Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Mike Davies' funeral

Mike Davies' funeral will be at 3pm on Monday 5 November in the East Chapel at Croydon Crematorium, organised by Tandridge Borough Council in the absence of any so-far traceable next-of-kin.  However, the Rev Malcolm Newman (ex Purley Boys) has volunteered to preside.  

Any ex-pupils or staff  are welcome to attend.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Michael Davies RIP

Colin Evans (Deputy Head 1978-88) reports:

You may wish to record there the recent death of  Michael Davies who was my fellow Deputy Head under Derek Akers until 1988. Mike was a very independent person who revealed little of his personal background even to close colleagues and certainly never boasted about his remarkable athletic career.  In the 1960s, before he came to Purley he was one of the foremost cross-country and fell runners in the country and was made a life member of Reading Athletic Club in recognition of his achievements. He was one of only two runners to win the Three Peaks Mountain Race 4 times, won the Ben Nevis mountain race 3 times and the Lake District Mountain Trial 3 times. In 1967, unbeknown to him,  he had his first contact with Purley, beating into third place the great Gordon Pirie - an Old Purleian.  All this I have found from Google while trying to help the coroner's office trace any next of kin - so far with little success.  

A date has not yet been set for the funeral which may have to be organised by the Tandridge Local Authority and which will be attended by myself and a number of ex-colleagues including Derek Akers and Kingsley Gregory. I hope also to contact some of his cross-country protégés when I have the date.

more details when known.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Class names from Terry Hardy

 Can anyone add to these?

Purley County Grammar School for Boys

September 1943 – December 1948

Class Names remembered:

Bird (C)
Cassini ( ? sp )
Fowler ( M.J )
Hardy ( T.L)
Hillier ( M.J )
Pitt ( P.W )

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Terry Hardy writes about the plane crash at PGS

As to that plane crash (on the tennis courts, I believe), no, I was not there at the time. However, I did chat about the event with those who were and always understood it was a Spitfire – but you may very well be correct. Importantly there was the story which sticks in my mind and is very believable, that the boys looking out of the window and staring in awe, were sternly told to get their ….’ heads down, pay attention and get on with your work’. This is so typical of those days and times and very much tells that we were on the edge of a strange and false normality. Was it Mr. Coulson, an English Master?

The Battle of Britain is legendary enough  and, remember, Kenley was just a very brisk lunch time trot away from school. I have very vivid memories of, with encouragement from a classmate, crawling under barbed wire to invade a hanger, steal some green cordite and 303 live ammunition , return to school and then take the stuff home. In due course I experimented. This was my first adventure into rocket science and munitions. I survived but my Father descended on me from a great height.

Then there was the episode with the phosphorus re claimed from Farthing Downs and setting part of the School on fire as we cut it up in the cycle sheds to share amongst us !!

Terry Hardy

This is the article that Terry is commenting on:


Battle of Britain Hurricane crashes at PGS

Remnants of a Second World War fighter flown by an ace pilot have been found at the Coulsdon College site.  An archaeology report, part of the college's planning application to build a new college and homes there, unearthed records of a Hawker Hurricane that crash-landed on the playing field during the Battle of Britain.  The plane was a Hawker Hurricane from 43 Squadron, which was based at Tangmere.  The pilot, 27-year-old Squadron Leader Caesar Barrand Hull, was killed in the crash, which happened at 5.13pm on September 7, 1940.  He had been involved in combat over Docklands and was then following a German bomber that was circling south east London. He was shot down by a second, unseen, German fighter.  Squadron Leader Hull, a Rhodesian who boxed for South Africa in the 1934 Empire Games in London, had already become a fighter ace.  He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his courage in the Norway campaign in May when, flying a biplane Gloster Gladiator, he shot down four German planes in one action.
Squadron Leader Hull's plane crashed on the eastern side of the grounds, on the site of the former tennis court area next to the gym.

Caesar was found dead beside his aircraft, in the grounds of a boy's school in Purley, Kent. He had been killed by a bullet during the battle over the London Docks. His remains were buried at St. Andrews Churchyard at Tangmere, amongst fellow fighter pilots. It is poignant that he died on the day that the Luftwaffe changed their strategy to concentrate on bombing the major cities of Britain by night, instead of targeting the Sector station control systems and airfields. This was to prove an historic turning point, when within a matter of weeks the Luftwaffe halted their attacks on London, virtually accepting the fact that they had lost the Battle of Britain.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Martin Jones write about Len Kneller

Martin Jones must have missed the piece on the F et P website on Len Kneller's death and he wants to share his thoughts with other Old Boys

