I was a founder pupil from 1954 to 1961. I cannot have gained a clear pass in the 11-plus examination because after being interviewed by the Headmaster of Beckenham Grammar School, I was assigned to the new Technical School. Maybe that decision was influenced by Mr Godden, the Headmaster of Southborough Junior School because he was much taken by my sampan fashioned in a single piece of cut and folded card, and my kit built model aircraft which actually flew. Indeed, he noted my leaving report “Excellent practical work”.
Looking back, that was the perfect decision: CVTS offered a “Grammar School” syllabus, plus practical subjects – woodwork, metalwork, and geometrical drawing, and I am in no way surprised that in the year after the last Founder Members left officialdom added the adjective “High” to the school’s title, nor that Mr Kingsland’s contribution to education was handsomely recognised upon his retirement. CVTS was an excellent school with very high standards. And what a delight that the building is now a listed one!
That first cohort was probably like any other, full of characters, some athletically gifted who were known throughout the school (including one who returned as a Master – that must have been a transition), some whose metier was clearly technical, and others academically gifted who were clearly destined for great things. Many enjoyed social graces beyond their years. None were without a gift, for, as Mr Mayo said in his post-retirement interview, we were all “selected”. One, at least, was an introvert, who really had to work to attempt to fit in and keep up. CVTS had a wide catchment area and it was all too easy to lose touch when we left. I remember my reluctance to leave CVTS that last day of Summer Term 1961. It marked the end of a fairly predictable phase of life and the transition to adulthood. Within six months another phase would begin, a phase which brought real responsibility. Decisions would be measurable by actual outcomes.
Maybe it is the mists of time, or rose tinted spectacles, but my recollection is that I thoroughly enjoyed my time at CVTS, leaving with 10 “O” levels and 3 “A” levels (2 with Distinction) and a work ethic second to none. Later in life, I built upon that foundation by qualifying as a Chartered Public Finance Accountant (CPFA) and being awarded a BA (Hons), a MA with Distinction, and the annual University Postgraduate Prize!
As forecast in The Rook, volume 5, I joined the Civil Service as an Executive Officer. I was assigned to the Accountant General’s Department of the General Post Office (GPO). I became a commuter, heading for Cannon Street rather than Orpington as I had done for the previous seven years. My first job was to cost the Goonhilly Satellite Station. It also fell to me to invoice NASA for communications support to the Mercury Project. The exchange rate then was about $3 to £1. In those days the GPO ran the telephone service, the Royal Mail, and acted as HMG’s 'banker' through its 21,000 Post Offices. Seventy percent of their turnover was the payment of State (old age) Pensions and Social Security Allowances. Consequently Post Offices were awash with cash (measured in £m) to support a turnover measured in £bn. It also ran two money transmission services – money orders and postal orders - and accepted thousands of cheques each year.
It was not long before my known mathematical bent (first noted by my Primary School Headmistress) was applied to this area of cost. I became the specialist in the management of cash and banking practice – my second string recorded in The Rook. Consequently I became the Post Office’s first Treasurer. It also fell to me to transfer the Post Office Financial Accounting function from London to Chesterfield and to assume the role of Financial Accountant. That is when I was ‘encouraged’ to study for a professional qualification – with the grant of 17 ‘training’ days spread over three years. Goodness knows how much of my own time I contributed, but I do remember at one point, three students in the family revising concurrently, one for ‘O’ levels, another for ‘A’ levels, and a third for his final exams! I had a full career in the Post Office, retiring after completely re-vamping its accounting system as Head of the Accounting Systems Development Division.
Memory – and school reports – suggest that I managed to keep myself out of trouble whilst at CVTS, except for one memorable occasion. I had never been tempted to go into the air raid shelters until JCK warned in Assembly one morning he would cane the next boy that did so. A lunchtime recce revealed a manhole entrance unsighted from JCK’s study ……. : he was there when I climbed out. “My study!” – with the inevitable consequence.
