On the 75th Anniversary of Victory in Europe, we look back in the Bootham Archives to see what was recorded about it.
The July 1945 issue of the school magazine, “Bootham”, contains a report of the school terms from January to June 1945. There is just a brief mention of V.E. Day, as follows:
“What shall we say of V-E Day, but that we all enjoyed ourselves ? Some went camping ; some went home ; most went for cycle rides.”
The same issue contains an editorial which reflects on the war and the Old Scholars’ meetings at Whitsuntide, has a message for those still overseas, and remembers those who will not return.
“Although V-E Day had come and gone, it was inevitable that Whitsuntide, 1945, should be of the wartime variety. It may come as something of a shock to realise that only a dozen present scholars were at school when the last Old Scholars’ gathering was held in 1941, and on that occasion the usual programme was very much modified. One boy only remains in the school who was present at a pre-War Whit., and he is not likely to be still at school at Whitsuntide, 1946. A whole generation has passed through the school who know not the ways and traditions of Whitsuntide, but they will come back at the first opportunity, in ’47 and ’48, if not in ’46, and the break in the long series of gatherings will not be allowed to make any break in the fellowship of all Old Scholars, whatever their years.
These pages will be read by many who are still far from home, in Germany or Italy, in India or the Far East. We hope none of them will feel that plans for a grand reunion are premature. We know that many will have faint hopes of getting to York next Whit. We would assure them that they are not forgotten now, and will not be forgotten then. It is always a pleasure to hear from them and we hope that these pages may serve them as one link with home.
We have been very glad this term to welcome back some who have long been absent, and in particular those who have been prisoners of war. We rejoice to see them again and look forward to visits from many more. But there are those who will not return ; we remember them with pride and sorrow. Their names are recorded on the opposite page. The list is complete as far as our information goes ; if there are any omissions we are sorry and would like to be told. Up to now nothing has appeared in the pages of ‘Bootham’ about these comrades whom we have lost. In the next issue it is hoped to give some little account of each one of them. The help of our readers in doing this is earnestly sought. Some have already written of their friends who have gone. May others follow their example, and in so doing help their old school worthily to remember them.”
As we read above, there were still Old Scholars overseas after V.E. Day. Unfortunately some of these, too, did not return.
Each Whitsuntide saw the annual meeting in York of the Old York Scholars’ Association, and these meetings are reported in the school magazine “Bootham”.
In 1915 however, the meeting could not be held in York. Instead the Old Scholars met in London. In “Bootham”, Robert O. Mennell (B. 1897-1900) wrote:
“Whitsuntide 1915. KEW, Richmond-on-Thames, Westminster Bridge, and Croydon are strange place names to associate with the Old York Scholars’ Whitsuntide Gathering. Yet so it was; and the memory of the coloured loveliness of Kew and the silent beauty of the Thames in twilight will long be treasured by those who were there. But the London gathering will be remembered not so much for these or any other outward impressions as for the spirit that pervaded the meeting at Richmond—the sense of appalling need and the imperative call to render peace service in the midst of war.
T. Edmund Harvey and Philip J. Baker had come straight from the battle zones of France and Flanders, one from the devastated villages of the Marne, the other from the shattered city of Ypres, and their outline sketches of the relief work going forward under their direction seemed to bring the tragedy home as nothing less personal could have done. Other aspects of war’s cruel battering of humanity were portrayed by Ivy Weston in her picture of Folkestone Harbour invaded daily by crowds of ravenous refugees, and by Florence Barrow in her descriptions of the plight of “enemy-aliens” in this country.
In all the work of succour described—work undertaken in the spirit of a common humanity and with the single aim of healing and of reconciliation— the challenge of fine example lent point to the call made to us to render “special service in this time of supreme needs.”
Another form of service, less looked for perhaps from the Old Scholars of a Friends’ School, but undertaken in response to the stern call of duty and with entire disregard of personal interest or personal risk, was brought vividly before us by the khaki uniforms of some of our members, by a letter read from an Old Scholar in the trenches, and with peculiar force by the Head Master’s mention of those whose offer of the supreme sacrifice had already been accepted.
For every reason this annual meeting of the Associations must remain one of historic significance. The run down the river to Westminster Bridge, in the fading light, made a fitting close to the day.”
