St Clement Danes Holborn Estate Grammar School for Boys opened in Ducane Road in Hammersmith in 1928. The number of students grew to nearly 500 in 1938 when two new Houses were added: Burleigh and Lincoln. During his 29-years at the school, Headmaster Mr Fuller really put St Clement Danes on the map. Amongst other achievements, he established the annual school camps, built an enclosed playground and a school pavilion.
In the same year as Mr Fuller’s retirement (1936), students also recall the abdication of King Edward VIII following the scandal surrounding his proposal to marry a divorced American socialite called Wallis Simpson. In 1937 the school saw Mr J McGill Clouston take over as Headmaster. He set up the first Parents’ Evenings and arranged for the first Commemoration Service at St Clement Danes’ Church – a tradition which continues to this day.
There was also growing concern over Adolf Hitler’s rise to power in Germany and the Nazi party’s threats which lead Britain to declare war on Germany in September 1939.
Geoffrey Walker (Temple 1934-39) and David Sunray (Lincoln 1938-40) recall their school days at St Clement Danes Holborn Estate Grammar School for Boys in Ducane Road, London.
Mr Walker was born in 1922. Everyone at his primary school was given the day off when he gained a special scholarship to the St Clement Danes.
He said: “I went to lessons and enjoyed the competition. We all just tried to do our best with the idea of having to get a job at the end of it. We just did as we were told and worked hard as it would help us to get a job. We needed a job to contribute to the family. It was expected of us by our parents.”
Punishment consisted of detention where students were kept behind for 30 minutes after school to write lines or cube numbers. There was no caning.
School started at 8.30am and ended at 3.45pm. Lessons included a choice of Latin or Greek, plus French or German. Algebra, Calculus, Trigonometry, Science, Physics, Music, History, English and Physical Training were also taught.
Mr Walker remembers how much he disliked PE: “The PE staff only judged you then by what you were like in the gym, rather than the team games like cricket which I enjoyed.”
He would pay a penny a day to be able to eat his pie or sandwich and fruit (brought in from home) at school. Students paid for the service of using a knife, fork and plate. School dinners cost a shilling each, or five bob a week, for those who could afford them.
The most up-to-date technology was ‘The Biro Pen’
The most up-to-date piece of technology in the 1930s was… ‘The Biro Pen’. “No-one knew how it was refilled,” said Mr Walker. “That was a mystery for us. The shopkeeper would pop out the back and come back with it refilled.”
Family circumstances meant Mr Walker was expected to earn money to contribute to family funds. He did not go into the Sixth Form, leaving school in May 1939 when he began working for the Civil Service. After war broke out in 1939 he joined the RAF. He recalls: “I still have photographs of my old school friends and many of them in the photo were killed in the war. It’s not something I like to think about very often.”
His advice to today’s students? “Appreciate all the opportunities you are given, work hard and make full use of the facilities and participate in all the activities on offer.”
World War II and evacuation to Oxford
Mr Walker left school in 1939 – the year that World War II began. David Sunray (Lincoln) had joined the school a year earlier and was evacuated with the rest of the school to Oxford. Students were billeted in private homes and attended school in the village hall, Southfield Grammar School in Cowley or New College.
He recalls: “The St Clement Danes teachers were wonderful – especially as the war started. There was great friendship between boys and masters, probably enhanced by the exigencies of war. Our form master was to become like Mr Chips – a great character and very popular with the boys.”
Students particularly enjoyed attending the agricultural camp at Standlake, doing their bit for the war effort, and the forestry camp in the Forest of Dean.
Back at home the school was bombed by a German aircraft. Considerable damage was caused to the west wing of the building, destroying four classrooms, a cloakroom and part of the laboratories.
Students also learned of the death of one of their most popular younger masters, Mr Geoff Arnold, who was reported missing and presumed lost at sea. A further 42 Old Danes fell in the World War of 1939-45. Their sacrifice is remember every year by students, staff, governors, trustees and friends at a Remembrance Ceremony at St Clement Danes School in Chorleywood.