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Scenes from School life in the early 1950s

We are indebted to Mrs. Vera Lowe for permission to post these photographs of school life during the period she and her husband, Lt. Col. E. E. Lowe, lived with their family at the school. Col. Lowe was headmaster of the school from 1949 to 1954, a period of great change in school life captured admirably in Mrs. Lowe's photographic record of the period.
In the summer of 1951, the French branch of the British Legion invited a contingent of boys to visit Paris. Members of the Legion had married French wives, which is of course the reason they settled in France to raise families. The British Legion was entirely responsible for arranging the visit to Paris.
Boys assembling to attend a ceremony at the Arc de Triomphe   Contingent marching from the Arc de Triomphe with the Paris British Legion benind the Gendaremerie/Garde Civile band
The Paris contingent, accompanied by Headmaster Lowe and other members of staff, was headed by Chief School Prefect "Jo" Janetta, the elder of two brothers who were at School during the headmaster's years. Although Chief School Prefect, Janetta was the first 'Head Boy' following the school's transition from its decidedly military character to a 'public grammar school' within national educational curriculum (see 1949 A headmaster's life). Janetta was the first boy to go to Oxford under the new system of education. Of equal interest is the fact Janetta attended Headmaster Lowe's old College, St. Edmund Hall. In the illustration, he is shown signing the visitor's book on behalf of his fellow visitors.
As the senior member of the contingent present, Chief School Prefect Janetta signing the guest book.
Wreath laying ceremony at  the Arc de Triomphe
A veteran lighting the flame at the Arc de Triomphe
As regards the accommodation provided the spring in Paris visitors, it was the practice of the French lycées to offer lodging to organisations visiting France as a means of generating income. The British Legion arranged for the Lycée Michelet, conveniently close to the centre of the city to house the visitors during their stay.

On parade in the courtyard of the Lycée Michelet, quarters for the duration of the visit


Headmaster Lowe meeting the three buglers who accompanied the party

These images of the 1950s tell us a great deal about changes that occurred at the beginning of the decade. By this year, for instance, boys wore short trousers until their thirteenth year when they were issued with long trousers; prefects wore the two-inch web belt first issued to the British Army in 1938 for use with the battledress uniform; 'ammunition boots' were replaced by more comfortable and easy-to-polish black shoes; and the issue of a proficiency star for military subjects such as rifle shooting.

Another view of the visiting party on parade at the Lycée Michelet

Proficiency stars were in fact awarded in two halves, the upper half of the star being issued first followed by the lower second half for additional achievement. Interestingly, a full star can been seen on the right sleeve of the first bugler in conversation with Headmaster Lowe. It does not appear on the right arm of Chief Prefect Janetta in the photograph in which he is to be seen signing the guest register. In another shot of Janetta in which the Duchess of Gloucester is seen pinning an award to his left breast, the Chief Prefect is wearing the proficiency star above his crown and sergeant's chevrons on the occasion Grand Day 1950.

Mrs. Lowe, who did not accompany Headmaster Lowe on the visit, records his relating to her the most memorable event that occurred on the last day. The visitors were invited to a farewell reception at the British Legion headquarters, attended of course by the wives of Legion members. The Headmaster had no inkling of what was to happen at the conclusion of the proceedings when the boys, led by Janetta, sang the Marseillaise in French, which members of the legion applauded warmly while their wives burst into tears.

During the five years stay of the Lowe family in the life of the school, from 1949 until 1954, a number of special events added to the annual round of school activities and, as ever, Grand Day was the main occasion. To the Lowes was born their son Jonathan, one of six babies born to the school staff during a short four-month period. Vera Lowe records that the Commandant's wife, Mrs. Barnwell, a charming woman by account, was taken aback by the upsurge in new arrivals, but turned it to advantage because the new mothers boosted the members of the Mother's Union branch of the School. Being in the diocese of Canterbury, the Mother's Union were treated to 'inspiring visits' by the Dean's wife, among others, to address the assembly and give advice! The lives of the school staff, as important to the history of the school as any official edicts, decrees and accomplishments, have yet to be explored in depth.

