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February 2008


Army Educational Corps
Jack Nissen and Radar
Royal Hibernian Military School
Royal Military Asylum
Royal Victoria Patriotic School

Army Educational Corps
25 February 2008

25 February 2008

Peter: I am trying to find information about two of my ancestors who were both army schoolmasters and hope that you may be able to help. I know from a Baptism certificate and a birth certificate that William Wheeler (c1836-1888) was teaching in Gibraltar in 1861 with 7th Regiment of Foot (assisted by his wife Harriet) at the time of the birth of Alfred Ernest Wheeler (1861-c1930) and later in Malta. (Warrant Officer) Alfred was teaching (with The Devonshire Regiment) in 1885 when his son was born. Alfred was later in Cawnpore, India before returning to England. In WW1 he was promoted to 1st Lt in the Territorials. Anything additional information you can give me about their training would be appreciated

Chris Wheeler

25 February 2008

Chris: Much to my disappointment, I am unable to help. I have acquired a mass of information covering 1849 to 1873, reference the training of Army Schoolmasters and the punishments meted out for their indiscretions. Added to this, I also have a database of Schoolmasters from 1890 to 1920. There are no Wheelers to be found. I have transcribed both available letter books covering the estimated training period (18 yrs old) as 1855 so theoretically he should have appeared in either on of the letter books, which do appear to be a hit or miss affair in parts. Perhaps he was there, but without proof.......

1. The only source for the training of Army Schoolmasters at that time was the RMA & the RHMS. There were three stages, each of two years: Monitor aged 17-19, who was promoted to Assistant Schoolmaster for two years, returning as a Pupil Teacher and qualifying as a Schoolmaster Class 3 after a further two years. Monitors were culled from the two military schools, but the name WHEELER cannot be found in either of the school adnussuib ledgers.

2. Newspaper advertisements were placed, searching for suitable candidates for Schoolmaster training in either grade. Serving soldiers were also invited to apply. They sat an examination at one or other of the schools.

3. It is possible that this man was a qualified schoolmaster and recruited directly into the CASM.

With your relative being born in 1836, if he was trained in the Army, he should have been at one of the 'Normal School' from, say, 18 as a monitor. An indication of his training might be found in the muster rolls of the 7th Regt of Foot. If you have his attestation papers, they might indicate where he took his Schoolmaster training. If he was a soldier before becoming a schoolmaster, he will have been discharged from his Regiment and re-enlisted into the CASM and posted to a Regimental school. I have added you to my 'Lost Schoolmaster' file. With luck, other responses and enquiries may reveal new search parameters. Please let me have what detail you have and I'll forward that information to the curator of the A G Corps Museum for inclusion in their master data base.


Jack Nissen and Radar
12 February 2008

My neighbour Raymond Souster was an acquaintance of the late Jack Nissen. You may recognize Ray Souster's name as that of one of Canada's outstanding poets. In one of his books published in 1985 under the title Jubilee of Death (Oberon Press) he described in detail his take on the Dieppe raid. One of the most important elements of the poem was Jack Nissen's story of going to Dieppe to investigate the Freya radar station on the cliff. Ray showed Jack his poem and the latter approved of Ray's account of his action.

After the book appeared and Jack had read it, he asked Ray if he would be interested in helping him prepare his manuscript of the radar war for publication. At the time Ray was still employed by the CIBC and had little spare time, so he reluctantly had to decline. Strangely enough he never read Winning the Radar War when it appeared, and it is only this year that his wife was able to read it to him, and he found it a very enjoyable read. Ray lost his power of sight about 8 years ago.

It was the loss of Ray's sight that lead to our collaboration over the last eight years on a long poem (400 pages) on the French Indo-China war, What Men Will Die For, which appeared last fall. We are now collaborating on a new manuscript entitled Encounters With The Enemy and it struck us that the time was ripe for a more detailed account of Jack Nissen's heroic mission to Dieppe.

As you collaborated with Jack Nissen on Winning the Radar War, we thought we'd first approach you to see if you were agreeable to our use of a first person account (in our own words) of Jack's adventures; we hope we could provide you with a copy of the poem before publication, in order to have your comments.

