Wartime, War Service and National Service

Officers of the US Army at Keele 1944 ‌THE CLYDE APPLEGATE MYSTERY

"Standing by Keele Hall gates with Alan Ewart (Security Officer) in 2012, I was shown, to my astonishment, a faint inscription he had spotted in the stone high up on the inner side of the column supporting Fresher's Gate. I'd never noticed it before.... There, almost illegible now, is a scratched message dating apparently from the American base on the Keele Hall estate during the Second World War." John Easom (1981)

We know little about the American forces stationed here but this is a clue. The photo (left) of the inscription isn't too clear but it reads:

Clyde Applegate Inscription Clyde Applegate
Fort Smith
Arkansas
5-9-44
 
Was he an American servicemen stationed at Keele in 1944? The date is 9th May 1944, less than a month before D-Day.

The Commnad Post of the US 83rd Infantry Division was stationed at Keele Hall from 19th April to 14th June 1944. It then proceeded to a base at Stonehenge before landing in Normandy on 25th June, and then seeing heavy fighting until the end of the war. The photo (above right) is the only known image of American troops at Keele. It shows Officers on the lawn at Keele Hall. (Photo: courtesy of Brampton Museum, Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council). The lack of an Army insignia suggests these officers were part of US Third Army which was kept "incognito" until after the invasion of Normandy - 83rd Divisio nwas assigned to the Third Army. On the back it is identified as "Colonel Stark and staff". Another record indicates that: "From 1-16 June 1944 the 83rd Division band was at Keele Hall, Stoke-on-Trent".

Peter Davis (1963) discovered the following: Quinton Clyde Applegate, age 27 died in a Little Rock Hospital November 8, 1948 after a long illness. Surviving are his wife, Mrs. Pauline Applegate, of Fort Smith; his mother Mrs. Lue Suggs, near Belleville; Mrs. Ina smith, of Hackett; two brothers, Clon, of Merced, Calif., Hison, of St. Paul, Nebraska. Also a host of other relatives and friends. He was laid to rest in the National Cemetery at Fort Smith, Friday, November 12 1948 from the Yell County Record, Danville, Arkansas, Thursday, November 18, 1948)

Dr David Hampson
(1963) lives in Cincinnati, Ohio, and he was also hot on the trail; he discovered the following and even made contact with the family:
The  Fort Smith (Arkansas) Genealogical Department has confirmed his full name was Quinton Clyde Applegate. He was among the troops stationed on the Keele Hall estate during the Second World War. The name Quinton was an embarrassment for a young man in the US Army. So, he went by the name of Clyde. After the war he returned to Fort Smith and died after a two year illness. He is buried in the National Cemetery. He was married, but had no children. His widow married Clyde's young brother - they had a daughter Katherine. Katherine is still living in the Fort Smith area. David contacted with Katherine: "She was fascinated to hear about her uncle's inscription at Keele."

Well done, Messrs Davis and Hampson - or should that be Dr John Hampson and Mr Sherlock Davis?

The “First Decade” DVD mentions that the earliest intakes of students at Keele included some older students who had already completed National Service. This prompted a fascinating exchange of recollections that deserves to be shared and read by fellow Keelites...

Ahrschede1952 National Service

National Service was formalised as a peacetime form of conscription by the National Service Act 1948. From 1st January 1949, healthy males aged 17 to 21 years were expected to serve in the Armed Forces for 18 months and to remain on the reserve list for four years. Men were exempt from National Service if they worked in one of the three "essential services" of coal-mining, farming and the Merchant Navy. Exemption was also possible for conscientious objectors. In October 1950 the service period was extended to two years but the reserve period was reduced by six months. National Servicemen who showed promise could be commissioned as officers. National Servicemen served in combat operations in Malaya, Cyprus, Kenya, Korea, and elsewhere. National Service ended on 31st December 1960, but those who had deferred service for reasons such as university studies or on compassionate or hardship grounds still had to complete their National Service after this date.


