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Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Rex Walford : A Guest Blog by Alan Woodford

A couple of weeks ago we reported the very sad death of Rex Walford who was a Senior Don at Cambridge University. I asked then about his link to Mill Hill because he had written some books about this area. I had personally known Dr Walford but never known at the time his link.

I am very grateful to Alan Woodford for getting in touch and explaining the link and providing some very interesting facts. I urge anyone with an interest in Mill Hill or who has lived here to read this all. Thank you agains so much for Alan for getting in touch. Alan is asking for anyone who was involved with the Book of Deansbrook school to get in touch and his e mail address is below because he wishes to place the PDF on the internet. When this happens we will let everyone know.

Re the question on your blog.
Rex attended Deansbrook School during WW2. An account of his time there appears in the school history commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the school's founding. He was a long time member of John Keble Church and very active in the John Keble Youth Club as well as in the Amateur Dramatic Group associated with the church - 'The Good Companions'. Up until his death he published a newsletter for ex JKYC members called 'Clarion Recall'.
I also went to Deansbrook, but later, from 1947 to 1953. I'm trying to find a website where I can place a pdf copy of the Deansbrook history.
Regards. Alan Woodford
Owen Sound
Ontario, Canada

I attach here REX WALFORD's contribution to the book which Alan has provided. These are REX WALFORD's memories from Deansbrook.

I'm attaching the part of the history mentioned - taken from Chapter VIII 'Reminiscences' of:
'A History of Deansbrook School - Mill Hill
Founded 25th August 1931
Compiled, narrated and edited by:
Mary B Pack (National Foundation Certificate)
in commemoration of the school's 50th Anniversary'
There is no copyright notice in the book. I suspect it was self published. There is a note on the second page 'This book is produced by kind courtesy of: Kirkbest Ltd 123 Farm Road, Edgware, Middx.'. It was printed by The Hillary Press, 75 Church Road, Hendon, N.W.4
Teacher Mary Pack left Deansbrook (presumably retired) in 1975, forty three years after first starting to teach there. If any of her family are still in the area I would like to get their permission to re-publish the book online. Perhaps you could note that on your blog, along with my email
From the book

