another feature of S and T rooms was the coke stove, totally inadequate in winter but stoked enthusiasically by the inmates to such an extent that the chimney often glowed red hot. On one occasion a small oxygen cylinder was left in T room, so it was decided that supplementing the air with oxygen would boosted the efficiency of the stove. The experiment was abandoned when the chimney softened and sank several inches.

Prefects and masters did one week on duty per term, this involved opening the garden gate, patrolling the school yard at breaks, tolling the school bell and reading the lesson (getting told off by H Pitchford if you said Jerusalum instead of —lem). In general prefects were allocated to individual forms for one term at a time and were expected to keep order in the absence of the master. They also did Dinner Duty once every three weeks supervising setting up and removing of tables etc.. Sandwiches were eaten in D room which was also used for pupils excused prayers.



John Clubb: How the War affected the school

ClubbI was evacuated from my home in Manchester in August 1939 to live with my maternal Grandfather, R.W. Clubb who was a long-retired Head Cooper at Bass’s Brewery. When my sister Helen and I came to live with him at 6 Brizlingcote Lane we were 10 and 11 respectively and he was about 87, a widower with living-in housekeeper.

As I had not been at Burton Grammar School before the War, I am not able to make any comparisons. However, I assume the average age of the schoolmasters went up pretty quickly after 3rd September 1939.

My first impression as a new boy was the strong smell of carbolic mixed with the fainter smell of vomit which pervaded my classroom which was close to the place where the daily milk deliveries were left and to the lavatories nearby. An early Form Master was “Chas” Brown who also taught History. A gentle man who, though not fierce, kept our attention and respect. I used to go to school by bike or bus though we had to travel to the few away sports fixtures by train. Most distant venues were KES Aston, Cotton College who, with Denstone Grammar School normally beat us in my time. We used to beat Lichfield, but we were only just beginning to become useful at cricket and rugby at the end of my time at BGS. We always had an excellent Swimming team in those days.

I suppose one thing the War did for the school was to promote the introduction of Sea Scouts and Air Training Corps. The latter did a great deal for me in that it prepared me for what eventually became my main career in the Royal Air Force which lasted until I was 47 years old. Bill Read (Maths and Swimming) was the leading light in the ATC and he had support from Ron Illingworth (Geography and Cricket) and Jake Hammond (French and Rugby). We did Drill, Navigation, Shooting and latterly went on camps at RAF stations (Halton was one I think). We also were given the opportunity to fly as passengers in powered aircraft (my first was a De Havilland Rapide twin engined biplane flying from RAF Hednesford I think) and we did a bit of gliding from Burnaston airfield.

Before the ATC I had been a member of the Scout Troop run by ‘Tweak’ Hearne (Maths and English) – so nicknamed because of his evil habit of grabbing a finger and thumbfull of short hair at the back of the neck of miscreants in his classes. Most painful, but very effective in those days when schoolchildren did not, could not, fight back. The days when parents sided with schoolmasters and, as often as not, added their own punishment if their children were unwise enough to complain of the punishment already meted out in school. As a scoutmaster ‘Tweak’ was excellent and ensured that his charges had plenty of opportunity for rough, well controlled horseplay mixed with reasonable discipline. The senior scouts were given opportunities to control and lead the juniors.

We went on scout camps and school camps which were open to all. Vague memories of both types of camp were that there was plenty of excitement and frequent dramas, but always good fun. The school camps I attended were a farming camp to West Hanney in Oxfordshire (we got there on bikes) and a forestry camp near Lake Bala, North Wales. At the latter I managed to slice a large piece out of my knee with a billhook and, after a few days in bed in a tent, the wound began to smell so that all concerned thought hospital might be a good thing. I finished up in Wrexham Hospital amongst injured troops and, thanks to the newly discovered penicillin, didn’t lose my leg. Incidentally I was there when ‘VJ Day’ (end of the war with Japan) was declared. Despite the forecasts of the Wrexham doctors that I would never play again, I was back playing rugby before the end of the year. Mrs Hearne was also with us on camp and I used to wonder how on earth she could have enjoyed herself with such a rabble as us.

Back to the War. I saw 3 Junkers 86s fly over one day and one night 3 bombs were dropped in Burton but, apart from seeing the searchlights, hearing the anti-aircraft guns and the throbbing engines of the German raiders on many nights as they flew over to bomb various towns and cities in the Midlands, we saw no action – though you may be interested to know that my Mother (who was an Old Girl of Burton High School and died last November in her 107 th year) experienced a Zeppelin raid on Burton in World War I.

