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THE OD

16

MEMORIES OF DRAGONS PAST

as 3 inch shell after 3 inch shell rocketed up

and over the playing fields before exploding

in the meadow on the far side of the River

Cherwell. Were the shells live? I do not know

but they certainly appeared to be so”.

Winters were memorably cold in the

1940s. Charles Stisted (1946), recalls: “Every

morning we had to get out of bed, strip off

our Pajamas’, grab our towels and run down

the main hall way into a small room on the

left and jump into an 8 foot square by 4

feet deep cold water pool and straight out

again. There was always a master standing

by to make sure no one got out of it. One

winter term, I was first to reach the pool. To

my amazement and horror there was a thin

layer of ice on top. As I stood hesitating with

everyone in deathly silence, a loud frustrated

voice bellowed out, “Stisted stop messing

about… you are holding up the line”. The

shock of his loud voice made me lose balance

and fall in. A memory that will never be

eradicated for as long as I live.”

Swimming in the River Cherwell bought

back memories for Susan Davies (1946)

who vividly recalled the test experience:

“Those deemed to be ready got dressed in

full school uniform (boy’s version as I don’t

remember there being any girl’s uniform

beyond a blazer). Kitted out in cold, damp

footwear, shorts, shirt and blazer we were

made to stand in a row on the landing stage

facing the river. Colonel Purnell would then

walk up and down the line giving selected

swimmers a short sharp push which flung

them into the water. The hapless pupil then

had to swim to the far side of the river and

back, to prove they could survive much

more than a mid-river capsize if out in a

canoe or punt. The outward journey was

fine,” Susan explained, “the blazer being full

of trapped air, but the return to the landing

stage grew ever more desperate as shoes

and sodden blazer attempted to drag the

swimmer under, but I never saw anyone fail

in mid-stream.”

Angus Fryer (1946) was in School House

as a boarder and remembers, “…for a fire

escape we had a canvas tunnel with a rope

down the middle which was thrown out of

a window and the bottom was pulled away

from the house to make a slide which made

an enjoyable fire practice.”

The pre-1950s Reunion reminded Dr

Tim Cook (1948) of his late friend Jon

Stallworthy, who died last year. “I remember

Joc on dorm duty, catching Jon writing

poetry under the bed clothes (by torchlight)

long after lights out. He said that Jon would

not be punished if he brought the completed

poem to the Head-magisterial study to

read the following morning”. This liberal

approach is remembered by various ODs, a

contrast to what happened in many other

prep schools.

Drawing from his own memoir, Peter

Jay (1950) - known to many as a former

Economics Editor at the BBC and UK

Ambassador to the United States - gave

the address of thanks at the Reunion. He

recalled the infamous winter of 1947, “We

were tougher then. The temperature on the

Lodge lawn fell, I vividly recall, to minus

8 degrees, which were real, old-fashioned

Fahrenheit degrees, which my children tell

me would be minus 22 of your modern

namby-pamby centigrade jobs.

“It was indeed a kind of Tyrannosaurus

Rex academy, red in tooth and claw -

and we loved it.”

1950's Dragon School war memorial with The Barge poop deck - this is the earliest photo we have but the scene will

be familiar to all the pre-1950s generation

1940s War time B suits & boiler suits

The Diving board on the River Cherwell in 1955: the earliest photograph

"The hapless pupil

then had to swim to

the far side of the

river and back, to

prove they could

survive much more

than a mid-river

capsize if out in a

canoe or punt."