So if the little boys thought that being in India would provide them with an eternal playground, they were both right and wrong. Right insofar as they had wonderful adventures ( of which I will write more about later, ) but for now its education.
It was a bit of a heady mix because, if you recall, my grandparents came from a family of Farmers. My grand father lied about his age and entered the First World War to be with his friends ( witless, but true as in the case of so many idealistic teenagers ) and never left until he was 65 years old. Anyway for this family to find themselves in India was a Rudyard Kipling story come true!
This picture shows them just a few weeks before they were about to leave. Based in Lydd, my father recalls happy days playing on the Beach where the dreadful Dungeness Power Station now resides and sitting on the gate to the beach, offering to open it for car drivers to save them getting out in return for a few coppers.
They look like a pair of dirty scruffy urchins and certainly not ” officer children” as they would later become
They were very young children when they first arrived as you will have seen from the other posts.
And below they had become slightly more sophisticated and certainly used to the heat…..
My father’s first school was local. Local enough to ride there on a horse every day and at lunch time, one of the house staff came and delivered lunch to them. I asked why he did not attend the schools run by the Army and the reasons were various. Some places they did not exist. Others were not really more than a Dame School and a very important reason often cited by my grandfather was that ” they were in India and India they would experience” and whilst I have to agree it is probably more of a privileged India it was certainly not a sanitised one, lived behind compound gates.
This picture above shows them ( my father is 8 and his brother 10) . The photo does not mention where, so I will not hazard a guess. The men at the back were obviously house servants. Well the guy on the right was, as he was clean and smart and so one assumes he helped inside. The other guy on the left was seen with his grandson standing to the fore. My father called him “Gopi” and he was one of their friends. I suspect this was NOT his real name but my father said it was the name everyone called him. Allowed to go to school with them he was adopted in part by my grandfather. A few years old than ” the little boys” his affection ( or gratitude?) for my grandfather was such he enrolled in the Army, leaving school and my father. A first indication of how the divide was to be. Class. Race. Religion. So Gopi left them behind and sought his fortune, such as it was to be. My father reckoned he could not have been more than 12 years old and said he remained very angry with his father for allowing Gopi to join the Army. My grandfather, practical and sanguine, said it gave him more of a chance than he would get if he stayed behind.
In Cawnpore my father attended the local girls school! It was known as ” The Girls High School” but it did take younger boys. I think the name has changed now to Methodist High School but is still very much in existence.
http://mhsknp.in/ Methodist High School, Kanpur.
If you click on the link above, one of the pictures shows the front of the school and here is one from there earlier. No manicured gardens then and taken from another angle but the school just the same . So, Methodist High School or, as it was then, Girls High School , Cawnpore, 1943 was my father’s first school . My father stands with Ronald Goss. An local boy whose family had a business in the town. Where is he now? ( I tried to find him with google and Facebook but to no avail. Be great to see what happened to him, although I appreciate its a hugely long shot!) I love the way Ronald has the sense to wear plimsols and no socks to keep cool and my father, being British, is there with stout shoes and long woollen socks, even in temperatures of 95 plus! ( “Ne’re cast a clout, ’till May is out,” comes to mind !) The school was run along the lines of educating Indian children as well as British and Anglo/Indian ones as well. The above link to the school does lay down some of its history. Fascinating stuff.
However in 1943 with my grandfather moving about more and having been stationed on the Afghan Border for many months, my grandmother decided to put her foot down and declared they would NOT be spending another winter in tents in the snow up in the Hills and hoping for better things for her sons sent them off to La Martiniere College in Lucknow.
So goodbye to Ronald and hello to Bullies. One of the last bastions of the Raj. A place where his hero, Rudyard Kipling was educated. Life was going to be exciting. Walking in the footsteps of heros, or maybe not! A goodbye to local life and hello to Privileges. My father was sent there and in the first few weeks he did not board. He stayed with my Grandmother at the Victory Hotel or the Viceroy Hotel or even the Vivanta Hotel. Who knows, save that it had a huge V emblazoned over the door. My father said he thought it was the Victory, but I cant find trace of a hotel of that name. I could be wrong. If anyone knows the name of this hotel and if it is still in being, please let me know.
My grandmother used to ask the hotel staff to go down to the school with her each lunch time and take lunch for him. He speaks of them opening up a linen tablecloth and putting it on the grass. He and his brother sat down and ” dined” from various hot food prepared by the Hotel staff and brought in metal containers to keep it hot. After a few weeks, this stopped and he was sent to board there. Welcome to the world of Dormitory Bullies and more. He decided that as he was one of the small boys if he wanted to survive he had to fight back. And fight he did, becoming one of the Boxing champions of the school. He didn’t go to sleep in a wet bed again. ( not from bed wetting but the boy across the room who every night positioned a water pistol at my father’s bed and soaked it ) He didn’t particularly like the school or its way. My father didn’t like the new world he was inhabiting and missed his friends from The Girls High School. He had enjoyed the eclectic mix there and didn’t enjoy the hierarchy that La Martinere enforced amongst its pupils. Everyone had to make their mark and if you weren’t good at lessons, then you dam well had to be good at sport.
As recently as twenty years ago, it had obtained a shady history, as was very well documented in many of the papers over the murder and violence there. Now, I am afraid I don’t know….