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The Royal Hibernian Military School (1765-1924)
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A soldier’s orphan's story
Robert Henry Bloomer (1911-1994)

I was born on 22 November 911 over Dempsey’s Drapery shop, which was opposite the Post Office in Ashy, Co. Kildare. My father was Robert Newcomer Bloomer, born in Edgeworthstown, Co. Longford, in 1878. My mother Annie Maud was born in Sandycove, Co. Dublin.

Shortly after I was born we moved to a lovely house in St. Michaels Terrace, Athy. My father, like many other Irishmen, joined the British Army and spent a short time in England, Mesopotamia and India. I attended the 'Model' School in Athy and the headmaster at that time was a delightful man named Rice.

In those days there was a large field opposite our home and we had grandstand seats when the circus visited. I remember Duffy’s very well and I became a friend of young Duffy. Whilst my dad was away my mother worked for the local Post Office. I loved Athy and especially the River Barrow. My dad came home twice on leave and after the second visit we saw him off on the Mail Boat at Kingston (now Dunlaoghaire). Then, in July 1919, while on his way home from India to be demobbed; my mother received a telegram saying my father was in hospital in Poona suffering from pneumonia. Four days later she received another telegram to say he had died and was buried in Poona.

My mother then had to look after my brother John Newcome and myself. After a short time I was registered for two schools, the Masonic Boys School in Dublin and The Royal Hibernian Military School, Dublin. My mother was appointed caretaker of Athy Town Hall and Court House. The latter was burnt down a few days before she took over; however, we moved into the Town Hall. This was the time of curfew and many a night we slept downstairs under a bed whilst shooting took place in the square. One of my tasks was to light the candle in the Town Hall Clock. One of the perks of this job was to go in the side door of the hall and watch the visiting stars in the Town Hall. I remember one show had a singer who sang ‘I’m forever blowing bubbles’. Before going to the Town Hall my mother’s income was £2.10 pension, subject to reduction! This information is shown on election form for the Masonic School, which I discovered by accident.

During the summer of 1921 when my mother had remarried, a letter arrived to say that I had been elected to the RHMS. (Now St. Mary’s Hospital in the Park) A few days later a letter arrived to say that I had been elected to the Masonic Boys School. My mother decided that, as a loyalist, I should be a soldier like my father and so was sent to the Hibs. My good father would have been a better farmer, like his own father who was a farmer in Edgeworthstown.

On 17 August 1921 I travelled with my mother to Phoenix Park, meeting for the first time Cecil Walsh, who was to become a life-long friend. He arrived via the carrier on his mother’s bike! On 31 August 1921 my mother and brother Jack arrived at the school bringing a bag of goodies. That same evening at bath time it was discovered that I had measles. I was promptly sent off to the School's hospital isolation ward where I spent two weeks and three days. I was given two weeks leave and sent home travelling from the Chapelizard Gate to Dublin on the open air train.

During our year in the Park I was (9/10 years) I found life rather lonely at times, but there was practically no bullying. I met my step-grandfather Henry Wilson, with top hat and beard, at the Pillar on Saturdays, having walked all the way from school to town. Granddad Wilson used to take me to Moore Street where my bag was filled with fruit and lovely Spanish onions (two a penny) then on to Dounes (bakery?) for a bag of lovely current buns at a penny each. Before setting out for the walk around Moore Street, the old man would invite the first stall holder into the corner pub and regale her with “a small one”. As I paraded round in my school uniform I was met with such calls as “God bless the old Khaki” and the odd gift of fruit. I was given sixpence and sent off back walking to school. I was dead beat on my return! My friends met me at the door made sure that my fruit didn’t rot!

Sundays we paraded in the Square which housed the lovely gardens and school and school memorial. We marched past the commandant Col. Bent (?) to the tune of St Patrick’s Day and The British Grenadiers. We then went off to our respective churches. The Roman Catholic Church is now the mortuary of St Mary’s and the Church of Ireland church is now used by the RCs. Indeed the latter is very well maintained and the little cemetery where the tomb stones reflect a lot of history since 1769. Whilst I was in hospital a very young boy died and was given a full military funeral which passed under the window of my ward. Some said he died of cramps from eating apples he had “found” in the Park Rangers orchard – no doubt it was a case of appendicitis. I learnt to play hockey with an ash plant(?) in the 15 acres. We played cricket in the playing field at the rear of the school. Actually the school produced 12 international hockey players. In the final of the Army Cup in 1924, 10 of the team were ex=Hibs. Of course our band won everything possible in the Feis Ceol and the hockey team all matches in Leinster.