We did see the glow of Coventry burning one night. Boys used to bring in to School pieces of shrapnel from the anti-aircraft shells – I never heard of anyone on the ground being hit. Also, on one occasion during a French lesson (I can’t remember the name of the lady teacher) we were almost blown out of our seats when the bomb dump near Hanley blew up – not, apparently, the result of enemy action. This was later claimed to be the largest conventional explosion of the War. Strangely, we didn’t hear a bang although the noise of the explosion was heard in Manchester, 60 plus miles away. But -as they say- the earth really did move. Our French teacher thought it was an earthquake.

There were fairly frequent air raid alerts when we were supposed to dash into the air raid shelters, but I don’t recall doing much of that after the first false alarm the day war was declared, possibly because most of the sirens were at night. All the School windows had sticky tape across them to prevent injury from glass blown in by explosions. We all had gas masks too, but we didn’t carry them with us at all times as we were supposed to. We quickly became complacent as the War progressed. I’m sure I must have eaten lunch at School, as there wasn’t enough time to get home, but they must have been not too bad, since I can’t remember anything about them – not even where we ate.

I met Thomas Griffiths at a rugby match in Cambridge last week; he was about 2 classes above me at Burton Grammar School and he told me that the 6th Formers were on a Fire Watch roster and took it in turns to sleep on the school premises and patrol from time to time looking for any signs of incendiary bombs (I don’t think they ever found any). He also said that one of the bombs fell in Abbey Street, near to Bond Street and that the bomb blew a bird cage, complete with budgie, through the wall of one of the houses hit. The bird survived unharmed – despite the absence of counselling in those days! My sister tells me that William Joyce (Lord Haw Haw – a British traitor who used to broadcast nightly from Germany) said that Burton had been completely destroyed by the bombing and that beer was running down the streets!

Nothing to do with the War, but a very clear memory was when Mr Frazer, the Headmaster, died suddenly and unexpectedly of a heart attack in around 1940. He was replaced by Mr Harold Moodey who died in even worse circumstances, but after I had left School, in about 1949 I should think. Mr Moodey used to take our class in Religious Instruction when I was in 5 th Form (1946) and was a wonderful gentle man who took a great interest in my progress (or lack of it) in the last 2 years of my school time and in the start of my career in the Royal Air Force. We exchanged letters for a few months after I had left school and was in Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) with the Royal Air Force and it was a great shock when he killed his wife and children and then committed suicide. Never was I more certain that the verdict it suicide whilst the balance of the mind was disturbed was correct in his case. Without doubt he killed his family to protect them from the consequences of his suicide and his state of mind must have been unimaginable – he was such a God-fearing man.

From 1945 onwards there was a sense of change as those who had been in the Armed Forces began to return. I noticed it mainly in the cricket when the newcomers seemed to have decided to take over the annual Masters versus the School match. We, who were loyal to our hero Ron Illingworth and, to a lesser extent, Jake Hammond and Bill Read, felt they were being pushed into the background – particularly as Ron, who usually opened the innings and scored a century, was put in to bat at number 7. I was quite pleased that we beat them comfortably and that Ron top scored for the Masters.



Ted Warren (1936–42): School Memories

WarrenSchool started with assembly in the hall under the eagle eye of Tom Parkin. The Headmaster read a prayer, a hymn was sung, notices read and then quietly and orderly we left for our classrooms. Breaktime we went across Bond Street to the Rawlings sisters (Gertie & Maisie) where if you were lucky, you bought a doughnut or a twist. Back to school until Dinner time from 12:00am to 1:30pm and finally home at 4:00pm

The school had scholarship boys & fee payers. I remember lining up in the hall to pay Mr Marshall of Talbot Stein & Evershed. Fees per term were £5-5-0 if you lived in the Borough, and £7-7-0 if you lived outside. Uniform, which was strictly enforced, was either blue blazer, grey flannels, white or grey shirt with blue & red school tie, and blue cap with a broad red band at the back OR a grey suit. These had to be purchased at either Tarvers or Ellis & Sons.
For sports, in those days masters used to coach boys after school. Frank Read, swimming, Ron Illingworth, cricket & Jake Hammond, rugby. House matches were held on Saturday mornings and you were expected to attend wearing school caps and were punished if you forgot your cap.

Some of the outstanding students were:
P.C.H. Davies who was a fine sportsman, captaining the school at cricket, rugby and athletics. He set many school records, some were still held by him when the school ceased. Norman Dent became an English cross country runner.
Oscar Deville became a C.B.E. before being knighted for his services to industry. He is a very gifted man. John Dent was knighted for services to aviation & travel. On a sad note – N Carfoot, Tom Thorley & Peter Berry all died due to war service.