In 1916, the Whitsuntide meeting returned to York. In “Bootham”, Robert O. Mennell wrote again:
“Whitsuntide, 1916. To be back at York again for Old Scholars was to realise how much we all had lost by meeting- away from the Schools last year. But familiar surroundings were not sufficient to dispel a feeling of unfamiliarity, if not unreality, in all the proceedings. It must have seemed to many that we had come back to York only to find that the heart of things was not there, but in the ends of the earth—anywhere but at York. The explanation was simple. Where your comrades are, there will your heart be also. Our men were out in all parts of the world “on service,” and our thoughts inevitably were much more with them than in the business before us. Throughout the week-end each occasion and each fresh face encountered seemed to send our minds bounding off in search of an absentee, and wondering what particular duty was holding him fast, and what his particular “somewhere” was meaning for him.
In no previous year probably have Old Yorkists been so widely separated geographically or in thought; and yet never, perhaps, has the sense of our school motto, “Membra sumus corporis magni,” been so consciously or so fully realised. We know now that neither distances nor differences can injure our abiding sense of unity in the Bootham fellowship and in our common Bootham heritage—the tradition of cleanness of life and conduct, of honesty and of unostentatious obedience to duty.
It has been given to our generation by a tragic fate to know what war really is. Though borne down by a sense of its immeasurable tragedy, we may allow ourselves some gratification in the thought that the great tradition has been upheld. The call of duty has made a different demand of every individual of us and taken us into widely different spheres of service. When it is all over we shall come back welded by our ordeals and experiences into a closer fellowship than ever, with a still greater duty before us, to take our part in helping to mould the future, inspired, as our Headmaster put it, by a staunch faith in spiritual forces, in the power of loving kindness and courageous endurance. Work performed in that spirit in the interest of civilisation will not fail to bear fruit.”
At the 1916 meeting, Helen Baynes, President of the Mount Old Scholars’ Association, spoke about how valuable and helpful the Schools’ mottoes were, especially in the current times:
“” I have been thinking,” the speaker continued, ” how extremely valuable and helpful just now the School’s mottoes are—’ Membra sumus corporis magni ‘ and ‘ Ad omnia paratus.’ They seem to have been made specially for this year, for these times in which we are living-. We are all members of a great body, whether we regard ourselves as members of schools or members of a religious society, of the nation or of the Empire, and we may even go so far as to think of ourselves as members of a common humanity. As such we have, of course, great privileges, but as such also we have great responsibilities. I think it must be a matter of great happiness to all of us who are older members of this Association to see how finely prepared for everything many of our younger Old Scholars have been: those who are now working maybe with the Friends’ Ambulance Unit, possibly with the refugees in Corsica, Holland, France, or in England, alleviating the distress of aliens and others, or upholding the freedom that has been our priceless possession for so long, by their sufferings for conscience’ sake. It seems that into whatever service our members have entered they have, in most cases, been prepared for almost everything.
” We all hope and believe—do we not?—that a new and beautiful future is going to be born from this terrible turmoil —that a new heaven and a new earth will be built on the ruins of the old. But this will only come about if each one is prepared for whatever may come, if we are making ourselves prepared for this future that we hope is to be so much happier for humanity. Those who are now at school have a glorious future before them, I believe; and now is the very opportunity for choosing what they will do and for preparing themselves thoroughly for that future. There are opportunities of training now that have never been open in the past; there are opportunities for work that have never been open before.””
James Edmund Clark recalled the meeting at Richmond last year, when the desire to render service during this war time had materialised in the suggestion to raise a fund in the hope that it would reach £2,000 or £2,500 in aid of the various causes in which Friends were specially engaged.
“In the appeal which was sent out it was suggested that Old Scholars who wished to do so should indicate to what special activity they would like their money applied. The five objects were: The training of women and men; equipment and maintenance; the War Victims’ Relief Committee work; the Friends’ Ambulance Unit; and the Emergency Committee for the assistance of distressed Germans, Austrians, and Hungarians in this country.
It was pleasing to be able to report that the original purpose had been more than accomplished, a little over £2,800 having been promised or subscribed. Grants amounting to £1,755 had been made as under:
Training … … … … …£225
Equipment … … … … … £100
F.W.V.R … … … … …£650
F.A.U … … … … …£550
Emergency Committee … £230
Bootham stood behind the Mount in the matter of the number of contributors, with only 160 against 230. Contributions to correct this state of affairs, and to bring the total to £3,000, would still be cordially welcomed.