We regard Jack's account as one of the key stories in Encounters With The Enemy; the other stories in verse in this book include two on the war of 1812, and two other of World War II vintage relating to the air war fought by the RCAF. As we would like to start work on the poem very soon, we would welcome knowing your thoughts.

Les Green

12 February 2008

Les: Thanks for your enquiry. Yes, of course, I recognize Ray Souster's name. I'm also familiar with some of his poetry and of his collaboration with Dudek, Cook et al. He has an impressive body of work, not that I'm intimately familiar with it, but I've certainly read and am familiar with some of his poetry. How very sad for the bloke to lose his eyesight, especially a writer or poet. He's lucky to have wife, friend and collaborator to read to him and write out his thoughts. This must be the case because didn't he bring out a book of poems in 2006? A Wobbly Wondrous World or something with a name like that?

It's interesting to learn that Ray was offered the chance of collaborating with Jack Nissen on his Winning the Radar War memoir. Actually, I rebuilt Jack's somewhat fulsome manuscript from scratch. It involved considerable research because, in fact, Jack supplemented a faulty memory with some imaginative additions. Don't get me wrong. This is not a criticism of Jack for whom I had a high regard, but when dealing with facts one has to be accurate or risk criticism for either gilding the lily or outright ornamentation, which I suppose are one and the same thing. For example, Jack's description of landing, getting from the town centre to the Freya station on the hill (a distance of two miles under constant fire), not once, but twice, cutting the telephone wires, travelling five miles south and back again, getting holed up in town, beating it to the beach and swimming out to the TLC was stretching it to the elastic limit, for he couldn't have achieved that marathon of movements, 15 miles, from 6.30 a.m. to (about) 11 a.m. I mention this because any writer worth his salt would have to reconstruct the activities described. Jack also had a bit of a chip on his shoulder about his Jewish background, which I didn't buy, but it still comes across with a touch of paranoia in the book, which was a compromise as far as I was concerned. I'd recomment that you to go easy on that score.

I'm agreeable to your writing a first-person account of Jack's activities based on Winning the Radar War. If I can be of help I expect you will contact me again. Otherwise, I'll wish you the best of luck and look forward to reading your draft ms. I would hope that you'd allow a reasonable time for this. I'm not only writing extended works of one kind or another, I maintain a rather large web site on military life (see, which gets lots of visitors and produces an immense correspondence that has to be answered.

On the subject of war stories, I commend to your reading bomber pilot John Taylor's account of being shot down over France and getting sent to Buchenwald Concentration Camp. A most interest memoir. See also for a piece on Jack Nissen and Radar.

Art Cockerill

royal hibernian military school
22 February 2008

Peter: I cannot figure how Robert got into the RHMS. Maybe his father was there once. I think it unlikely, but maybe you would not mind checking for Patrick Mahon, born around 1830. I found Robert's Baptismal record in Dublin, and those of two sisters, after whom he named a daughter, my grandmother. I think they may have died young. Certainly, none of my uncles or aunts knew of their existence, nor of any other Mahon family members. Patrick's residence on one of those records is given as 'Provost Prison'. I have not yet looked for the location of a Provost Prison in their locality. There were a couple of Infantry Barracks not far off. He may have been on the guard or 'inside'. He was said to have been avoiding the police, but there is no longer any family knowledge about that. I assume that the Petition no 617 no longer exists


5 February 2008

Cormac, Sorry about the delay, computer problems and also e-mail malfunctioning I have checked the register and list all the MAHONs below. Unfortunately I found no Patrick. Working on the assumption that Henry C is on page M05, he will have been admitted before George in 1861. You are quite right, no petitions survive. All archived documents, less those few at Kew, were destroyed in 1942.

MAHON ALB? Ed 04/04/1906 30/03/1898
M05 28 MAHON Henry C
M06 36 MAHON George 11/02/1861 02/10/1851
M14 19 MAHON Joseph 05/06/1868 15/08/1860
M16 6 MAHON James 09/03/1864 14/12/1853
M16 7 MAHON Robert William 03/03/1864 02/09/1853
M21 22 MAHON James