Photo: "Ahrschede" Hut 1952

Memories of National Service and War Service

“I count National Service as a life-giving educational experience on a par with school and university. While I endured National Service, I loathed pretty well every minute of it. But I soon came to realise that it was one of the best things that could have happened. I came from a grammar school and parsonage background. Leaving school on Friday and becoming a soldier on Monday was absolutely mind-bending. So 18 months later and still a soldier (just), I was being interviewed by Lord Lindsay. I longed to get back to studying, so any maturity that I brought with me to the campus was balanced, perhaps outweighed, by revelling in the opportunity to resume an academic way of life. So maybe Keele provided me with a longed-for extension of adolescence rather than me intruding a worldly-wise maturity into a youthful student body. In short, I hated the Army, I loved Keele: and I would have been infinitely the poorer if I had had to do without either of these life-enhancing experiences.” Martin Tunnicliffe (1956)

"My father, John Moulton (1954) (3/6/1914 - 25/3/1972) was in the original cohort of founding fathers of 1950. He must have appeared ancient as a 36 year old amongst all the youngsters. He was a councillor in Stoke in the 1940s, and on the Education Committee which decided to set up the University.  He was born in Fenton and left school at 14, taking up an apprenticeship locally. He served his time and then was released at age 21 in 1935 due to the Depression. He joined the RAF and found himself as an aero-engine fitter in Hong Kong. After Hong Kong was overrun at Christmas 1941 he spent the next three and a half years as a POW at Kai Tak. He was liberated following the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs and subsequent Japanese surrender. Because of their condition the ex-POW's were sent home the long way round - by boat over the Pacific and Atlantic and train across Canada - to fatten them up so they would not present such a horrific sight to the great British public.  He married in January 1946 He married in January 1946 and I arrived in January 1947. He became a Bevin Boy (voluntarily), working in the Deep Pit at Hanley. Tiring of this and there being a less urgent need for coal he looked for things to do and to better himself. What made him want to study again, having left school at 14, I do not know, but UCNS gave him the opportunity at age 36. He graduated in 1954 with a Third in Sociology and History and spent the remainder of his life in Social Work. It was at this time that the University College of North Staffordshire was coming into being at Keele and the rest, as they say, is History." John Moulton (1969)

Keele Hall became the home of my late father-in-law John Chidlow (“Jack”) when he volunteered for Military Service with the British Army in 1939. John Chidlow was born in Bradely, a small woody suburb near the now restored Pottery Kilns in Longport, on the road to Newcastle from Tunstall and Burslem. He enlisted for Army service in about 1939 as a married man with a daughter on the way.  When I indicated to the Chidlow family that I was going to the University College of North Staffordshire in 1957 Jack entertained us with a tale I will always remember. Yes, he truly wanted to be involved in the fight for his country, but he fancied doing it his way. He came across some information that said the Military were looking for people who rode motorcycles to join the “elite’ group known as the Military Police. In reality he had never ridden a motorbike in his life, but he enrolled and was posted to Keele for training shortly thereafter. The first test he was given was to demonstrate his skills along with numerous other MP recruits that he could ride a motorbike. He had observed others kick starting the bikes and sitting on the saddle twisting the accelerator and “whoosh” they were off. His turn came and he jumped astride the beast and took off down the paddocks of Keele, and was given a clean bill of health to become an MP, which of course involved further training - I hope to improve his competence as a rider as well as learning the role on the often unenvied task of being an MP. Once trained the MP’s were put out into service in the UK, often to mop up the drunken troops who were living it up in the dens of places like Liverpool. I hardly dare draw on the anecdotes of his experiences in these clean-up operations, but I do not think he would mind if I mentioned that that was when he learned to drink. There was many a landlord who was grateful that the MP’s had come to clean-out the rowdies, and their recompense was to ask the guys to sit down and have a beer or two. Jack’s MP days saw him join the North African campaign, and with the outing of Rommel’s forces the residual British forces, MP’s and all were moved over to the shores of Italy. I loose track of the years, but at least Jack ended up in Rome and stayed there to several months after the War was declared as at an end. As I recall from his descriptions he returned to Britains shores ‘demobbed’ in 1946. Alan Jones (1961)