Some memories of the staff:
The Headmaster, Mr Frazer, died tragically in 1941. Deputy Head and Physics master Tom Parkin was feared in early years but respected in the 5th & 6th forms. ‘Cherry’ Major Orchard was a territorial so went to war in 1938-9, and returned to the school afterwards. Dai Davies – Woodwork and P/T Terrier with South Staffs, was also called up 1938-9, returning after war. Nicholson took us for Chemistry and Dai Hughes for English & Cricket. Frank Read took Maths & coached swimming. During the war he was C.O. 351 Squadron Air Training Corps . Ron Illingworth – Geography & coached cricket and was also an officer in 351 ATC. ‘Chasser’ Brown, History master, formed a League of Nations society which ceased when war broke out.

The famous H.H. Pitchford, who taugh both History and Geography, always carried a small case with him and wore a trilby hat. He ran the school bookshop for years with George Cooper and was eventually to become Headmaster. ‘Scraggy’ Shan taught French and had a viscious right hand. ‘Bunny’ Leighton also taught French and organised the school scouts. ‘Daddy’ Spooner taught Art. Monsieur Vinc was yet another French teacher but he resigned before the war and returned to Belgium where he died fighting for the Belgian Resistance. ‘Reggie’ Neale taught Biology and was a good rugby referee; he left to join the Navy; he did not come back to BGS but became a well known author. N. Crystal, who I can only just remember, came back to Burton after the war but he did not return to BGS being blinded and badly injured by bomb explosion due to his service with a bomb disposal unit. ‘Connie’ Illsley came to replace Neale as Biology teacher and was the first lady on staff. Lastly ‘the boy who never left’ BGS, George Cooper, gained a scholarship to BGS Higher School Certificate and entrance to university. Qualified and returned to teach at BGS for the whole of his long scholastic career; he taught Maths and helped to run the school bookshop.



Don Payne (1942-45): BGS as an Evacuee

PayneHaving been bombed out in London’s East End in 1941, I was evacuated with my brother Dennis and my Mother to Newhall near Burton. We were billeted in a very small cottage in the back gardens of homes in Oversetts Rd. “Grandy Sabin one of the characters of Newhall was the tenant. He lived and slept in one downstairs room whilst we used all the other rooms. There was no bathroom and an outside toilet. The downstairs rooms must have been infested with cockroaches because if we returned home at night and switched the lights on there was a very large gathering of them in the middle of the floor! My primary school was in Newhall. In 1942 I had to take the London County Council entrance examination at the primary school and the paper was sent to the London Education Authority for assessment. Due to administrative delays my results were not processed until October 1942 and I was awarded a special place at Burton Grammar School; my London grammar school would have been Coopers Company Boys School in East London.

I enrolled at Burton Grammar on 23rd October 1942 and was immediately in trouble with French language having missed the first few weeks of lessons. My early impression of Horace Pitchford (History) was of a dapper but fierce master who did not suffer fools gladly! During my first few months at school I managed second place behind Brian Fretwell in the Junior Cross Country race and we were both awarded our Athletic Colours. This helped me integrate into school life very quickly as I was recognised by Masters and senior boys of the school.

I never carried a gas mask although we had them at home. Assembly was in the main hall, in form order and Tom Parkin Senior Master would scowl at any one making too much noise before we were addressed by the “Beak” Mr. Harold Moodey. Tom Parkin, for all his serious exterior, frequently had a half smile on his face as if to say “I know what boys can be like”. Masters and Prefects could give detention for various misdemeanours which required attendance on Saturday morning to complete set work. Morning and afternoon breaks were in the rather small playground. The tuck-shop opposite the main entrance, run by Lily and Gertie provided smashing current buns and they did brisk business. For mid-day meals we sat on benches at long tables in the Hall. Food was still plentiful and I frequently went up for seconds if they were available.

I do not think the school had an air raid shelter as I never visited one during my time. Emeny air raids were at night when they bombed Coventry, Birmingham, and Derby (Rolls Royce) and other industrial cities. You could hear the anti aircraft guns and the steady drone of enemy bombers. Blackout of all lights was enforced with shaded headlights on vehicles and black curtains which had to be drawn when lights were switched on. In the later part of the war we saw plenty of large formations of American bombers and fighters that were carrying out daylight bombing missions over enemy territory.

