QEGS (boys) and my memories of 1930s and 1940s Mansfield.

Grammar school days and travelling from Creswell.

By Jack Thompson

This story is only relevant to our more senior members (ho ho).  I was enrolled into the Prep. dept. of the boys grammar school at the end of 1938.   Mrs Simpson was our teacher and Mr. Brettle the headmaster.


I travelled from my home in Creswell by train.  I  walked up Debdale Lane, to the back gates of the school, from M.Woodhouse station.   Without going into too much detail it was wartime and things were difficult.

I stayed at QEGS until 1946.  I can remember some names of our masters.........Tim Martin, Art, Mr. Burgess, Geog.,Mr. Lacy, Physics, Miss Tingle, French, Mr. Kite, Chemistry, Mr.Eyres, Scripture and Mr. Philips, English.
Not too many younger masters as they were mostly fighting the war.     Life was quite peaceful inspite of the cooked lunches which were **** poor.     I shall never forget wondering what the wooden counters were for, in the corner of the dining room.  These turned out later to be site of the Tuck Shop which was definitely out of action. 

Mr.Brettle ran a tight ship (in today's terms).   Every morning a short queue of boys were lined up outside his office......these were the miscreants or the absentees, with their sick-notes, to be signed by him.
All had to give a credible account or suffer his wrath.

One of the most annoying things was to fill up a notebook and then have to go begging to the school secretary for a new one.  She would scrutinise every page and if she found even the smallest empty space she would send you away to use that...and then return for further examination; Paper shortages !

When the School Certificate came along I was hopeless only scraping some bare passes.  

If anyone is still reading this and who remembers this lost world I would love to hear from them.   After a rather varied career (Coal mines, Royal Navy, Teaching, Lecturing.) I now live in darkest, deepest lovely Devon. My three sons have professional careers and my six grandchildren regularly 'challenge my bank account'.

I love my trips back up to North Notts and the old haunts.  AAaaahh!  Happy times
Jack Thompson.   Nov. 2011.

This page was added on 20/11/2011.
Comments about this page

I was five years behind Jack, and recognize very well the school as he describes it. Brettle was a strange chap in some ways - particularly when he decided that all the female staff should be addressed as 'Sir' for the duration, to keep up standards.

By Tom Cotton
On 11-12-2012

Jack's suggestion that this site might only be relevant for 'more senior members' is not quite correct.  When I attended QEGS for one year during 1959/60 Mr Brettle was still the Headmaster (his nickname then was 'LOB', formed by the initials of his name).  I have a very distinct recollection of him presiding over assemblies in his full academic regalia.  At the very first assembly I attended as a new boy in 1959 an older boy behind me began prodding me in the back with the sharp leg of a drawing compass.  My resultant fidgeting attracted Mr Brettle's attention as he pontificated and as I filed past him at the end of proceedings he leaned down from his elevated position and with a fierce look promised to cane me if he ever saw such unstable deportment on my part in the future.  I took him seriously and never did get caned.  Oddly enough my juvenile tormentor was (as I discovered later) an Australian boy, a third-former, low-browed and rascally, who went by the nickname 'Wagga' and was much admired by his peers for his devil-may-care attitude. He was the first Australian I had ever met.  I say 'oddly', because not long afterwards my parents decided to emigrate to Australia, which was why I only spent one year at the school.  Needless to say, presuming Wagga to be a representative Australian type, I had some reservations about their decision!

Jack also mentioned Mr Burgess and Mr Eyre, who were still at QEGS in 1959 and taught me for Geography and Religious Instruction respectively. 

I seem to recall that it was Mr Eyre who presided over the distribution of illustrated copies of the King James translation of the Bible, blue-covered, one to each of us. I still have mine, though it is rather battered now. I don't recall Mr Eyre's accompanying remarks but as a young lad I was struck by the fact that this one book would be considered so important.  I believe that the Nottinghamshire Education Authority's policy in this regard formed a link in the chain of God's working in my life, a chain that led to my being born again in the Lord Jesus Christ some 22 years later, the most important event of my life.   

I well remember my first lesson with Mr Burgess.  After a stirring homily outlining the unique benefits bestowed upon the young mind by the study of Geography, Mr Burgess proceeded to open a large drawer in his desk, from which he produced what he described as his three preferred instruments of correction: a cane, a strap and a large gym slipper!  Anther, briefer, homily ensued, during which he ascribed to the implements some order of priority which I don't recall.  This balanced introduction to his subject, along with his somewhat military manner, led to a rather conscientious group of students!

At the end of my short stay at QEGS I was presented with a farewell report with comments by all of my teachers and a summary comment by Mr Brettle, in which he (most charitably, I thought, given that I regarded him as a virtual stranger who only knew me as a wriggler) described me as " A boy of exemplary character ...".  This got me off to a bright start with my new Headmaster when I arrived in Australia.

I have far too many memories of my year at QEGS to burden you with here but, given Tom Cotton's reference to female staff I feel compelled to share the following unforgettable experience.  Some talk was going around the quadrangle that a new French teacher had been appointed, a female teacher, from La France itself!  This was a novel suggestion, as there were no female teachers at the school at that time as far as I recall, and no foreigners of either gender. I had no acquaintance then with French ladies other than through the publicity shots of Brigitte Bardot that occasionally festooned the Hippodrome cinema advertising films which, my mother had firmly informed me, were not suitable for children.  Nevertheless, the unlikely rumour turned out to be true and the quadrangle quickly filled with curious boys when news spread that the new teacher was perambulating through the (on that day) sun-drenched grounds.  Now, as far as I knew at that point, she might have turned out to be the spitting image of Madame Defarge, but such a premature speculation could not have been further from the fact. She was in every way the very essence of continental chic - blonde, contemporary, almost coquettishly conscious of the rapt attention she was inspiring, wearing the short hooped skirt popular at the time and impossibly high heels, and holding a frilled parasol to shade her (already tanned) complexion. We were hugely impressed.  Somehow she seemed as alien to QEGS as an Apache chieftain would have been.  And she also wore a charmingly enigmatic Mona Lisa smile.  I don't think that Bardot herself could have held a group of boys any more thoroughly in thrall.  It was film-set stuff of the first order.  I had no idea about recruitment processes at that age but is it possible that Mr Brettle could have put his imprimatur to such a selection or had he already confined himself to his study to compile a list of possible misdemeanours by which he might find a way to bring about her early departure?  Isn't it strange, the things that happen at school!

By Tony Williams
On 28-07-2015

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