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|Recollections of a Dunblane Dukie|
Editorial Note: In 1940 the School was evacuated to make room for occupation by troops operating close to the English Channel and to resist an expected invasion by the Germans from the continent. Students of the School were first moved to Cheltenham and, later, to Saunton Sands in North Devon for the duration of the War. Some few boys were sent to the Queen Victoria School, Dunblane, Scotland. Following is a memoir by Ron Field (1942-48) who, though nominally a Dukie, spent his school years at QVS, Dunblane. His story is very much a part of the Duke of York's history.
It was in the winter of 1941 when I sat the entrance/qualifying examination for the Duke of York's Royal Military School. My parents had registered me for consideration prior to the outbreak of hostilities some years previously. I sat the examination whilst a pupil at the state primary school in Auchterarder in Perthshire, Scotland, where our family were living in rented accommodation, accompanying my father, who was serving in a Scottish Regiment of Artillery at the time. This Regiment had previously been a Scottish TA Regiment in Ayrshire and had been annihilated in the Dunkirk area in 1940. It had reformed at Newmarket where my father joined them and was then posted back to its native area to form part of the 52nd lowland Division, its first location was coincidentally in Dunblane, where we lived for a year and I attended the local school. It was of course, whilst we were there that I saw my first Dukies' who had been evacuated to the Queen Victoria School a year or so previously. The Duke of York's member of staff who had accompanied the boys lived in the same road with his family as did my parents and his son went to the local primary school with me. Subsequent to my being accepted by the Duke of York's, my parents asked if I might join the Dunblane contingent rather than go to the main school then housed in Devon, since it appeared that my Mother would be living alone in Scotland for the duration of the War. This was agreed, and so it was that I became the first Duke of York's boy to join this contingent direct from home in April 1942. Others (Beat, Smith [2 brothers], Peachey, McGuirk etc) were to follow in each of the intake terms.
So, at the commencement of the summer term, my mother took me back to Dunblane and the QVS, where we soon found ourselves sitting in the waiting room in the School Hospital, where new boys underwent medical examination. I recall that mother sat next to a lady who was the mother of a boy called Fred Wrisberg. The last time I saw Fred, he was the Drum Major of the Scots Guards in Malaysia circa 1968. It was all very thrilling and I am sure that the feeling of independence held already begun to take over and the mental picture I have of the day remains quite vivid at the time of writing. When I joined there were approximately 80 boys left of the original contingent and I am unaware of the original number, although Chapter 22 of "Play Up Dukies" quotes 120. We were all housed in one dormitory with a small overflow in a small dormitory, which was normally used to house the QV new entries. This practice was discontinued during the initial stages of the Dukie stay and new boys were sent straight to companies. Certainly I was placed in a 'dorm' right next to the Monitor's bunk with a sort of 'trustee' boy to look after me I believe my mentor was Marsdon. The main dormitories were built to house 60 (I think) and we were certainly overcrowded. Other dormitories housed the QVS boys and I have no recollection of any other premises being occupied on a temporary basis. Together we formed "E" Coy under the guidance of CSM (Efco) Halsey who had moved North with the original party, there were four other Companies of QVS boys and there existed much friendly rivalry between us.
Names of the original contingent of Dukies still in residence that come to mind are Kemp, Ridge, McDonald, Aspland, Watmough, Mallet, Mantell, Beadle, Orchard, Marsden, Kent, Wilson, Kitney, Caine, Cross, Parkinson (2 brothers) to name but a few, there were no prefects amongst us and a QVS 'Monitor' was seconded to the Dukie Dorm (originally Kidney, then Patterson). Ridge also had a brother there but I have a feeling that he joined straight from home subsequent to myself. I recall that the elder 'Ridge' was a fantastic athlete who remained a roll model for me throughout my limited sporting life. However, he left during the early stages of my time and I believe went to Arborfield to the Apprentices College with a large party of boys who seemed to have arrived at the end of their school career about the simmer of '43. At the end of the school's well-disciplined day, boys were required to have and overall wash or a bath once a week according to bed section occupied. They then stood on a 'Boxes Soldier' at the end of the bed to await inspection by the Company Sgt Major (i.e. Housemaster) or his deputy in the form of the Company Monitor, Indeed the scene in the dormitory (dorm) on my first night still conjures up a smile on my face as I found it so hilarious that I am sure that I laughed myself to sleep. At home, I had been used to sleeping in pyjamas of course, but the form of nocturnal apparel in use at the school was a flannelette nightshirt, garments that I had never seen before.