(You can read more about Jack's contribution to stonemasonry at Keele in Early Pranks. Ed)

“I did the army and Keele sequence back to front. I was so attracted by the opportunity to enter the new university college at Keele that I asked for deferral of my army service on receiving from Keele acceptance of my application, a decision that, in retrospect, might not have served me optimally.  The national service experience began in oft-mentioned style.  All I recall of my first 24 hours therein was the unprecedented haircut and, at 0530h, the bawling voice and charging boots accompanied by the bellowed words “Get your feet on the DECK!” It was the first time I had wanted my Mum since I was in hospital for 5 months at the age of 6! I soothed myself with the thought that it would all be over in six weeks' time.  In fact, this was optimistic.  HorwoodHut31950EdD For reasons never explained, it soon emerged that the group in which I found myself was to undertake a further 4 weeks' commando training, also in Lichfield. So it was to be 10 weeks with no leave allowed in Wellington Barracks. Yet, apart perhaps from the first few days, I never did get around to hating national service. Perhaps this was helped along by the fact that the first crack in the army's apparently seamless rules and traditions came when, in my 7th or 8th week, I was allowed to be out of the barracks for 12 hours in order to attend the end of year Students' Union Ball at Keele (in full army uniform, of course). This was a chance to see Maryon Lloyd (1955), whom I later married. Afterwards I managed to get back into my barracks’ bed at about 3am the following morning largely because of a slice of luck in the form of the driver of a car who gave me a lift for most of the way on the empty roads of the witching hours. It got better, too. After the 10 hard weeks, I was posted to Beaconsfield, the location of the army's Educational Corps, for another 4 weeks of training.  This was quite remarkably different, however, with emphasis on what it takes to teach full-time army chaps (squaddies) of varying intelligence and interest.  A sergeant's three stripes came along with this and, thus trained and striped, I was offered a posting to NATO's (or what became NATO's) military headquarters at Fontainebleau, handily placed for Paris. It took me every bit of 15 seconds to accept. After 18 months in the Paris basin, I was offered a scholarship at McGill University in Canada, enabling me to research in deepest Labrador and write a Master’s thesis.  Again, the army was understanding and let me out a couple of months early so that I should not be late for my inauguration at McGill. Thus it was that I happened, narrowly, to avoid service during the Suez crisis. Thus, I can say in all honesty that I enjoyed my short time in the army for two reasons.  First, because of my very good fortune in both training and postings and, second, because it was the army that made sure that I grew up at last. So, on both counts, I can be nothing less than grateful - and yet, Keele would surely have been an even richer experience, had I only had the foresight to tackle the national service duties first. Martin may well have got it right." Edward Derbyshire (1954)

Photo Above Ed Derbyshire with Horwood Hut 31 in 1950

"Before John Hodgkinson became the University's first Registrar he had served during the Second World War in the army.  Part of the time he had served in the secret British Resistance Organisation. I belong to a group researching the BRO, also known as Auxiliary Units" Bill Ashby

“I gained a great deal of confidence during National Service, having been deferred. I was five years older than most National Service recruits in 1958. I didn't loathe my two years in the RAEC but benefited by teaching Junior Leaders, many of whom were from broken homes or it had been suggested by the magistrate that the army was preferable to borstal.” Anon

"As to my own military service ( I was called up before the passing of the National Service Act ) I look back on it with generally good memories.  It did not contain the evils that one reads of in other tales of National Servicemen.  I never experienced sadistic NCO’s and my fellow soldiers were no different from the lads I grew up with in a Durham mining village. The battalion was sent where and when it was needed, so we got plenty of changes of scene and activity.  I came up to Keele after service  in Palestine, Cyprus, British Somaliland, Mogadishu and Kenya with a Light Infantry battalion.I cannot remember an hour of boredom and, in general, we were proud of what we were doing. All very non-PC in today’s world but I have no regrets whatsoever about any of it. Jack Thomson was a WEA sponsored  student with whom I shared a room, a name  (almost) and a Geordie accent  for two years in The Hawthorns.  Jack Thomson served in the Western Desert during the war. However, he walked out of Finals (he was given Agrotat) and, so far as I am aware, never returned to Keele.  Is it possible that he was allowed to re-sit Finals later?  Remembering his Bolshie attitude (he was slightly left of Lenin) I would have thought it unlikely that he would have joined the Keele Society. Memories, memories." Don Thompson (1955)

