Now celebrating our seventy-fifth birthday being born out of necessity in 1940.

Remembering that WWII was declared in September 1939, and it was from that British military disaster in the May and June 1940 the Dunkirk evacuation, code-named Operation Dynamo . That is best summed up by the British Prime Minister Winston Churchill in his speech to the House of Commons that year in which he called the events in France "a colossal military disaster", saying that "the whole root and core and brain of the British Army" had been stranded at Dunkirk and seemed about to perish or be captured. In his “We shall fight on the beaches speech” he hailed their rescue as a "miracle of deliverance". He also reminded the country: " We must be very careful not to assign this deliverance the attributes of a victory. Wars are not won by evacuations”.

This event did also impact on Kingham Hill School as recalled by John Dalton (Bradford & Sheffield 1937 to 1943). The school operated as near as possible to its normal programme during the early war years. But there were noticeable interruptions such as the turnovers of the teaching staff, the younger members going off to serve and foreign and older teachers taking their place. But this did not happen too often. However after Mr. Churchill’s “We shall fight on the beaches speech” ; The sight of Khaki uniforms became more visible and were obvious signs of war for us.  None more so than in 1940 with the formation of the Hills Company of the Home Guard. If I remember rightly it was commanded by the House master of Norwich who was also the Arts Master and an officer from the First World War (1914-1918) those Boys aged 17 years were conscripted and so too were all the 50’s and under. During my time about three masters were in the ranks. The Home guard had night duty rotas which were very unpopular during the winter months and formal parades on Sunday mornings were for us boys very popular- no chapel!

Ox Bucks

These Sunday mornings were real fun, doing army drill parades, and practicing infantry tactics in the fields, woods and ditches, getting covered with mud, and animal dung together with our teaching staff, what a ‘comrade spirit’. Being about the youngest I often was detailed to be the messenger taking written orders to other various sections, finding them always had difficulties. We had no radios then. I might add that members of the Home Guard were issued with 30 rounds of live ammunition, a rifle and bayonet and an army uniform.We kept our .303 rifles and bayonets in our dormitory lockers.

Another former pupil Geoff Ball at KHS 1936-1945 in Clyde, Plymouth, Durham and Stratford Houses. Sadly Geoff passed away earlier this year (2015) but we can quote from his article found in our War Years Section.

I remember the formation of the LDV/Home Guard on the Hill clearly, it was at Company strength and a unit within 3rd Battalion Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry the Company was commanded by Mr William Michie, who worked in the Carpentry Shop. The Company formed part of the 3rd Battalion commanded by Lt Col Mitford of Buford. The Norwich Housemaster of the time was a Mr E. Hanson-Lockey, a WW1 Officer who reached the rank of Captain and who won his MC in the closing stage of WW1. Our original cap badge then was that of Oxford and Bucks Light infantry badge, who were our parent regiment they were a commando unit and wore green berets, we also wore these and with as much pride being a part of that regiment.

Mr Lockey later played a major part in the formation of the original Army Cadet Force unit that was formed in 1941 and he was the first Officer Commanding, he was assisted by A.S.R. Parker, a Mr Stredder (who worked in The Main Stores) and the School Chaplain (Rev Maldwyn Lloyd-Jones who held the rank of Under Officer.

LDV=Local Defence Volunteers as for Home Guard we took this very seriously please remember there was a POW camp in our neighbourhood up the road at Chipping Norton.

The historian May 2015

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  • Aaron Reid - Tuesday, 05 January 2016

    Hi John,
    I enjoyed your article. I'm not sure the Light Infantry wore commando green berets. The Light Division (Now The Rifles, formerly LI and RGJ) have worn rifle green kit since Napoleonic times. Their rifle green berets (as still worn today) are not the same as commando green berets. As airborne troops in WW2 (eg seizing Pegasus bridge) they wore airborne maroon berets.

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