Boys were issued with two very large shirts when they entered the school in the hope that they would last the boy through his six years (maximum) at the school. This assumed an uninformed rate of growth and an equally uniform rate of garment shrinkage-, which of course did not occur. I found the sight of the boys flitting around in huge nightshirts and tall boys whose apparel was blatantly insufficient, standing on their temporary pedestals, most amusing. The similarity between small boys in overlarge nightshirts and Dopey from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs can be imagined! Also, the boys who had outgrown the Quartermasters expectations created the impression of being sort of male St Trinians, this was followed by the period after 'lights out' when one could see them moving silently about between beds, swapping comics of going to the loo (purporting to have forgotten to 'go' previously). Their actions visible in the shadows created by the dim blue naked light bulb. Which was positioned. (unshaded) high in the ceiling in the center of each dormitory. The overall effect was one, which made for a most happy day for my introduction unto school life.
The following day was equally truly amazing. I followed the QV group procedure of indoctrination, i.e. learning how to clean my boots properly. Needless to say, being a military family, my parents had ensured that I was well versed in this chore prior to leaving home, but what an experience it was to be taught how to darn socks! We were ushered into the school Sewing Room where some dear ladies spent some considerable time teaching us how to darn socks, which (in theory) we would be required to do for the rest of our school life. There were some dreadful socks for us to practice on with huge hole in them. Some so large that the 'mushroom' (remember them?) went straight through! We were also sent to an empty classroom where we were shown how to write letters home because one period of the day in class would be set aside each week to enable us to perform that task.
The CSM showed us how to make beds and keep the issued items in the appropriate place etc. a senior boy showed us where to stand, waiting to be called in the Dinning room for our meals - very importantly - it was stressed that there was to be no talking whilst in that position. I soon settled down into the routine of the school and have no recollections of my early school life except to find that I was very happy. I had already achieved my first certificate of education by passing the school entrance examination, which was deemed to be the equivalent of the Army 3rd Class certificate. I was placed in the 3rd form, which was the highest class in the lower school. (There were only two!). Here I studied for my Army 2nd Class certificate, which I took and passed at the end of my first, term and thus entered the senior school. And so it was that at the ripe old age of 12, I found myself in possession of two certificates of Army Education, a situation that was to stand me in good stead in my future career in the Army. However, we did not receive the paper cert for the Army 3rd. I know not why.
We wore our own uniform in the initial stages when 'Walking Out' and the brown jumper khaki shorts and stockings with regulation boots when in school. QV boys wore blue jumpers and shorts, green 'hose' and brogues. CSM Halsey catered for our every need and we paraded as a separate company. Other than that we were treated as a completely integrated part of the school. The primary trade amongst the original contingent seemed to be in Tailoring. Although a few were subsumed into the Military Band and the Drum Section. The latter two did not originally (in my time), form part of the Band or Pipes and Drums when performing out of school. This, however was to change.
Elder boys from both schools left at the conclusion of the summer term having reached the end of their school careers - mainly into boy service of the Army, and the number of Dukies thus became further depleted. It was therefore decided circa 1943/early 44, that we should be completely integrated within the QV company. 'E' Coy was disbanded consequently, CSM Halsey returned to Taunton. The History of the DYRMS records that when the shelling of Dover began in 1940, the decision was made to evacuate the school site which became a transit camp for troops(!) and: - initially, some boys were housed in huts at Cheltenham, while the remainder were sent to the Queen Victoria School Dunblane. These were of course only temporary measures, while the search went of for premises, which could accommodate the whole school. Before the end of 1940 the Saunton Sands Hotel in North Devon had become the DYRMS for the duration of the War. It was converted from the Hotel and in the spring of 1941, the school became fully operational again.
In a later Chapter, Bill Masterson the then QVS Quartermaster records that upward of 120 boys were received at a time when Major W. L. Clarke, the Headmaster, was performing the duties of Headmaster and Commandant as Colonel G. E. Hall had been recalled to the colours, neither establishment seems to have recorded the names of the boys which I find quite extraordinary in a time of war - especially since both schools practiced a system of school numbering. "These were of course only temporary measures" had a hollow ring to it to the English Dukies.