Being one of Brian Weller’s 'plump boys' (see The Rook, volume I, page 9) I never excelled at physical education, but I captained the Rugby Team when in UIV. Were there team photos in those days?
I doubt if many Founder Pupils would have not been distracted to greater or lesser extent duing lessons by the many aircraft that could be seen by just inclining one’s head to the left as they descended on approach to RAF Biggin Hill. (That hypothesis is supported by the fact that at least 3 pupils joined the RAF as trainee aircrew.) Meteors and Hunters I recollect, and maybe the odd Spitfire in the early days. Like Ben Brown, who was the first pupil to gain entry to the RAF College, Cranwell, I found the thought of a career in the RAF attractive, but that was not to be. I was, however, five years later commissioned in the RAFVR(T) imbuing, I hope, young Air Cadets with a desire to join the RAF. I gained British Gliding Association A&B certificate courtesy of Her Majesty, and later qualified as a pilot of powered aircraft, a privilege that I have, in this my 75th year, just stopped exercising. Moreover, although based at an airfield in North Nottinghamshire, the one with the shortest licensed runway in the UK, and of which it is said that pilots trained there are renowned for always landing ‘on the numbers’, I contrived to inspect my alma mater from the air.
Elsewhere on this website, the question was posed had any pupil actually entered the staff room? I think I might have. Or I might have been held on the threshold. My mock A level results were shocking and as a consequence I negotiated with Messrs Beasley and Matthews for them to mark 5 year’s back-papers (that was 10 for Mr Beasley as he was tutor for Pure and Applied Mathematics) if I did them “under exam conditions” (which the VIth Form Common Room certainly was not).
I have a hazy recollection of attending the sanctum sanctorum to make my plea. Unless it was conscience, it seemed to me that it became de rigueur for teachers to pop into the VIth form Common Room to view Lindsey, oblivious to noise – Butt would play 'Stranger on the Shore' incessantly on the gramophone - working his way through past examination papers. I am indebted to Messrs Beasley and Matthews for their encouragement and support.
Thanks to the ethos instilled into the school by JCK and his foundation team, and those like Mr Bradley who joined us a little later, I have achieved more far more than I ever expected.
Online “posts” record that CVTHS staff included a Colonel and a Lt. Colonel. That prompted memory, hopfully correct, of the military ranks understood to have been held by earlier staff: Messrs Wiggins and Bird had been commissioned as pilots in the RAF (certainly the story of Mr Wiggins landing a Tiger Moth on the school field supports that notion), Mr Mayo had served as a Captain during the War, and Leo Walmsley held field rank, having enlisted as a squaddie: his advice was never to do that. (Doubtless young David W will correct me!) Mr Davies had been a Flt Sgt in the RAF, which perhaps explains a wry comment recorded elsewhere by an erstwhile member of the staff. Young Mr Bradley (in retirement) admitted he had been a National Service Education Officer, and was not Mr W W Williams a former Wing Commander? If readers wonder why we Founder Members sought out such facts (?) do contextualise: it was not long after a war in which our fathers fought, the Battle of Britain had been fought overhead, and we regaled with films like Reach for the Sky, and these gowned Masters had an air of je ne sais quoi.
I chanced on the CVTHS website only recently and I congratulate those who conceived, built and maintained it. I have delighted in reading how some of my cohort has fared and I am saddened to note the passing of others, but somewhat consoled by the thought that even we younger Founder Pupils are now in our 75th year. Certainly I was privileged to study with them.
I had forgotten that it was Peter Hider who drove us to the Seminar at Oxford University, but not forgotten is the cycling trip through the Loire Valley, nor the rough night time channel passage on the way home! Never to be forgotten are our teachers who not only set an example and instilled formal knowledge, but established an ethos that moulded those wise enough to absorb it. I especially honour the memory of John C Kingsland, CBE, BA for his perspicacity and sagacity as an educationalist.