Old West Downs Society – Memories of the Tindall Era, 1922-1954

From Christopher Clegg, 1935-39

After leaving WD I went to Eton until mid 1943 when I joined the army at 17. The war was more or less over by the time I got abroad, but had an interesting time in Greece and Palestine, Iraq, Aden and other Middle East spots. As you can see, I now live at Romsey, not far from Winchester.

What shall I write about for my topic? I always had a soft spot for Melbury. Now it seems to be a housing development and was sold off a while before the rest of the school. With the rather shut in life at WD Melbury always seemed an attraction because it was an escape, and only the very senior boys were taught there.

When one went through the gates one went down a very stony drive. On the left was the Chivvy Field, where we played that enjoyable but rather pointless game. A-K stripes with those red sashes.

The drive went downhill and curved to the left then right, eventually arriving at Melbury itself. I don’t know if the house itself survives. Rather an attractive house with pillars, I remember, set on a steep bank.

Melbury was the centre for wide games. I always thought West Downs was rather military, with its patrols, parades, etc. In fact I thought the army was quite cushy when I went in after our early training of early morning runs and inspections. Wide games seemed to be a precursor of OTC corps days, later on followed by TEWTS and other army outdoor activity, which I enjoyed.

Melbury was always the headquarters for one side of the wide game – flag raiding with tails, etc. The other side had some indefinite spot on the other side of the valley.

Melbury was good for other scout activities, stalking and pioneering with DH-G.

Also at Melbury was the stage for the Shakespeare play. I thought the plays at West Downs excellent, especially the masters’ play, with its poster, “The Morris League,” “The Avenging Angel.”

Back to Melbury. I had several terms before Common Entrance down there, and enjoyed the preparation for Common Entrance and to everyone’s surprise did quite well.

Also at Melbury lived our PT instructor (ex-RN, with his Indian clubs on his T-shirt), also Madame de Coutouly, with her cryptic notes on squared paper pinned on the notice board. I hope I have given you a few thoughts about the old days.

During the war, West Downs was taken over by the military. In 1942-3 the No 4 Commando was there, getting ready for D-day. We had one of their officers billeted with us (in Winchester). He was a fine chap and inspired me to join the army! About a year later when I was in the army I was admitted to hospital, and a lot of 4 Commando were in there. A sergeant told me that he was next to my friend when a sniper got him.

After 4 Commando, the US 69 Div were there; quite a nice bunch. So WD was quite active in the war when the school was empty.

Christopher Clegg (school no 5)