There had been one or two donations of particular interest: £7 as the result of the work that some of the boys at Bootham had done in the harvest fields last summer (with a prospect of a further contribution from harvesting and fruit picking in the coming season)*.”
(* August 8. Cheque for over £25 has already come for work done during last term.)”
Kenneth Mallorie Priestman (B. 1904-08) of Ilkley, Second-Lieutenant in the Royal Engineers, was killed in action on the Somme, near Ancre, in France on 31st August 1916 whilst on reconnaissance work. He was 25 years old.He had been home on short leave less than a fortnight before his death.
Before receiving his commission in the Royal Engineers, in the summer of 1915, he served for some months as a voluntary motor driver in the Friends’ Ambulance Unit at the front in Flanders.
The following are extracts from letters, received from fellow officers:
“August 31st, 1916.I have to tell you very sad news.This morning your son was killed instantaneously in action whilst on reconnaissance work with his Major.A large fragment of shell must have hit and broken his spine, and he died immediately.Major ____ was very badly hit at the time, also another Officer of the Pioneers.We are only three left to carry on . . . .Your son was a particular friend of mine, and has always shewed a good grasp of the situation in very awkward corners . . . .We have lost a well beloved comrade and one of the best Officers we ever had.”
“September 2nd, 1916.Your son was killed in the advanced front line, and we had great difficulty in bringing his body in.He had to be carried over a shell swept zone, over the top, in full view of the enemy.He was buried in the cemetery just near where we are now.All the Officers of our Company attended – now reduced to three.Our parson conducted the service and men from his section acted as bearers.I am having a cross made and a frame to mark out his grave.”
The June 1917 issue of “Bootham” magazine quotes a letter from another Bootham Old Scholar. Captain J. C. Procter writes:—
“Lieutenant Priestman’s grave is well kept and has a large white cross of wood painted with his name in black letters. It is the largest cross of its sort in the cemetery, which is perhaps why I saw it. . . . The cemetery is in a little valley, ” Blighty Valley,” and will be very pretty one day. . . . It has steep wooded sides and at present is full of batteries and a little tramway runs up past the graveyard.”
Frank Nichols (B. 1908-10), Private in the 12th Battalion of the York and Lancaster Regiment, fell in action in France on 1st July 1916.
He was born in Sheffield in 1893. The 12th Batallion was a Pals Battalion from Sheffield which suffered particularly heavily during the Battle of the Somme.
He is remembered at the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing.
An account of Frank Nichols death is given in Bootham Magazine, Vol. 8 No. 2 Oct 1916:
“NICHOLS and NORTON. No one can think of these two apart: they came to School together, they moved up the School together, they enlisted together, they were in Egypt together, and on the French front together. Now comes the news that F. NICHOLS is killed and J. W. NORTON wounded. On Saturday, July 8th (sic), they found the front trench, said to be empty, full of the Prussian Guard. The two looked at each other, shook hands, said good-bye, and fixed their machinegun. They shot several Germans, and expected to be riddled with bullets; but a German shell burst a few yards ahead of them, sent their gun flying, and smothered them with debris. NORTON rolled himself into the hole made by the shell, but NICHOLS was a second too late. A bullet pierced his steel helmet and passed through his head, killing him instantaneously. The two friends lay side by side from 8 in the morning till 10 at night, the Germans not suspecting that any living person was within thirty yards. NORTON is in the Red Cross Hospital at Horton (Gloucester), wounded below the knee, and heartbroken at the loss of his chum.”
12th June marks 100 years since the death of Silvanus P. Thompson, who was born in York in 1851 and went on to become an eminent physicist. His father taught at Bootham School, and the family lived in Union Terrace. Silvanus attended Bootham School between 1858 and 1867, and returned as a teacher between 1870 and 1875. During his career he was appointed Professor of Physics at University College Bristol, then Finsbury College in London, and was made Fellow of the Royal Society, President of the Institution of Electrical Engineers, President of the Physical Society of London and President of the Röntgen Society.
