Chapter 12

Chapter 12

The University was settling down to the upheavals caused by the War. The undergraduate body was a mixed one – Service people like myself, youngsters coming up from their schools, a contingent from the Navy of Sub-Lieutenants whose education had paused when they joined their ships as midshipmen, and a number of American officers wearing medal ribbons and gold bars on their sleeves indicating how many months they had been on active service. It was not always easy to get them to appreciate that some of us had seen up to four years of war and in several cases, earned decorations and held senior rank. My Tutor was a classic and took little interest in his pupils reading for science or technological degrees. So one had very little tutorial advice or assistance. I did not feel I could tackle an Honours Course so settled for an ordinary degree in Engineering. It was not easy to resume academic work and after struggling with lectures which I found difficult to understand, I went to a private coach who helped me to take a First class in the first part of the engineering course and a Second class in my Finals. To amuse myself I took Russian lessons with a Polish undergraduate and passed the oral examination of the Modern Languages Tripos with flying colours. So in the summer of 1920, I went to the Senate House wearing the appropriate hood and gown and received my degree.

I was too late to get into College but had comfortable rooms in St. John’s Street, which I shared with another Etonian, Gerard Staveley Gordon, who was also reading engineering. Most of my meals were taken in the Pitt Club, though one had to dine or lunch in Hall the specified minimum number of times a week and put in an appearance in Chapel.

My free time was spent on the River Cam where I rowed in the Third Trinity Eight which went Head of the River in Mays, bumping Pembroke and Jesus on the first two days and rowing over on the following two days. We had a good crew, captained by Clarence Buxton who had rowed in the University Boat before the war and was President of the C.U.B.C. We were coached by two old Blues – Roly Nelson and Robin Arbuthnot. Two of our crew gained Blues – Herbert Boret and John Fremantle – who was 9th man in 1920. We did well that year in the Lents, making several bumps. But in the Mays lost our place to Jesus as Head of the River and at Henley where we were coached by the famous oar, Brigadier Gibbon, we were beaten after a close race in the anti-finals by the ultimate winner of the Ladies Plate, Christchurch.


So ends my story and military career, being demobilised from the Army and R.A.F. in March, 1919 – just four years after being commissioned into the 2/8 Bn. of the Worcestershire Regiment.

Postscript. What happened to my fellow officers in Room 68? Sanders went to South Africa and returned to farm in the East Midlands. Helder, who had intended to join the Church, became a dentist. Wingfield became a chartered accountant, working in London. Money rejoined his Regiment for a time and then went barn storming in New Zealand, ending his military career as Adjutant of a R.A.F. Reserve Squadron. All others have died except Tom Molloy who rejoined his Regiment – the Dorsets – ending up as a Colonel and for some years has lived in Malta.

September 1970.