War-time Goldings

Summer 1961

IT is said that the memory is a wonderful thing, the human camera, and registering machine, confirmed by the fact
that I can see and hear anything I wish, just as if time had stopped and I was still at Goldings.
My arrival with six other boys on 18th January, 1939, was the start of nearly three years 'sentence' which terminated
on l0th September, 1941. Stamped number 36, Somerset House, I joined the 'spare boys' brigade. The 'spare boy'
system meant that a boy had to wait for a vacancy in his chosen trade, or possibly he could not make up his mind
immediately, so instead of wasting time waiting around he was kept occupied doing odd jobs.
It was obvious that on joining the Kitchen Department, my circumstances became such —much to my regret _that I
could not take part in School activities, such as sport and study. We really had to work hard and did not receive
training and teaching like the other boys enjoyed. The chef was interested in his staff, but obviously had no time to
spare showing boys the know-how. There were no books for study, no trade examinations, no certificates given, but
even so it was all good basic training.
Rose and Murray were two head boys I remember —Murray lost a finger on the bread machine, which was a
handicap for a while. I enjoyed the swimming sessions with chef, who was also responsible for the making ready of
the pool each session. Considering the difficult period the food was very good, there were the gifts of molasses and
venison meat to the School, all very much appreciated, and contrary to the popular belief, kitchen boys did not have
more than the others! You just do not feel like eating more when you work amongst pots and pans. Some boys just
could not understand why a certain head boy could not sell them a slice of the famous bread pudding, it just was not
The trenches were a well-done job, there was room for everybody. After one all night session we woke up to hear
the sad and unbelievable news that Mr. Battel had been killed while on duty. The School went to the funeral of this
fine master. Never again could we have that 'hidden safely in the country' feeling as we had done before this tragic
incident. The only seaside holiday I had came to a sudden end when the Governor told the School that owing to the
international situation, we would be obliged to return to Goldings sooner than arranged. Soon after war broke out.
Gas masks were issued and tedious but necessary exercises became the routine, and of course everyone took his gas
mask when leaving for a situation.
The Saturday afternoon outing from 2 p.m. to 5.30 p.m. or 6 p.m. was too short to see a cinema programme through.
To walk to Hertford and back took time, and there was constant clock-watching for fear of being late. There was no
regular bus service. I felt that tea and supper could have been arranged as one meal to give an extra hour's outing.
The shoe-cleaning hut (attached to the left of the big recreation hut) gave one food for thought. There was one brush
for approximately fifteen boys. Some brushes were hidden, some shoes were cleaned with pieces of wood or cloth,
yet we were expected to present ourselves on parade in perfect order. I suggested to a master that each house have
its own shoe-cleaning kit! A small detail perhaps, but it helped to make up a routine.
Pocket money. I had 2s. 2d. for my last week. The periodical rise was 3d. every six months. I think boys would have
appreciated the opportunity of earning extra pocket money in some way or other.
I deplored the lack of certain kinds of advice I was expecting, especially from the Governor. There was the
occasional 'how are you keeping boy?', but no words of advice. Later when I was staying at Stepney, several old
Goldings boys told me the contact was not close enough between staff and boys.
I remember Oxley, of Buxton I believe, who had been in sick bay for a long time, he was always very pale and liked
making model aeroplanes. I am afraid he lost a gallant battle, his House went to his funeral service.
I remember Robert Bell and Ronald Parry (Somerset), also Mercer who was School Captain followed by Baker and
'Dusty' Miller. There was another School Captain who won first place in an all England gymnastic competition, but
I forget his name.
Some of the staff I remember were: The Rev. F. Macdonald, Governor; Mr. Maslin; Mr. Chandler; Mr. Patch, P.T.
Instructor; Mr. Whitbread; Mr. Jones, Wash-house Master; Miss Roe; Mr. White; Mr. Tempest; Mr. Millar. Other
members of the staff I well remember but their names I have forgotten, but when I see the staff list in
THE GOLDONIAN today, I think a committee should be set up as soon as possible to consider giving a few gold
medals for 'long and faithful service to Goldings'. The School teams of football and cricket did well in those days.
Mr. Woodhouse, Executive Officer (ex-R.N. officer) was in charge. One fine boy player went to a county cricket
team for a trial; another boy became a professional footballer, but I forget their names.
I can hardly believe that it is almost twenty years since I left the School, yet I wonder if Mr. Maslin remembers the
lesson he taught me? I was asked, as a spare boy, to take the post wallet to the local post office, as was the custom.
This was a confidential job, but deciding that I wanted to do something else I handed over my job to another boy
who did what I asked. Later I was called to the office to be told by Mr. Maslin 'never to confide my job to another
without first doing or trying to do it myself. A lesson indeed, which has always stood me in good stead. I expected a
good telling off, instead I received a quiet smile, tact, and patience. This gentleman has understanding, and with all
his modesty is bound to disagree with the writer!
I ask as an old boy, to be forgiven for any criticism made of my period with the School, certain things are not even
mentioned because I realize the war-time difficulties. My article is written with full respect and thanks to the School
authorities, not forgetting the guiding hand from Stepney, H.Q., who did their best for the boys through the period
of life when everything and everyone changes, and things are completely upside down.
Would it be fair—I ask myself—to ask the present generation to appreciate the period as I lived it at Goldings?
Each period does and always will bring its own difficulties and problems. Most of the boys of my time must have
done their war-time National Service; many, I imagine, did not come through unscathed; careers were broken up;
chances won and lost; and so one could keep on.
It has pleased me indeed, to say the least, to read of the improvements and changes made at the School, to make the
boys' lives contented, and satisfying during their stay, and so make them ready to face life outside ... I do wish I was
a student at Goldings today! Need I say more?


I have reproduced this article from George with very few minor alterations and if the English is not quite 'Queen's'
in place s, I am sure both George and I will be forgiven, as he has lived in Belgium for many years, and I have
honoured his letter in which he asks that 'the Editor will print it as I (George) have written it'.

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War -time at Goldings