Silvanus P. Thompson would have benefitted from the science teaching and activities at Bootham School. The school was equipped with laboratories, regular lectures were given by teachers or visiting scientists on everything from Anatomy, Mechanics, Fossil Zoology, Physics and the Menai Bridge. The school had a flourishing Natural History Society and natural curiosity was encouraged. During a speech at the school 1902 he talked about the “many memories some of us have of the mysterious operations, the photography, the bird-stuffing, and the chemical explosions which went on.” He approved of how students were taught “not to be afraid to try, to put forward their strength, to make experiments. This character, this sturdy independence, this originality of effort, which the school has fostered, may we not hope that it will long flourish?” He argued that the pressure of examinations should not be allowed “to spoil in the future those features of originality, those sources of independent life, those influences which have developed the School along its own lines? Are we to have a school of which the primary consideration is that it shall score in taking off prizes at outside examinations? I sincerely hope that will not be so.” That thread of encouraging curiosity, looking for the best in each individual and enabling them to make the best use of their talents has continued throughout the history of the school.
“S. FARADAY [Bootham: 1908-10] : “December 13th.—We received orders re the evacuation of Suvla Bay, and I was sent to make a map of the route we should follow when we retired. This I did. The walk was very interesting, and one had a tremendously good panorama of the whole firing line as far as Anzac on our right. I retired at 8p.m., after dinner, and was just going off to sleep when I heard a tremendous row close to my head. I tumbled out of my sleeping-bag and found that a shell had dropped a few feet from my dug-out, but, fortunately, did not explode. December 18th.—’ The Day ‘—our evacuation. The South Lancashires to take over our lines this afternoon. We were to leave 5.45 p.m., and all lights were to be left burning, just as if we were still there. We marched down and embarked on the SS. Rowan safely off South Pier—thank goodness! December 19th.—Had a real good sleep on board and arrived this morning in Mudros harbour. December 25th.— The weather perfect; sun really quite hot. In the afternoon I climbed the highest hill on the island and had a most magnificent view. I saw Asia Minor, Gallipoli, entrance to the Narrows, Mount Athos, Greece, and the whole island of Lemnos laid out like a model map—a truly wonderful view. January 10th.—I refereed in a Soccer match this afternoon. It seems that we are full of Soccer just at present. Still, the men thoroughly enjoy it, and it is something interesting to do, as it is very monotonous here.” Further news says that on January 20th they left Lemnos for Alexandria.”
“A. BUTTERWORTH (Captain) [Bootham: 1910] remembered on the Peninsula last December how he used to look forward to the School Christmas holidays. ” How well I can see it all again, the old Minster from the Art Room windows…. The only thing I can’t see is the new swimming bath; here one has hard work to get water for a shave”; so he sends a donation to
the bath from “somewhere in Gallipoli.””
“J. C. S. MACGREGOR [Bootham: 1910-14] sent F.A.U. greetings from the most un-Christmaslike surroundings and the most deplorable weather.”
“E. RUSSELL SANDERS [Bootham: 1903] served in France for fifteen months with the Northumberland Hussars (Imperial Yeomanry). He was somewhere in Flanders when he wrote in December. He has evidently learned amidst the discomfort of feet wet and cold for weeks “a great patience, and that if you only wait the worst is bound to pass.” He is captivated by the beauty of some of the nights and early dawns. And if he feels a bit blue and fed up, there’s the grand old song, ” Goals for the eager and fights for the fearless.” “
From ‘Bootham Overseas’, Bootham magazine, December 1915
“THOMAS BINNS ROBSON (1858-1860) writes from near Adelaide of the recent experiences of JOHN F. HILLS (1882-1884, Master 1886-1889), who “has been making quite a stir lately owing to his anti-military propaganda, which he has been actively carrying on ever since our ‘Boy Conscription Act’ came into force. The military authorities have looked upon him as opposing enlistment, and have tried to stop him from speaking in Victoria Square on Friday evenings and the park on Sunday afternoons, as has been his custom. The first attempt was a charge of treason, changed to breaking a bye-law for chalking on the roadway where he advertised his meetings and quoted portions of the Sermon on the Mount. This failed, because the bye-law only referred to the footpaths and not the roadway. Then he was brought up before the police court charged with telling the young men not to recruit at a meeting held some two months previously. His lawyer got the case dismissed on the plea that the regulation under which he was charged went beyond the War Precautions Act and was ultra vires…. Probably J. F. Hills will be again charged and have to fight it out on its merits. He says he did not use the expression he is accused of, but after so long a time it will be hard to prove, especially against the military. The last two or three times he has appeared in public he has been mobbed by an organised lot of young fellows in khaki, who joined the mob against the police who were protecting J. F. H. to a place of safety; and the last time the police started the row by setting on to Hills to make him go away before he had done anything. . . The war spirit is rampant and seems to override all other considerations.”