“I am trying to remember whether any other of the first lot of students had been in the forces during the 1939-45 war, as distinct from ‘just’ doing National Service.  I remember that Bob Elmore had been in the Medical Corps, and he was a good bit older than the rest of us (10 years maybe) so maybe he had seen active service? John Harvey, who was one of the first lecturers of English and became Professor of English at Queen’s, Belfast, had served in the Navy.” Anna Swiatecka (1954)

"John Harvey was a somewhat rotund gentleman.  The story circulated that after his initial interview to lecture at Keele Lord Lindsay commented that he seemed somewhat large to have served in submarines. He was told that his main duty was to run to the appropriate end of the vessel for assistance in diving or surfacing. Whether this was believed or not was never made clear. More seriously and tragically, he died at a young age not long after taking up his post at Queen's, Belfast." Bill Lighton (1954)

TG" Miller was one of my Geology tutors. He was an incredible guy and campus mythology held that he had done some amazing James Bond-type work in occupied Norway during the war (I think that was how he met his wife, who I believe was Norwegian). My favourite memory of him was in class one day when Prof Cope marched in and interrupted what TG was saying with "Ah, Miller". TG turned and looked at him and said "Yes, Cope?", whereupon the Prof scuttled out.” Tony Budd (1963)

The cover of his book "Geology and Scenery in Britain" (Batsford, 1953) reveals that Terence G Miller served in Norway, Holland and Germany; latterly as a glider pilot with the 1st Airborne and 6th Airborne Divisions.

Terence G “TG” Miller (1918-2015) was a lecturer/senior lecturer in the Department of Geology at from 1954 to 1965 Keele. During that period he inspired many students in his subject. Indeed when the plate tectonic revolution struck in the late 1960s those of us taught by him were already 'on message' because of his insight into the significance of recent geophysical and stratigraphic discoveries. The world of geography was shaken when in 1965 he was appointed to the Chair of Geography in the University of Reading. However, within two years he was on his way to become Principal of the University College of Rhodesia until 1970 when the Smith regime forced his resignation. Literally jumping out of the frying pan into the fire he soon became the Director of the North London Polytechnic until he took early retirement in 1980.” Peter Worsley (1962)

"Terence G Miller led a field trip to Arran in September 1962 for four of us who were about to start the study of Geology as one of our Principal subjects. Helped no doubt by the beautiful place and the excellent weather, the field trip inspired in me a real love for Geology. Geology turned out to be a big part of my professional life and continues to be a source of interest and enjoyment. I admired Terence Miller as a man: with his distinguished war record, his role as a half colonel in the TA, his agility in the mountains, and his setting of high standards not just for his students but also for himself".  John Rea (1965)