One of our final parades was to take part in the Royal Review on the King's birthday parade in the park in 1922 and The Hibs received a special cheer from those awaiting the march past. In September 1922, after the signing of The Treaty we were destined to leave Dublin where we had been since 1769; 153 years during which time we had become part of Dublin and well-loved by the citizens of the capital city.

We left the Park in army lorries escorted by armoured cars along the quays to the docks. Along the way and especially at the docks we received a tumultuous farewell. After a long sea and train journey we arrived at Cherston Holt Station, just west of Folkeston Station. We marched to our new home at Somerset Barracks., Shorncliffe, to the music of the band of the Northamptonshire Regt.
Shorncliffe Camp was not quite ideal for a Military School but we survived there for two years. I only remember a few outstanding events to a very young mind! Heat waves in 1923 and in 1924 an epidemic of conjunctivitis which was given a daily dose of “blue stone” to our eyes- a very nasty treatment.  

Five boy sergeants of the RHMS with CSM Justice
(c 1924) after amalgamation with the Duke of York's

After the summer holiday in 1924 we returned to the Duke of York Military School in Dover, The Dukies was founded in 1803 at Kings Road London and then moved to Dover in 1908. This was another great and well laid-out school. There were eight houses named after famous generals. Each house had three dormitories, twenty pupils in each, and administered by an ex. Sgt. and matron who was usually a war widow. For the first three years, the Hibs were housed in three huts, and then we were integrated into the Dukies houses.

The good education given to the boys made it easier for them to join the army upon reaching 15/16 years. Some stayed on as prefects for about another three years, then joined either Sandhurst, the R.A.E.C. or the regts. of their choice. I made great friends while at school with Cecil Walsh and Bill Kille. Bill and I both joined The Buffs (Royal East Kent Regt.) in Canterbury on 19 December 1930. Army life was tough in those days as there was a great depression in England at that time. Apart from sport on Wednesday and Saturday, it was fairly grim! WE SURVIVED! I also met at this time another old friend Paddy Scallan from Dublin.

Bill and I were posted to Shorncliffe, Kent, to the orderly room where we both stayed for four years. We must have been the only two soldiers holding the army special certificate in Pitmans, typing 80 words a minute. I think I am right in saying that we took over from the London Guards in the summer of 1932. In 1934 we moved to Borden, Hants, and life was quite good. I was made a Sergeant. The Regt. was made “Royal”. The Brigadier who was informing us had had his medals stolen the previous day by a Buff. He was heard to say “Buffs I am proud of you,” and aside to the C.O. said “Who stole my bloody medals?”.

In 1936 we were ordered to go to Palestine as the Arabs were causing trouble with the Jews. We had a ten day trip on a P.O. liner and arrived in Haifa in good form. Our ultimate destination was Acre, just up the coast. However the unrest was over by December and we returned to Bordon. The regt. supplied administration staff to look after camps at Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens for troops taking part in the jubilee of George VI and Queen Elizabeth. I was chief clerk and received a Jubilee medal. It was a very exciting month and we took care of 22,000 men.

The 1939-45 war was looming up and the army gradually became aware of what was to come. The Regt, was involved in a motor transport experiment in Aldershot. During the summer of 1938 the Regt was moved to Pembroke Dock in South Wales. This was a very nice location and the local people were very kind to us and attended all our band concerts on Sunday evenings. It was a very busy time too, preparing for the worst which finally came on Sunday, 3 September 1939.

On the morning of 13 September we left Pembroke Dock for Southampton and set sail for Cherburg. On arrival, the C.O. Adjt. and I shared a lunch of army biscuits and a bottle of wine. We boarded our train which took us to a lovely French town called Beaune, where we were billeted. I shared a room with Moggy Catt. The owners were very kind to us, giving us the best of wine and coffee. Their daughter always addressed Moggy as Monsieur Le Chat.