6 February 2008

I have visited your RHMS site many times and found it most interesting. I am writing to enquire if you know of any records of staff at RHMS in the 1820s or 1830s. My great grandfather ( John George Douglas) and at least two of his siblings were born at RHMS during that period, which leads me to believe that my great great grandfather worked there - possibly as quartermaster or assistant QM. My great great grandfather, John Douglas, had served with the 1st Regiment of Foot in the Peninsular War and at Waterloo rising to the rank of sergeant. My great grandfather was a pupil at the School leaving at the age of 13 to join the 84th Regiment of Foot in which he served until his death in 1865. By that year the regiment was back in Ireland. He was in fact buried in RHMS cemetery, where the regiment erected a memorial. One of his brothers - born at the school, is also buried there, though I don't think he had any military connections. I would very much like to be able to confirm that great great grandfather John Douglas did work at the school, hence this e-mail. Incidentally, the above relations are on my father's side, but my maternal grandfather was also a pupil at the school in the 1870s, before a life-long career in the Royal Artillery.

Bob Douglas

10 February 2008

Bob: Thank you for your note. Sorry for the delayed response. The correspondence is heavy and I don't like fobbing off those who write with trite answers, naturally. That said, I must tell you that the bulk of the RHMS records were destroyed in the London Blitz during WWII. Some few remain, but these are limited to the admission registers in use when the Royal Hibs amalgamated with the Duke of York's School in 1924. They are to be found in the National Archives. My colleague has transcribed them and the results are available for viewing at www. For the moment, all we know about the Hibernian School (1765-1924), Phoenix Park, is posted in the RHMS section of this website. I am sending a copy of your note to Peter. He may have something in the records he's transcribed, but I wouldn't put too much store in that remark. On the other hand you might just get lucky and find he has information that you don't. Another scholar is hard at work been researching the government and personal records - Hansard, Wellington's papers and the Royal Archives. He has a mass of data I hope will be published shortly. While I get to see something of his work I'm not at liberty to share his work with others. For our records, what other information do you have on your forebears? The connections with the RHMS seem to be solid and strong. What else can you tell me? Do you have any photographs of these personalities? It would be lovely to get one or two and post them on the history site with a little blurb giving their backgrounds. I wonder if Peter has additional information.


royal military asylum
3 February 2008

Peter: It has been a while since I contacted you, so it is time to update you concerning my research into relatives at the DYRMS. I requested information [of the School Bursar] on George Mason, my g-g-grandfather and received a photocopy of the one item remaining in the archives, which was the original application petition document. This contained quite a lot of useful information. I decided not to ask for information about Charles, his brother, as I suspected that there would be a lot of duplicated information. I did, however, then ask for information regarding his sons, Francis and George. The documents for George included the original application petition document plus a letter written by him requesting a copy of his birth certificate. The documents for Francis again included original application petition document plus some letters petitioning for George and Francis to be admitted to the DYRMS. Two of the letters were from David Anderson, father of George's widow, Elizabeth (and so my Great Great Grandfather). According to the information in his letters, he was a Master Gunner and served for 38 years in the 2nd battalion RA. The other letter was from Elizabeth's brother, also David Anderson, who was a Sergeant-Major in (I think) 13th battalion. These letters contain some other interesting and useful information which has been helpful in my research.

Thank you again for pointing me in the right direction. I made a donation, as suggested, for this information. I also read your articles on the website with great interest, especially for the periods when my relatives were at the DYRMS. I will, of course, forward any new information that you might find relevant.

I was wondering if you could give me another bit of advice. With so many of my relatives (about 30 so far) in the RA, I'd like to trace their military records. I already have some in second-hand note form, but would like to check the original documents, if possible. Do you know the best place to look for this?


5 February 2008

John: The logical place to begin is the National Archives at Kew. Follow the Military Links and look for the muster rolls the RA, which could be a formidable task. It is best to go well prepared. The RA archives will be split variously into the Royal Artillery, Royal Garrison Artillery, Field Artillery, Royal Horse Artillery and, perhaps, the Royal Marine Artillery. You will need to have as much detail of his particular regiment or battery to locate the correct muster rolls. Step two: Check Woolwich & its environs in the Census for 1840 onwards. Woolwich is still the home of the RA. Most of the census records for the 19th Century have been transcribed. You have a lot of searching ahead of you, perhaps, relying first on the detail you have collected.