"Rex Walford, 1939-45, who has kindly referred me to two of
his contemporaries, writes: -
"I lived very close to Deansbrook School in my childhood and
so the noises from the two school fields drifted across to Church
Closc long before I was old enough to go to the infants' School.
Even so, I still remember the mixture of excitement and apprehension
which surrounded that first ushering in to Miss Chick's study
with my mother. "Can you tell the time?" she asked . . . and I
could; the first examination was passed.
Memories of life at Deansbrook are inextricably bound up with
World War 11, though I can't place all of them accurately now.
But I can remember early in the war, makeshift 'air raid drill' in . an Infants' classroom with Miss Neill (diving under the desks and
sitting still for several minutes) and a short period when school was
abandoned and teachers came to visit us in our homes, gathered in
groups. In the 1940 bombing, our nearest public shelters were those
in the school field: I can recall being slung over my mother's
shoulder in what seemed the dead of night and hurled down the
road as the sirens sounded.
Later in the war-it must have been during the V-bomb
attacks of 1944-we had lessons in the brick shelters on the Junior
Field, sometimes staying there for most of the day. There were
brick shelters in the Junior Playground too, and they gave rise to
a unique game which the Opies' would no doubt catalogue and
explain if they knew of it. The masochistic ran from one brick
entry of the shelter to the other with the wall behind them, while
the less brave pelted them with tennis balls. Why this gave both
groups such tremendous pleasure I have never known, but I remember
spending many playtimes immersed in that activity.
And there was the 'war effort' itself . . . There was the day we
all took aluminium fish-friers and other home implements to put on
a huge heap in the Junior School quadrangle (part of the Beaverbrook
propaganda drive, I discovered many years later); . . . there
was the writing of 'Dig for Victory' couplets for a competition-the
Muse fortunately visited me at the right moment and I shared a
2/6d. prize with Joyce Sutton . . . and in the top class of the Infants
we went through a long spasm of daily collecting farthings to help
buy a Spitfire. I remember taking up tins of several hundreds of
farthings to a Ministry of Defence building in Whitehall where
these were gravely received by a Civil Servant whom I fondly
imagined to be at least the Marshal of the R.A.F. at the time. . .
The Infants' School hall was the regular centre of B.B.C.
Radio 'Music and Movement' broadcasts which I enjoyed
thoroughly. And there are fuzzy images too, of the policeman with
his 'road safety' posters, and the hymn sheets at the front from
which we sang daily. Perhaps most of all, as far as 'Hall' activities
go, I remember a Junior production of 'Alice in Wonderland' in
which I was cast as the White Rabbit. (Elizabeth Dawson played
Alice, and the Wright twins, Donald and Brian, were perfectly cast
as the ubiquitously appearing Cheshire Cat). That, I guess, may
have been responsible for setting me off on what has been a lifelong
involvement with the amateur theatre.
And there was the time that Mr. Hay called the whole Junior
School into the Hall to be questioned after afternoon break, because
of the complaint of a Rudyard Grove resident that Deansbrook
boykhad been scrumping his apples during playtime. D ...... C ......,
a big and somewhat dubious character protested vigorously that
he had voluntarily stayed in his classroom all through the break in
order to do extra raffia work, but this unlikely alibi was hooted
down with laughter from the rest of the school, and later he owned
Of personal memories, the most vivid is of the Top Class of the
Jun~ors, and particularly of breaking my arm in a game of soccer
(1st XI v. 2nd XI trial) and being taken off to hospital in a semiconscious
state. On the day following, my class mates used 'Composition'
period to write letters to cheer me up as I lay in Redhill. I
searched through the loft the other day and found that I still had
the envelope addressed by Miss Minty w~ t hn o less than 47 letters
from Class I, dated 11-10-1944. Their echoes carry the atmosphere
of Primary School, and the fine-grain of wartime childhood . . .
"I am sorry for the writing, but this is war-time paper and it
blotches . . . we have just done ten of those horrid profit and loss
sums from the Larcomb book . . . it was lucky your father is home
on leave at present and can visit you . . . Colin (Marshall) was very
annoyed that you have to stay in hospital as he was coming to tea
with you today . . . I am sending you three Wizards and a Rover
to cheer you up . . . I am sorry for the change in ink, but I have
just been moved into the end block, for talking . . . Miss Minty
says the Scholarship Tesl books will be in at Smith's next week
. . . We hear that you are in a ward with some Tommies from
Normandy. I bet they will have some exciting stories to tell . . ."
MISS Minty (tongue-in-cheek I'm sure) suggested that I might
pass the time by marking the letters-and I did (Out of 20) . . . I
suppose that's how I began a career in education . . ." Rex has
enjoyed a most distinguished, interesting career and is at present
Director of Studies in Education at King's College and Pembroke
College, Cambridge. In conclusion he expresses his pleasure in trying
to remember his days at Deansbrook and also his tremendous
affection for the school.
My next memory script comes from the U.S.A. and was written
by Colin Marshall who was mentioned in the previous extract. It
IS pleasing to learn that he still remembers me. He recalls the period
during the war when the school was closed and pupils were assigned
in small groups to the homes of other children. He writes, "Mer
we returned to the school en masse I recall watching aerial dog
fights when on my way to and from school." He remembers, "all
lhc hard work that went into those years along with some intermittent
time for playing soccer and cricket." Colin began his career as
a cadet purser with the Orient Steam Navigation Co. y d by the
time he left his sea-going career in 1958 he had completed twentyone
voyages between England and Australia and two round the
world trips. After several managerial and executive appointments
with Hertz and Avis he is at present the Executive Vice-president
of Norton Simon Inc.
The last pupil in this decade is Donld Straughan. He welcomes
my eEorts in writing this history and writes, "it should be an
interesting piece of social history and stimulate the interest of those
who wonder whether future adult success or failure can be predicted
in childhood." He recalls that "in retrospect life at Deansbrook
seems to have consisted of sunlit days. I have vague
memories of what seemed to be a slow start in reading in the
Infant School before developing the voracious appetite which has
persisted." He has, "distinct memories of only two things--School
meals (many of whlch I hated and on one occasion I ran home and
was retrieved by Mrs. Thubrun) and injustice." The latter came
from the fact that he was denied promotion to the top class in the
Junior School. Nevertheless Donald studied happily at Christ College
and continued to study at King's College, London to read
medicine. He interrupted his studies to take a Physiology B.Sc. and
a Ph.D. and then completed his medical course. At 35 he was
appointed to the Wellcome Chair as Head of the Pharmacology
Department at the School of Pharmacy in London University. In
1979 he became the Director of Pharmacology with Glaxo Group
Research at Greenford. He describes his work as, "very stimulating
task trying to organise oneself and others to be efficient in the discovery
of new drugs in new areas." Once again his thanks are
expressed for the good start he had at Deansbrook which has been
important in his success.
During the past fifty years the distant parts of the world have
become more accessible. Accordingly many of our pupils have
ventured afar. So for the 1940-50 decade 1 quote the "nostalgic
reminiscences" of my daughter Angela who is at present a Senior
Lecturer in Dentistry at the University of Otago, Dunedin in New
Zealand. *
"Whist browsing through some old photographs quite recently
and studying a picture of a little girl with long blond pigtails and
a ribbon bow in her hair, thirty years rolled away and I clearly
recalled the occasion on which that photograph was taken in the
school playground at Deansbrook. Seven years at one school is not
really a very large slice of a life-time, yet between the ages of five
and eleven, a child is most impressionable "

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