City of Norwich (CNS) School Magazine – Midsummer 1917
From the records held at the Norfolk Record Office (ACC 2003/15 Box 31)
For school leavers August is a time of excitement and anticipation of what is to follow as the close-knit school community is left behind and the wider world beckons. The school magazine traditionally ends its year by reflecting on past glories and wishing its leavers well for the future. However, the future was uncertain for those leaving school as war raged on.
Since the outbreak of war each magazine was a mixture of school news, miscellaneous features and articles relating to the war. From the outset news about and from its old boys was a dominant feature. The summer 1917 edition began on an appropriate note.
In these sad days we are for ever expecting yet fearing to receive news of the loss of some who were dear to us. Never a day passes but some are bereaved, and hardly a family in the country exists that has not been plunged into sorrow by the loss of one or more of its members. Apart from the actual families of the dead, there is no place in which this grim aspect of war is brought nearer than it is in a school.
By this date over three hundred ex-pupils and six teachers had enlisted and, of these, twenty boys and one teacher had been killed. The magazine reports on the latest casualties.
Teacher Arthur Tate had joined the school when it opened in 1910 and was the senior science master. He had participated in all aspects of school life and was popular with staff and pupils alike. He enlisted in July 1916 and was wounded in France in September. He died from his wounds in April 1917.
Can any of us ever forget the anxious days when we were waiting for news of Mr. Tate after his wound and the awful sensation of irreparable loss when we heard of his death.
Four of our best old boys have gone with him: Yallop our athlete record breaker . . . . Peebles and Cossey both good boys in every sense of the word . . and Spalding . . whose presence in class-room and in the games field seems but as yesterday.
Ronald Yallop had excelled himself on the sports field at school. He enlisted with his schoolfriend Frank Kirby. Together they trained for the tank service. Yallop was shot by a sniper and died from his wounds. Kirby was given special leave and rode on a motor cycle to his grave taking flowers given to him by the chaplain.
Percy Peebles left school to work in a Norwich bank. He enlisted in 1915 and was killed in France in April 1917. His captain wrote: “He died as you would have wished, at the head of his men”.
Alfred Cossey left CNS in 1911 and enlisted in 1915. He went to France in July 1916 and was killed the following April.
Walter Spalding left school in 1914 after excelling as probably the best footballer the school has ever seen. He began a career in teaching. He served in France and died from the effects of severe shell shock and was buried in his home town of Cromer. Few of our old boys have equaled Spalding in esprit de corps . . we greatly mourn his death.
Robert Muirhead was also mentioned. He joined CNS for his final year of school before going off to France in May 1915. He was killed at the Battle of the Somme in October 1916. He was remembered for his love of music and his cheerful manner.
Not all old boys went immediately into active service. Some at least were able to make a start on their university courses or careers. Kenneth Wright went to Sheffield University to study engineering but, by the summer of 1917, his studies were suspended and he was being considered for admission to the Royal Flying Corps. A P Cooper worked in insurance then joined the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve and trained for the wireless section which was to be stationed at Crystal Palace. He was promised that his job would be waiting for him on his return.
One section of the magazine which ran throughout the war was ‘News from the Front’. This section included contributions from old boys on active service was reported. In this edition:
Horace Betts wrote of preparing a village for the arrival of 1000 men. The first 1000 were straight from the line, and I never saw such a disreputable lot. They had marched about 25 miles on the day they should have arrived, and as work in the line does not fit one for marches, I spent all one night scouring the country for stragglers.
Gunner B Coultas wrote of enduring a twenty hour journey in a cattle truck. Every time the train stopped we were surrounded by children asking for biscuits.
Sergeant F S Hayhoe, stationed in Egypt, was awed by the pyramids. The three great pyramids – impressed one with a sense of the littleness of man . . . those monuments had stood impervious to weather, unaffected by the petty squablings of nations.
For those still at school there was great enthusiasm to do their bit for the war effort. Collections of waste metal had raised £10 for the Red Cross and old newspapers were fetching good prices. Each house had its own potato patch. Parker House reported that our potato patch compares most favourably with those of other houses. This is due mainly to the indefatigable efforts of Mr.Stephenson, our housemaster.
Some levity was also essential in each edition:
That it is true (it wasn’t) a Zeppelin factory is being erected on the spacious field of the C.N.S. . . It is hoped the machine will make a record flight before the midsummer holidays.
The CNS Scout Troop was active throughout the war. Regular activities included map making, signaling, tracking and hut building. Along with the routines and drills these would have stood them in good stead for when their turn came.
There is a poignancy in the title of the Scout page. With the camp fire smoke drifting across the letter P, it reads ‘This is our age’. For many it was such a fleeting one.
Daryl Long – NRO Research Blogger