"I was sorry to hear of the death of Len Kneller. Len was my first form teacher when I arrived at Purley midway through the autumn term of 1960-61. I was in 1C and we were located in 'Harry', one of three portakabins - Tom, Dick and Harry - which housed the first years until the mid-1960's. Len was a gentle man, and I never recall him raising his voice, unlike other teachers at the school at the time. His bamboo samurai sword, which he used to bring out and wave around from time to time, was never used in anger, but the cold stare that he used to give us from behind his glasses served a similar purpose in quietening even the most badly behaved lads in his class. Len was also my maths teacher, and a good teacher at that, but we were always happy when we could persuade him to diverge on to his 'Jim-Jim' man (? is that what it was called?) or 'moving the steam engine from one end of the track to the other without passing under the low bridge' - lateral thinking is what it was probably all about but I don't think we ever resolved the problem! I recall that Len ran 'circuit training' sessions in the gym at lunchtimes round about this time although I was never persuaded to take part, particularly as the participants always seemed to come back totally exhausted and fit for nothing other than a lie down in Mrs Marlow's medical room! I also recall that Len came from his home in Streatham on an expensive-looking motor bike which he parked in the tin shed close to the caretaker's flat. When some of us started to play table tennis in the shed during the cold winter months, Len gave us one of his stares and let it be known that the pannier tanks alone cost more than we could ever afford to repay him should the bike end up on its side! At the end of the 1960-61 year, I stayed down in the first year and moved to 1A in 'Tom'. I had Len once more as a maths teacher in the third year, and then he left the school, and completely disappeared from the scene for 45 years. A man of mystery in many ways, but as John has pointed out, a man whose life was obviously well lived!    

Martin Jones

PS. Len was certainly bald and had a moustache when I knew him, but I don't recall him having a beard and I'm sure he wasn't at the Final Reunion (a photo taken in 2010 shows a v similar face and moustache to the 1960's, and I think we might have guessed if he had been at the Reunion, even if he had been there under another name!) "      

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Thoughts on Len Kneller and PGS early 1960's

Hello John,
Yes I was in 1D.
 I was born in '47 and arrived at Purley age 11, having taken my 11 plus when I was 10 - lucky me.
 So I'm guestimating I arrived in '58.
 Your name sounds familiar, but I'm not good with remembering names or dates, I remember things visually and auditorily.  
 Paul Humphrey and Tom Morgan were my 2 close friends and remain so. 
Allan Mason was another friend - he played piano and took lessons from my dad, we played Take Five at a school concert along with a bass player and sax player. He lives in Caterham, has an electronics biz and we are still in touch. 

Len wasn't in WW2, he was too young, although he was bald early on, when I met him he was  pretty young - although he seemed about  middle aged to to me at the time - but anyone over 21 was old to me then.....

Len went to Canada after he was headmaster of Crawley Comprehensive, then to the US, ended up in Chicago, married an ex school teacher and body worker with a son who became Len's stepson. He never had a son of his own. Her maiden name had been Buchanan which she liked, he didn't care for his own name or his own family remaining connections, and was making a new start and decided to symbolically change his name to Douglas Buchanan.

He didn't get any more degrees, he had started studying Chemistry but switched to mathematics while at  university. 

He was running classes, training people in healing methods called Reiki and Dar Shem, he was a teacher until he died, had all his faculties and an encyclopedic knowledge of more things than anyone i ever met.

Just an amazing man, spent  much of his own time teaching me and a bunch of guys who would gather at his house -  3 were students he had previously taught Judo to....  who became excellent martial arts exponents, one, Clive Henderson, used to throw members of the US Olympic team around, another,  Jock  Hopson is one of the only 2  7th Dan Kendo exponents( graded in Japan ) outside Japan in the world.

 Yes I live in Santa Fe New Mexico USA, was an illustrator, then painter ( of pictures), now musician, soon to be author.

 Best, Chris Speer.

On Jun 18, 2012, at 8:02 AM, John Illingworth wrote:

Hi Chris

Thanks for your reply. Were you in form 1d? Were you in 1959 or1960 intake? I was in 2Lb when I first met Len for Maths-I think he taught me comparative religion when I was in 3L.

 Although it is sad news Len lived a very fulfilled life and I was pleased to hear of your contact towards the end of his life and of the messages you gave him from other friends. I presume you met him in March 2011 not 2012. I expect there are many more who were at Purley who would have anecdotes about him if asked.Was he bearded- as I had thought I had identified him from the photo of those who attended the final reunion.

Just a few snippets of information based on my memory which I would like to share with you :

In 1960 Len offered lessons after normal school in New Testament Greek to a few of us who were interested in 3L.
He lent me "Man Eaters of Kumaon" out of his private library.
In one lesson he set the questions from the Oxford entrance general paper to 13 year olds without telling us first-just to encourage us to believe in our abilities.
I heard that he had been in the army at the seige of Tobruk in 1942. Also I understood he had either qualified in medicine or had changed his course to complete his teaching qualification.
He wrote a piece on the history of fish and chips for the Bourne magazine.

Please can you give me some more info to complete the jigsaw.
1. Had Len relocated to live in Chicago? Did he work at any point in the States? is his wife from there? did he have children? -are you also living in the States? 
2. Did he change his name to Douglas Buchanan? If so do you know the reason? Did he complete any academic work or other literary achievements in either name?

His was a life well lived -I expect his biography would make interesting reading although I think he preferred to keep a low profile in life so only those who knew him understood his unique personality.

I'd be interested to know if you in touch with anyone else from Purley I may know?   

Kind regards


Fas et Patria

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