The dukie dorm was returned 'B' Company and the practice of segregating new boys during their first term was reinstated. I found myself in 'C' Company as a Boy Sgt, but moving to 'A' Company on being appointed Monitor under CSM Maxwell shortly afterwards. Younger mortals continued to grow and stretch wartime clothing restrictions. A new intake occurred each year at the commencement if the Summer Term, containing boys for both schools, although the Dukie element was small and died off after 1946.sometimes the off 'new boy' would arrive outside the standard intake, mainly due to a parent having been killed. The available Dukie uniform was at a premium, so slowly we were all issued with the QV uniform to wear in the school and those in the Bands were issued with the full dress uniform from the Pool of ceremonial dress and taken to form parts of the bands. There were no Dukie Pipers at this time! However, some boys performed in the Drum Section and were thus integrated into the Pipe Band.
Derek Parkinson - one of the original contingent became a Company Monitor and I believe was the first of us to wear the QV uniform all the time. He left to join the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders. However, one or two of us who followed on behind tended to reverse the practice and wore the side hat and long khaki trousers whenever possible. In my own case, I had an enforced diversion, as the school could no longer provide the Dukie uniform, as I had grown rather tall. Accordingly I wore the general service khaki jacket with the universal General Service Corps large buttons whilst in school. In 1947, having been appointed 'Company Monitor' two years previously I became the Senior Monitor or Chief School Prefect/ Head Boy, call it what you will which gave me 2/6d per week 'school pay' which was quite a lot of money in those days.
I was the first Dukie to be accorded this honour, to be immediately followed by two others in rotation Derek Peachey and Ron Smith. The system of 'school pay' is worthy of record. For each year of attendance without blemish, a boy received 1d per month, which was credited to a pocket money account administered by the CSM. Additionally boys received pay according to rank viz;
Each boy had two accounts. A savings account and a pocket money account and one's 'wages' were split equally between the two. The latter being virtually sacrosanct with the CMS having to be totally convinced of a genuine need for withdrawals, sometimes requiring parental consent. Of course, a boy's parents provided him with pocket money as they saw fit, but another extremely lucrative source of revenue was the money earned during the Christmas term when we were called out to go potato picking. This activity started as part of the War Effort but was to continue to the end of my school days. Local farmers applied to the school for x number of boys and classes were nominated for the task by farms, with a Monitor attached to preserve discipline. Oh! How we all looked forward to this period. It was great to be out in the cold air and experience the marvelous scenery of the picturesque Scottish countryside - even when it was raining.
And after all, anything was better than lessons. We all slept well as the result of these activities and were quite crestfallen when farmers did not indicate that we were required the following day, or indeed on the day itself if the weather was inclement.
Boys studied for the Army First Class Certificate of Education in the main stream of the Senior School and later the Scottish Junior Leaving Certificate, with others in the lower stream leaving at the appropriate time. To progress from the Senior School to the 6th Form one had to have such certificates and here, one studied for the Army Special Certificate of Education and the Scottish Higher Leaving Certificate. I was lucky enough to obtain the former, which stood me in good stead on leaving to take up my chosen profession - the Army to become third generation soldier in our family. Sadly, I failed to obtain a direct place at Sandhurst so went 'up' via the hard way' as it has always been known. The following term, the 6th Form was discontinued and promising boys were sent to the local McLaren High School for their final stages of education. One such, Ron Smith married his childhood sweetheart from those days in due course and is now the President of the Old Victorian Association.
Dukies worked hard, played hard and made quite an impact on the Queen Victoria School during our privileged time there. Sport teams were peppered with boys from our number. We benefited tremendously from the education provided in magnificent surroundings in the foothills of the Ochills in a time of conflict and the aftermath of War. I have happy memories of going over the top or out of bounds and bounding amongst the heather of Sheriffmuir. Many of us are still proud to have been selected under the banner of the Duke of York's Royal Military School and in addition benefited from the hospitality of the Queen Victoria School, recently described as being Jewels in the MOD Crown'. I have often felt that many Scots boys, deserving of a hood education and suitably qualified were deprived of attending the QV owing to our presence. I feel that our existence is worthy of more recognition by both establishment when recording their histories both in print and in the Museums, we did exist and must not be permitted to become the forgotten few Peter Caine and Paul Wilson, whose ashes are interred adjacent to Nye Hall, are testament to our loyalty. Conversely, Ken Kitney who sadly died in early life subsequently to leaving school is interred in Dunblane.
© Ron Field (1942-48)