Discipline at school was strict but fair. All boys had to wear the school hat and tie and touch their hat when acknowledging a member of staff out of school. I never had a school blazer as family finances were tight. The annual Speech Day took place in the Town Hall. I believe all the school attended and the Masters wore their gowns with University colours. Awards were made for various achievements during the academic year and consisted of books with a label inside indicating the proficiency and signed by the Headmaster. During my stay I was taught variously by Connie Illsey, Polly Lownds, Miss Selby, Jake Hammond, Bill Read, Ronnie Illingworth, Joey Daffern, George Cooper, Chazzer Brown, and Horace Pitchford. Although I was not taught by Mr. Moodey I did make his acquaintance when receiving “six of the best” for some demeanour in my first year! Sporting activities consisted of Rugby, Cricket, Athletics and Swimming. There were regular matches against other schools including Trent College, Denstone College, K.E.S. Aston, K.E.S. Birmingham and Repton. These were limited because of transport difficulties. Inter House matches were introduced during the war to stimulate competition and were mainly played on Wednesday afternoons and Saturday mornings.

As a member of the air scouts we had the opportunity to cycle to Fradley airfield which was an Officer Training Unit. They used Wellington Bombers for training which consisted mainly of “circuits and bumps” continuingly landing and taking off for about two hours. If flying was taking place that day you drew a parachute and when the plane was ready you climbed aboard and had a rather bumpy flight for two hours. It was just too bad if you felt sick as you could not get off! There were a number of clubs at the school which met after school hours.

Any boy at the school during 1944 will remember the explosion when the ammunition dump at 21 MU RAF Fauld near Hanbury blew up.4,000 tons of bombs blasted a crater 400ft deep and three quarters of a mile long. One farm with all buildings, wagons, horse, cattle and six people disappeared. It happened on 27th November 1944,was the largest explosion during both World Wars, and killed seventy people, eighteen of which were never found. At the time, just past eleven, Chazzer Brown was taking my class for Geography. There was a muffled rumble and all the lights in the room rattled. Chazzer, quite unruffled just got on with the lesson. Later that week I cycled to the area and many of the local roads had large clods of earth littered about that had been deposited by the blast. The area was cordoned off and even in 2004 sections of land are cordoned off due to unexploded bombs.



John Hicklin: The Fauld Explosion

It was just after 11 o’clock on a foggy Monday morning,the 27th November 1944. As a ten year old boy I sat at my desk in ‘A’ room at the Burton Grammar School. I thought that I was about to faint. Without any noise at all my desk seemed to rise up towards me, or perhaps I was going down towards it. A very strange sensation was soon gone but quickly the whole class realised we had all experienced the same feeling. From the floor upstairs came a noise of the whole class there scrambling under their desks. Around lunchtime the rumours were well established and it was only later that we found out that the ‘Dump’ had gone up.

The ‘Dump’ was an ammunition store underground in some old gypsum mine workings at Fauld about five and a half miles from our school.The blast of some 4000 tons of high explosive bombs detonating together had sent tremours underground for many many miles and what seems to have happened was that the whole school building, floor, desks and all had silently moved as one then settled down again.

On the way home I stopped to take train numbers but there was still a dense fog and we heard the endless sounds of emergency vehicles going to the local hospital that was just down the road from us. I remember the eerieness of everything drove me home.

My mother was away in Derby for her father that day and only learned of the awful event that evening. The following day mother went with the WVS mobile canteen to the site at Fauld and did her stint two days each week until the following March. I remember she had some harrowing tales to tell and I don’t believe I heard the worst. The whole area was a sea of liquid mud which frequently came over the tops of their wellingtons as they moved around the site in threes and fours holding hands as so many small craters were just levelled with the liquid mud.

Sixty-eight people lost their lives in a bang which took out the crater, (which was some 90 feet deep and covering an area of 12 acres) in a second. A whole farm with buildings implements and stock vanished without trace. A thousand acres of topsoil was redistributed, some up to 11 miles away.

The crater is still there near the small village of Hanbury and is now marked on the Ordnance Survey map. A Memorial stone and plaque stand alongside the crater and each Remembrance Sunday the names of those who lost their lives there are read out in church alongside the those that fell during the two world wars.

Stories and facts of this tragedy abound. So horrific was it that tales of ‘When the Dump went up’ will be told for generations to come.



1941 Old Boys Visit

This 1941 photo shows a visit back to the school by some Old Boys. The Headmasters position had recently been taken over from W.D. Fraser by Harold Stephen Moodey who is in the centre of the doorway. To his left is a young man that had already made Wing Commander.

The man to Mr Moodey’s right is thought to have been a member of staff but no-one has managed to identify him. Next right is James ‘Jim’ Woolley, complete with wings and pilot officer rank and who was to go on to rise quickly through the ranks.

The others are unknown.


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