“This is a controversial subject which is certain to bring different opinions reflecting both intellectual attitude and personal experience. Of those men attending Keele in the early 1950's very few had done their National Service before they arrived. Most of us had two years of service to do after graduation. There were some ex-military men who had come to University having been in the services following the end of the War but they were not part of this National Service program and, of course, there were a few who had served before 1945.  John Moulton‘s father was one of them along with Tom Parry (RAF) and I believe Josh Reynolds (Indian Army). Some members of staff served during the war, including Sammy Finer, Paul Rolo, Frank Bealey and Hugh Leach. Certain universities particularly Oxford and Cambridge required service to be completed before going up, otherwise the choice was personal: go now or later. My recollection of how boys felt about this upcoming event as they approached 18 is that it had to be done so make the best of the situation  Unfortunately for some the duty was rough. The Korean War did not end until 1953 and although I did not know anyone at Keele who was in that war, there were certainly men at Keele who were in Malaya in 1949 and later. Eddie Underwood (1954) and Michael Daly (1955), both close friends of mine, had traumatic experiences in the Malayan jungles. I believe that Clive Collier (1954) was also in Malaya. Others, after completing their basic training, had very boring but safe situations and were just waiting for the day of release. Those who went after graduation had more opportunities for a more productive and interesting time. Several were commissioned and many others went into the Royal Army Education Corps, which counted towards their service for pension and seniority as teachers. My brother in law, John Turner (1954), spent most of his National Service in Malaya teaching children of British military personnel. I am not convinced that everyone was exposed to mixing with men from different backgrounds. My own experience of such variety was limited to the first two weeks of basic training after which the first segregation took place, separating potential officer recruits from the rest. I do remember being asked by a young man from Suffolk during the first week of training if I would read a letter from his wife to him - obviously she could write but he could not read. Arthur Richardson (1954) and I arrived at Eaton Hall OCS in the same intake. He came from the Royal Artillery and I had been in the East Anglian Brigade, which was a pleasant coincidence for us. We shared the Chinese bedroom in Eaton Hall for most of our time there and were both commissioned in the South Staffordshire Regiment in May 1955. Arthur stayed with the Regiment in Europe while I was seconded to The King's African Rifles in Kenya, where I spent a very interesting 15 months initially as a platoon commander then as Battalion Intelligence Officer until returning to England in August 1956. I won't pretend that this was either dangerous or boring. Although the 'Emergency' did not officially end until sometime after I left there was more danger from wild animals than Mau Mau where I was stationed. Rhino and especially buffalo were a constant threat and we had some fatalities from these encounters. I spent the last three months of my time in East Africa in the Masai Mara on the Tanzanian border purportedly on a military mission but in fact it turned out to be a free safari in an area which had been a major game reserve but was at the time closed to all civilian activity due to the presence of terrorist gangs. So there it is, I learned Swahili and was paid an extra 5 shillings a day for my trouble and had a great experience as well.  For me National Service was a big plus in terms of my own development and in my career and I am grateful for the advantages which Keele gave to me in making the most of this experience.” David Jeakins (1954)

"I came up to Keele after National service and was probably a better student for it, more mature and a bit more street wise than some of my fellow threshers. I agree with Martin Tunnicliffe that National Service was as important an experience as school or university for me in later life. I wanted to go into the army partly as a break from studying and partly because I wanted to get it over with. I joined the Royal Signals in September 1954, and endured basic training at Catterick, on the north York moors. It was very cold that year and we were treated as badly as can be imagined, running round the parade ground in full armour, up at 5.30am, and shouted at all the time. Some poor lads couldn't get used to wearing hard boots and their feet used to bleed profusely. In those days Catterick used to be featured in the national dailies every so often for its generally brutal regime. After four weeks of hell, during which I would cheerfully have murdered several of the corporals and sergeant I did six months wireless training. Then having asked to go to Cyprus or Austria, I was sent to Germany, which turned out well. I met some interesting Germans, among them an ex-submarine commander, but like Basil Fawlty, we did not discuss the war. As a result I became a lifelong Europhile, and I presently spend a lot of time in Europe. In 1954 Germany like Britain was coming out of wartime damage, and there were still many signs of destruction, even 10 years after the end of war. One of the shocks of National Service was learning that some young men could not read or write well. Several of them needed help from me to write home to their loved ones. Another experience for me was meeting some pretty tough guys from the Gorbals or Liverpool or Newcastle. They made pretty good soldiers, in fact. There were often fights on the weekends between the Brits, the Yanks and the Germans, due to drink or rivalry over the few girls that were around. Overall I enjoyed National Service and as you can imagine, I believe a year or so doing military or civilian service would be no bad thing for today's youngsters. Options and alternatives could be offered in educational, social care and environmental work, as well as military experience. At the end of our service we were concerned that we might be kept on, as Suez was just beginning to blow up. Fortunately I got to Keele in October 1956 and enjoyed it immensely. I remember listening to the debates there about the invasion of Suez, and to Professor Sammy Finer's contribution in particular. John Dixon (1960)