Thanks to Kate, one of the volunteers in the archive, for researching and writing this post.
William Fryer Harvey was at Bootham from 1898 to 1901. He was born in 1885 into a prosperous West Yorkshire Quaker family. His father and brothers were also at Bootham and his sister a pupil at The Mount. Having studied at Balliol College Oxford, William then took a degree in medicine at Leeds. He joined the Friends Ambulance unit in 1914 and served until 1916. In 1918 whilst serving in the Royal Navy as a surgeon-lieutenant, he was involved in a rescue from the boiler room on board ship. For his bravery he was awarded the Albert Medal for Lifesaving and the full citation can be read in Bootham magazine, Summer 1918. Sadly this incident damaged his lungs and he never again regained full health, dying at the early age of 57. Amongst his many achievements the one for which he was probably most well known during his lifetime was as the published author of “supernatural tales”. One of the most famous was “The Beast with Five Fingers” and this was made into a film with Peter Lorre in 1946.
The archives contain a number of items written by him during his years at school. The collection includes letters to parents and his brothers both from school and whilst on holiday and a beautifully bound exhibition piece entitled “A collection of leaves”. There is also a volume of natural history observations and a two-volume diary of 1899. The handwriting is easy to read and there a number of very good pencil sketches and coloured illustrations of leaves, flowers, plants and the various churches and houses he visited. Reading through these it is interesting to ponder what hints there are in the schoolboy writings for the direction his life took after leaving Bootham. Certainly there is mention of many medical issues – scarlet fever, measles, colds etc are mentioned and in one letter he relates how a fellow scholar “ fell down in a fit during science going black in the face”. Happily after medical assistance, the boy recovered quickly enough to be playing football later in the day! He exhorts one of his brothers, studying in France, not to “catch smallpox from books” there and when his sister is taken ill, he writes to his brother that “her mind has given way probably from her studious habits” and says they should take this as an example “not to overwork themselves for fear of a similar fate befalling us”. However it is obvious that he has not taken this to heart, as prolonged study would have been needed to gain his medical qualifications.
From reading of his later life, his love of church architecture and the natural sciences seem to have been lifelong interests and I hope he kept the enquiring mind, which is illustrated, in the following extracts from the diary, written when he would have been around 13 years old.
“June 26th. I performed the following experiment to show that flowers on respiring produce carbon di oxide; by respiring I mean the taking in of oxygen. I took a number of common garden flowers such as marigold, blue corncockle, rose and placed them in a flask, being kept in position by a plug of cotton wool. I placed the flask in an inverted retort stand and placed a cork in the neck of the flask through which a glass was put open at both ends; one end of glass tube dipped in mercury on the top of which floated a solution of potassium hydrate. This solution absorbed the carbon di oxide given out by the flowers and the mercury rose about half an inch and a half.
I took some petals of a red rose and boiled in water; after some minutes the petals completely lost their colour and the water was coloured green and still possessed to a slight degree the scent of the rose.
July 1st – 6th. When removing the flask containing the flowers used in the experiment, a drop of acid happened to touch the blue flower of the corncockle and at once it turned a bright crimson red. I tried putting some more of the acid (sulphuric) on the flowers again and in each case obtained the same result. I then took some red GERANIUM and blue CRANESBILL and placed a few drops of ammonium hydrate on the red geranium and some dilute acid on the blue cranesbill. The colours of the flowers were reversed, the geranium becoming a bright blue though the change was not so quickly accomplished as in the case of the cranesbill.
It appears that certain flowers have the property of acting as an indicator of acids and bases in the same manner as litmus.
When the coloured petals were boiled in water until colourless, the water was slightly coloured blue and red.
On one drop of acid and ammonia being added to each, the colours changed and when acid and ammonia were added in the reverse order, the coloured water went back to its original colour.
The flower of a FUCHIA I examined had two sorts of petals; -the outer being red, the inner purple. But where the base of the inner purple petals touched the red ones, it was streaked with red. These purple and red petals acted in the way as those of the geranium and cranesbill. Perhaps the nearness and greater acidity of the red petals had something to do with the reddening of the base of the purple petals”
petals of a red rose and boiled in water; after some minutes the petals completely lost their colour and the water was coloured green and still possessed to a slight degree the scent of the rose.