4 February 2008

Peter: I hope you can help me. My uncle, Arthur Ernest Young, had a copy of his Baptism over stamped with the Duke of York Military School, Chelsea. (8 Feb. 1904). His father, Charles Young was in the RGA [Royal Garrison Artillery], Gibraltar, and died in October 1903. He was previously in 5th Battery, Eastern Division R.A. at Sheerness). We don't know much about his death other than he died from gunshot wounds! I have been unable to find out anything relating to this incident. His papers which should be at Kew seem to have been destroyed and I'm led to believe that is because of the death. I had hoped that there might be some mention in paper relating to Arthur's entry to the Military School, but your records don't seem to cover the dates I need. Have you any suggestions for further research? The family seem to have received funding from the "Royal Patriotic Fund Corporation". Do you have any knowledge of this? Thanking you in anticipation


5 February 2008

Carol: Thanks for the contact. There is a logical answer to your question. It is highly probable that the boy was selected for admittance and attended the RMA for entrance examination and Medical inspection. Examples have been found in the RHMS selection procedure of boys failing these examinations. Logic dictates that he had not been baptised prior to the application, therefore if he had attended the school for exams etc, then the Baptism could well have qualified him for almost immediate admittance. Baptism 08/02/1904 admitted to the RMA 16/04/1904.Son of Matilda & Charles, both deceased. The Chapel at the RMA was deconsecrated when the school moved to Dover. It is possible that the Baptism Register moved to the new School at the DYRMS. Have you previously written to the Bursar at the Duke of York's School? If not, write to Lt Col R Say, Bursar, The Duke of York's School. Dover Kent. CT15 5EQ. Ask if there are any records of your relative. Give all the information you have: full names, parents' names, fathers Regiment and date of admission. State your relationship to the boy: my great Grandfather, for instance. Include with your letter a letter addressed to the Padre, (stating religion CE RC etc) of the School and request details of the baptism of your relative at the RMA on 8 February 1904. If it is available, this will indicate the persons in loco parentis and the possible god parents.


5 February 2008

Peter: Thank you for your quick response. I seem to have caused some confusion. Arthur Ernest Young was Baptised in 1890 in Sheerness, Kent. It is a copy of this certificate which has the RMA stamp dated 8th February 1904. I'm not looking for his Baptism but how he came to be at the RMA School. You mentioned that he was admitted 16 April 1904, son of Matilda and Charles both deceased. His mother, Matilda did not die until 1924. Arthur had four sisters and all lived into the 1970s. Arthur himself lived to 95yrs. He became a Musician and cook in the R.G.A. I don't think he served overseas in the WWI so I don't think his Military Papers have survived. I would like to know more about the School in Chelsea and if possible get pictures of the Chelsea building and the uniform at that time. I'd also like to find any papers relating to Arthur and perhaps his father's death. Any suggestions where to begin? Would the Bursar at the DYMS be able to help me? In my haste to reply I deleted your original response!


5 February 2008

Carolyn: I misunderstood. The certificate could have been stamped at the RMA, no doubt by an overzealous clerk, all arriving mail was treated in the same way. The ledger\ page is dark. Reference to the mother appears on the second page. The lines are not being parallel I misread the 1: 'total orphan'. This I now see reads 2: father deceased mother alive. There seems to be a mystery concerning the father's death. Perhaps this helped speed of his admission to the RMA. There should be some details re the boy at the DYRMS. I recommend that you write to the Bursar as I suggested. The records might include an indication of the haste. A possible source of information may be in the Commissioners Minutes covering the years 1903-1904. This ledger should be at the National Archives, Kew in the WO143 series. Please let us know the result of your contact with Lt. Col. Say, the Bursar. We like to keep a record of all the forays into the RMA archives.


5 February 2008

Carolyn: I am Peter's colleague. Together we maintain the Duke of York's [RMA] history site. Peter is in the U.K. I am in Canada. In your enquiry of 4 February, you asked about the Royal Patriotic Fund and if Peter could help with information in this regard. I am no expert of the RPF. We happen to have had a few enquiries about the Fund and the school or schools supported by the Fund. The Fund (popularly known as The Royal Pat) was created by Royal Warrant during the Crimean War under the patronage of Prince Albert to provide assistance to widows, orphans and dependents of members of the armed forces. Until recently, the Royal Pat existed by royal warrant. Under a new order in council (I hope that is the correct reference) the property, rights and liabilities of the Royal Pat were transferred to the Royal Patriotic Fund Corporation, a charitable company. The Royal Pat ceased to exist. I'm sure there is lots of information on the internet, accessible under Royal Patriotic Fund.