ProfSammyFiner “Those who came in 1950 numbered some former "real" soldiers (for example, one was a conscientious objector, had "dropped" at Arnhem to set up a field hospital before the main drop). Many former National Service representatives had served overseas, largely in Germany, and others had remained in the UK.. An implicit, albeit unspoken, "pecking order" of three bands developed. Strangely enough my memories of the undergraduate representatives are solely of those from the army. Amongst the largely young academic staff there was the first male warden, Robert Rayne, who had been a bomber pilot. His female counterpart, Mary Wilson, had occupied a senior position in the organisation of newly freed Germany.  As the first four years moved on, other interesting persons joined us: one had grown up during the occupation of Guernsey and another had been, along with her mother, a prisoner of the Japanese. On the staff side, Ralph Elliott came still bearing the name the British Army gave to a young Jew whose family had wisely left Berlin in the 30's. He had been severely wounded as a tank commander in Normandy. We were also joined by a young US Air force officer who came to do Economics research whilst serving at Burtonwood. From the Deep South, he told tales of racism which were considered exaggeration at the time - now I'm not sure they were. Some were of the opinion that his position was less to do with academic research than to report back to Washington on what plots that very dangerous “Lefty”, Lord Lindsay, was hatching. He befriended "Alf" (Usman Shah Abdullah al-Afridi) (1954), an Afridi from Afghanistan whose accuracy in handling a rifle was legendary. He told us that like his peers he was given a rifle on his seventh birthday and strongly encouraged to practise. He added the truthful observation that his tribe had severely defeated two attempts by the British Army to occupy Afghanistan at the end of the nineteenth century. The general opinion, it seemed to me, was that National Service was largely a waste of everyone's time but, for some, provided travel which our generation seriously lacked. It was also considered by many men that if it were to be applied then women should be so treated. But, it was like the rationing which we still endured, just something that had arisen and there were far more important things to do at Keele than debate National Service.” Bill Lighton (1954)

Photo above: Prof Sammy Finer
 
“Among those of the Staff who fought in World War II was W. B. (Bryce) Gallie, the first Professor of Philosophy, who was awarded the Croix de Guerre by de Gaulle for undercover services rendered in Holland after D-Day. One of his training companions was Lawrence Whistler, the glass engraver.” Anna Swiatecka (1954)  

"By serendipity I came across a cache of letters from Michael Lloyd, who taught English at Keele when I was there (1956-1960). They were to a friend and fellow-academic and poet, Alastair Macdonald, who taught English at Memorial University of Newfoundland until his death in 2007. They range from the 1940s, when they were both in the army - Michael Lloyd in Italy and Cyprus and Alastair MacDonald in India - to Michael's death about 1970. Michael Lloyd mentions that he has written two novels - and I remember seeing one, about Italy, I think. Does anyone remember the title? Was the second one also published?" Roberta Buchanan (1960)

ProfGallie1952 “Another pioneer who had served during the war was Josh Reynolds (1954). I believe that he had been a major in the Burma Army. Apparently he still had a revolver with him at Keele. I was told that he would use cotton thread to attach ping pong balls to the branches of a tree outside his room window and use them for target practise after dark.  Or was someone pulling my leg? Presumably Fred Gallimore (1954) had been in the War too. Fred was married and lived off campus.   He was the first President of the Union. Ray Garner (1955), another mature student, left school at 14 with no qualifications and worked as a pot boy in the Potteries before the War. Having been wounded during his army service, he decided to become a doctor and came to Keele to read a science degree. I think there were special arrangements for ex-servicemen wishing to study in the immediate post-War years. That gave him the necessary academic qualifications to obtain a place in a London medical school but he had also used up his entitlement to state funding. So he worked his way through medical school, moonlighting between all the demands of medicine and earning his living. At Keele, he constructed a brick wall as his customized bedside table.  Once, he invited me to coffee and served lukewarm "Milo" from a teapot.  Quite a character and a successful medic.   Pam Lloyd-Owen (1954)  

Photo right: Prof Bryce Gallie 1952

“I think Tom Long (1959) went to Kenya prior to coming up as he always said he wanted to return some time in the future.  However most of the men in my year apart from those mentioned previously (John Shipston was in the RAF before Keele) were informed they would not have to do National Service before we went down in 1959 - so 1960 might have been cut off point for some but not all.” Dot Bell (Pitman) (1959)