Grand Day 1950
Left to Right
Mrs. Rose (wife of Bishop Rose of Dover), General Templer, Duchess of Gloucester, Mrs. Barnwell (wife of Commandant Barnwell), Bishop Rose, Lady Templar, field officer of unknown identity, Mrs. Lowe, Lt. Col. Lowe, unknown guest, Diana Barnwell, Charles Barnwell

Grand Day 1950 Duchess of Gloucester pinning emblem of recognition on the uniform of Chief Prefect Janetta, Lt. Col. Lowe
Grand Day 1953  Field Marshal Sir John Harding, inspecting officer, awarding a prize to Dukie John Bentley, and Lt. Col. Lowe.
Lt. Col. E. E. Lowe, Mrs. Vera Lowe and Mrs. Pat Haynes, wife of the Chaplain, the Rev. William B. Haynes, at the 31 December 1951 wedding of Commandant and Mrs. Barnwell's daughter, Diana Barnwell.
L to R: Jonathan Lowe, Mrs. Vera Lowe, Colonel Eric Lowe, Roderic Lowe in February 1964 outside Buckingham Palace on the occasion of award of the CBE to Col. Lowe.

Those Paris scenes and personalities recalled

As Adjutant from 1843 to 1849 Captain W. Siborne (see Adjutant W. Siborne) amply demonstrated in his monumental 'History of the War in France' - a detailed history of the Battle of Waterloo (18 June 1815) based on the hundreds of personal accounts of the conflict from combatants of all arms who were there - there are as many accounts of past events as all tho who experienced a particular them. So it is in the case of the school's visit to Paris in the 1950s described above.

Ron Bryant (Wn 1945-51) was one of the party that made the visit. He has written to correct what he contends were a number of inaccuracies in the preceding account as well as to add a number of personal notes concerning the visit. His notes and account of the Paris visit follow. He writes:

The trip was definitely in 1950. I have photograph of us at the Arc de Triomphe. I was a Boy (my rank) at the time, but a Prefect when I left School in 1951, so I could not have taken the trip to Paris after I left.

We were guests of the Anciennes de la Resistance as well as the British Legion. I mentioned Mme Guilbert in an earlier message to you. She was, I understood, President of the A de la R. She came with us on many of the trips we made in France - to the Headquarters of the Foreign Legion, Vincennes Zoo, Versaillles etc. - accompanied by her daughters. Mme Guilbert was a delightful woman whose husband, Dr Guilbert, had been summarily executed by the Germans for Resistance activities, She invited Bruce Cox and me to her home in the Rue Pergolese in central Paris.

The bit about Headmaster Lowe's surprise at us singing the Marseillaise is a load of codswallop. We all learned it (the youngsters phonetically) before we went to France - and I still remember it after all these years. Sorry, but there is no way he could have been in ignorance of that fact. We did it so well we had to encore it.

Regarding proficiency stars, I can't remember what the five pointed star on the drummer's lower sleeve was for. The one on Jannetta's sleeve was for the Army Certificate A. It was a red, four-pointed star awarded in two halves: Part I and Part II, for field craft and weapon training. I know because I got both parts and remember being disgruntled as a new recruit not being allowed to wear it in the Army!

We did not march through the Arc de Triomphe. How could we? Smack in the middle of the Arc is the Tomb of the France's Unknown Warrior - one of the photos shows the flame being rekindled. Therefore, as we could not have marched through the Arc, I recommend that the caption be edited. We marched up the Avenue des Champs-Élysées behind the Gendaremerie/Garde Civile band. How proud of that I was. When we reached the Arc we filed in to take up position under the Arc and returned the same way. The photo I have is of a group on parade under the Arc with me in it and not as a Prefect.

I recall Mrs Barnwell, wife of Commandant Colonel Barnwell, with deep affection. She was a lovely old lady who had a beautiful upper crust accent and called her husband Raiph, not Ralph. Gammy (wonky leg) Barnwell and Mrs Barnwell used to invite some of us to Sunday breakfast - I believe in an effort to educate us in table manners. I wasn't strictly happy there - trying to eat corn flakes silently is stressful! She also helped those selected to read the Lesson in Chapel on Sundays with our reading, pronunciation and projection. When my turn came I forgot my session with her until sometime later. You can imagine the fear with which I ran to the Chapel. She was still waiting and brushed aside my abject apologies with a smile and took me through the Lesson with calmness and kindness. My respect for her was enormous. Furthermore she didn't report my rudeness to anybody.

The Barnwells' son Charles was a lovely fellow, too, a few years my senior. He mixed with us very well and even joined us for Rugby. Harry Goble tackled him round the ankles and he came down hitting his head and rendering himself unconscious for a while. He also hit his nose on the ground and bled like mad. Col. Barnwell came over and said "Charles your nose is bloody" and Charles replied "Yes father. Bloody bloody", which I thought was hysterically funny. They had to take him home so I asked Col Barnwell if I could drive Charles's Velocette motorbike back for him - and he agreed! What a triumph!

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