Art C


26 February 2008

Hello: I have been looking on the RMA Chelsea website after finding my Grandmother's twin brothers on the 1891 Census. Their names are shown as Wade Fred J & Wade William S aged 11 scholars. Full names are Frederick James Wade and William Swift Wade. Please advise if it is possible make a search for their admission and discharge details for circa 1886 - 1899 if these are available. They were born in 1879 in Sheerness, Kent. Father John William Swift Wade a Warrant Officer in Royal Engineers and Mother Hannah Frances. Father presumed died sometime after 1881 England census, family split and wife remarried keeping two daughters with her.

John Clemens

25 February 2008

John: All the records I have are published on the web. There is another source, but I can't guarantee that the records are still available. Write to Lt Col R Say: Bursar: The Duke of York's School: Dover. Kent: CT15 6EQ. Ask if there are any records Fred J WADE & his brother William Swift WADE. Give their ages, parents' names, their father's regiment and, most importantly, your relationship to them: 'my Great Uncles.' So far there have been no failures and the information received quite revealing. I would appreciate notice of your success, we keep a record of forays into the school archives.


royal victoria patriotic school
5 February 2008

I noticed that in Feb 2006 you were contacted by a gentleman who wished to know more about the school his aunt attended during World War 2 in Tenby, South Wales. I went to that school when it was relocated to Hertfordshire but several of my sisters were in Tenby in Hain Castle etc and could perhaps help your enquirer. You answered in Feb 2007 (a long gap!) There is a lot of interest at the moment about the old Royal Victoria Patriotic school as various anniversaries are coming up; the mansion in Hertfordshire (sold years ago) is being converted into a very up-market housing complex ...very lovely as the grounds now house two golf courses...whereas the original old Victorian building in London (in Wandsworth) has been magnificently restored. It also attracts a lot of historical interest as it was THE interrogation center for MI5 and MI6 in WW2 with Rudolf Hess and goodness knows who else having passed through its doors.

Janice Baldwin

5 February 2008

Janice: Thank you for your letter. Use of the Wandsworth property by MI5 and MI6 for interrogation purposes is news to me; probably to others tool. The delay in answering David Thorn's enquiry is that my colleague, Peter Goble, who does most of the research for this site, had a heavy research load at that time. Peter made the connection between the RVPF and Prince Albert, Border Holdings Ltd and the National Archives. I used the information he provided in my response to David Thorn's enquiry. His letter was dated November 2006 by the way, not February 2006 as you mistakenly noted. We answer most correspondence by return. Where research is required or communication with Peter [resident in the U.K.] involves two or more exchanges, delay in answering questions may result.


6 February 2008

Thank you for your prompt reply about the RVP school. I can give you some background information. The school founded about 1857 in response to the need of the orphans from the Crimean War. An appeal for money was made and the Royal Patriotic Fund established. Some of the funds were used to build accommodation in Wandsworth, London, for the orphans. Queen Victoria laid the foundation stone, hence the name. The building had a chequered career. It became a hospital in WW 1 and reverted to an orphanage when war ended. In WW2, the children were evacuated to Wales near, Tenby, and the building used as an interrogation centre for MI5 and MI6.
I now live in Luxembourg, which was invaded by Germany in WW2. The Germans said to Luxembourg "You do not exist. You are part of Germany. All men of age will enlist in the German army!" This did not go down well with the Royal Family. The Grande Duchesse and others fled to London. Many Luxembourgers followed and enlisted in the British arm, but they had to be checked out to prove they were not spies! And so they passed through the Royal Victoria Patriotic building. I met one of them years ago! In 1947 or so, the RVP School was relocated to Herefordshire, to the estate then known as Bedwell Park, now known as Essendon Park. The school was closed years ago and Essendon estate transformed into two golf courses. The main house, with apartments on the second floor, became the golf house, and the out-buildings renovated and sold for upscale houses.
The Wandworth building fell into disrepair but, being an historical building, it could not be demolished. It was bought, renovated and converted into apartments, and is now considered valuable real estate in London. As I earlier noted, my sisters in Tenby and remember it well.

Janice Baldwin

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