After some months we returned to Margate in Kent for special training. In the summer of 1940 we moved to Sutterton in Lincolnshire, where our task was to guard the east coast from invasion. Again the locals were very kind to us and even presented me with a silver tankard as a wedding present. Eventually after three postponements of our wedding I finally returned home for four days in October 1940 and was married in Christ Church, Dunlaoghaire, to Maureen.

Sgt. Harry Bloomer of the Royal East Kent Regiment (The Buffs) at the beginning of World War II (1939-45)

  On my return to England the Regt. was moved many times. This was part of the plan to keep the army moving and thus learn how to adapt itself quickly. In May 1942(?) we left Scotland and our convoy set out into the Atlantic. There were many submarine scares while on the way to Sierra Leone. The convoy then headed south and anchored off Cape Town for two days. The troops, after been cooped up for about five weeks, really went to town! We set off for Egypt via the Indian Ocean to the Red Sea. Our ship had engine trouble so we were left to sail on our own.
We arrived in Suez in July 1942; it was extremely hot with some sand storms. After a few days I left for Cairo where life was busy, but good. After a short time I was posted up to Palestine to the O.C.T.U. (Office Cadet Training Unit). It was a tough few months which I did not really enjoy except that I met an old school friend. Jack Bulman was on the staff and he helped me along. I was then posted back to a transit camp in Suez and made a full Lt. Here we had to prepare a camp for a Div. due to train for the landings in Italy.

Then out of the blue in 1943 came a posting to Palestine to the Middle East Training Centre near Gaza. I took over from my old school friend Bill Kille. It was a great appointment and one which I really enjoyed until I was posted home in 1946.

Then, in January 1947 I was again posted to the Middle East. I appealed but was told to take it or leave. I was posted to the H.Q. Middle East Forces. I again enjoyed this posting. My Adj. was the Military Secretary, Col. Rose. He was a great man to work for, but very exacting. He eventually became private secretary to the Gov. General of Ceylon and was tailor made for this job. However, before going to Ceylon he arranged for me to be posted to H.Q. Northern Ireland in June 1949. This was a super posting as I was able to travel home to Dublin every weekend. I enjoyed my 4 ½ years there.

In October 1953 I decided to resign my commission and lead a full family life as my daughter was 3 ½. I had given the army 23 years---12 years in the ranks and 11 years as an officer. I was delighted in the Queen's Coronation awards in June 1953, to be awarded the M.B.E. Maureen, Sheelagh and I travelled to London. At the Palace, Maureen and Sheelagh were given a front seat. We slipped out early as Sheelagh became restless! We were met by the press. That evening, after a celebration lunch and trip down The Thames we saw the posters on the London lamp posts which read “With Daddy at The Palace”. What a great finish.

I often wonder what would have been my life if I had gone to the Masonic Boys School in 1921 instead of the Hibs.

Table of Contents - Royal Hibernian Military School
1769 Petition
1806 Pay and Allowances
1806 Weekly Governor's Report
1806 Time Table
1819 Charter
1819 Diet
1819 Staff Duties
1819 General Regulations
1844 Return of Religions
1849 S.S. Pemberton Orphans
1856 School Inspector Gleig
1857 China
1873 Religion
1900 Review at Phoenix Park
1918 Lost Boys
1919 Roll of Honour
1919 Recollections
1919 Lives of the Hibernians
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
1922 Last cricket match
1924 A soldier's orphan's story
1924 Last roll call
1924 Laying up the colours
1924 The final era
1937 A military misfit NEW
1969 The bicentenary reunion
1994 Capt. Harry Bloomer MBE
2001 IGS No.25 History
2004 Newsletter
2005 The last known Hibernian
2007 Sources of Hibernian documents

Delta Tech Systems Inc
  Duke of York's Royal Military School
Royal Hibernian Military School
Reminiscences of a Queen's Army  Schoolmistress
World War I letters and Reports
Books and Militaria
Wellington on Waterloo
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© A. W. Cockerill 2005

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