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

From HJ Simpson, 1922-26

I was very happy at West Downs. Here are some thoughts on West Downs (very random).

1. Even in the 1920’s, fibre diets and non-smoking were practised. As an experiment, half the dining hall had “BEMAX,” the other had lumpy and revolting porridge. I was on the porridge side, and you were forced to finish it. It made me retch; rather cruel, I thought.

Arthur Broadhurst (a non-smoker) used to blow cigarette smoke through a white handkerchief to show the nicotine stain and how it would affect one’s lungs.

2. Lady Goodrich’s talks once a year in chapel after KBT had gone out.

3. Passing KBT in the upstairs passage to say good night after chapel (did one shake hands?) We called Mrs Tindall “Tumty.” I think her initials were TMT.

4. Magic lantern 3-tier arclights with “moving” slides. Old volumes of “Punch” and chairs in Shakespeare.

5. Marching past “Bosun,” holding a large Union Flag (or was it a White Ensign, which it should have been) in Shakespeare after coming down from Chapel on Trafalgar Day.

6. I very much liked the organisation of the school into patrols – mine was Wolves. I learnt a lot of practical things, as well, from scouting, particularly from Arthur Broadhurst – how a camera worked, how a motor car works, the stars, knots and lashings, flags, outdoor cooking, etc. The Court of Honour, held by the Patrol Leaders in the Tindall’s dining-room to try offenders.

7. A “Rite de Passage” which entailed going down a hole and tunnel in the chalk and coming out at the other end. It was somewhere beyond the beech woods up the Old Sarum road. On getting back one had to try to clean the chalk stains off one’s mackintosh and hope to get away with it.

8. Wild strawberries in Melbury.

9. Walks conducted by masters, who told stories – The Prisoner of Zenda.

10. KBT getting very ratty about the standard of Latin syntax and using a special paper and extra classes in a campaign to improve things.

11. Rather dreadful Shakespeare plays by patrols – obligatory.

12. Being caned twice by KBT.

13. “Night Op” on the playing fields once a year on a warm summer’s night.

14. Our little square gardens in concrete kerbs.

15. The masters at my time (1922-27) were Ledgard, Miss Quilley, Miss Lunn (music), Major Rose, Perry-Gore, Howell- Griffiths, Nanny Nurden, Ranger, Glenny (shooting), Broadhurst, Stanton (games and who played golf with “Tumty”).

16. I enclose a photograph of the confirmation of 1927 by the Bishop of Ripon, who I think was a great friend of the Tindalls. Sorors were invited to join in and Bowlby’s sister and my sister came that year. There were no girls in the School then (were there any later?) except Ann Tindall.

In reply to a letter from Mark Hichens.

Yes, I remember Stephenson, Edward Ford, Wrightsons (2 of them) and Baring. I don’t remember Nelson. I also remember both the Amerys (one of ill fame). Peter Scott was 3 or 4 years before me, so I don’t remember his arrival, but I do remember him being allowed to wear a belt, instead of braces. (I think belts were thought to be bad for one’s tummy). I am so glad the War Memorial has found such a good home.

I think the canings I had from KBT must have done me much good, because I was Head Boy in my last year – as you were.

As you say, I don’t think “Rite de Passage” is the correct term. The operation was rather frightening and was some sort of qualification for being tough or something. I don’t know if everyone did it. Possibly not. About Stanton – we also used to speculate about the relationship with Tumty (did you call her that?)

My sister and Bowlby’s, who were at the confirmation, were not in the school. They were at Downe House, and just came in for the confirmation. One or two more random thoughts:- Do you remember the expression “jelly beany?” The Naval Review at Spithead (1925?) Forbes’ father was Captain of the Battleship Warspite (or Valiant) and we all went on board. On the way back in the char-à-banc, we were all tipped into a ditch by another vehicle, and taken into a nearby house for comfort, which we did not need: we thoroughly enjoyed the accident. But I must not go rambling on any more.

John Simpson