“I have always said we were lucky to have a higher proportion of men who were that bit more mature when they arrived at Keele after National Service, and that it added something more substantial to our social experience.  There seemed to be a notable change when the intake was straight from school - gap years not being a rite of passage in those days.  On reflection to be truthful, I probably just liked having older men around.  I do remember being very upset for one or two students who did National Service for four years after being at Keele and who found square-bashing desperately hard to take.” Anon

“My husband says you couldn't get drunk doing national service because you didn't have any money - he only got 15 shillings per week and if he wanted to go home that was it spent! He didn't learn any skills either only finding ways of how to get out of doing something.” Dot Bell (Pitman) (1959)

"When I arrived at Keele in 1956, I shared a room with Derek Edwards (1960). He had done his National Service (or equivalent) in the Air Force, as I recall  as a navigator I had done mine in the Army, eighteen months of it as a second lieutenant (that lowest form of animal life) in the West African Frontier Force defending a far-flung outpost of the Empire. In what I think was our second term, Edwards and I came up with a scheme to form a territorial unit at Keele. This, I must admit, was not exactly dictated by patriotic motives.  Rather it was because there was payment: for a two-hour gathering each week and for a two-week camp during the summer vacation. Warden "Oh Happy" Day kindly agreed to be the commanding officer, and we pinned up a notice in the beloved Nissen Hut Union seeking recruits. Alas, I wish I still had that notice on which was clearly demonstrated a lack of patriotic fervor among our cronies. Like "Joe Bloggs - Latrine Wallah" and "Mary Wilson - Highland Light Infantry" etc. Of  the forty or so who signed, I think there was but one expressing serious interest. So ended Keele students' opportunity to fight for Queen and Country! On a more serious note, I think the virtue of National Service was that it offered a pause between school and university during which one could give more serious  thought to what one wanted to study - not, say, Languages which the charismatic sixth-form teacher had encouraged one to pursue but Science or whatever. But then again, Keele's Foundation year served a similar purpose as well as introducing us to a broader range disciplines." Hugh Oliver (1960)

"On the matter of Pioneer students who came after National Service, my first hut room-mate Rollo Wicksteed (1961) had been in submarines.  As one with a horror of confined spaces, I was very impressed with his nerve.  Antithesis!" John Idris Jones (1961)

“It has always seemed to me that there are three distinct groups of men in our society: those who have been battle hardened on active service; those who have been trained in the armed forces without being actually involved in battle and those who have lived entirely as civilians. Until National Service ended, all men in the country - and hence at Keele - came into one of those three categories. This was obvious amongst our pioneers at Keele although almost impossible to describe. There is also a similar gulf in experience and attitude between those who lived through the War and those who have experienced only peace at first hand.”  Pam Lloyd-Owen (1954)

 

“They Almost Served”

Carousing1950s “All I remember was getting a letter from the War Office one Spring morning as I was queuing for breakfast in Keele Hall to be told that Her Majesty didn`t need my services to defend the realm and that I didn`t really need to turn up at Catterick camp in September. It also said that the 20 injections I'd already had would be good for me.”  Ticker Hayhurst (1960)

“As I understand it things were different for the select few that did national Service in the Royal Navy. The daily rum ration was still alive and well!” Clive Sims (1967)

“Now National Service is called ‘going to uni’. It is an open question whether there is any difference in alcohol consumed and skills learned.” Jim Thompson (1968)

A Docker Legend

The same discussion also prompted memories of a true Keele legend, Denis Delay (1959):

“There were other older students at Keele who had gained entry from adult education colleges especially from Birmingham. I seem to remember also a former docker?” Martin Tunnicliffe (1956)

“Was that the docker Dennis Delay?  He graduated to a roar of applause and still lives in London.” Anon

Photo below: Denis Delay outside a Keele "Hut" by Ticker Hayhurst

Denis Delay outside hutDennis Delay was a great character during his time at Keele.  I knew him because we belonged to the UNSA (United Nations Student Association). Some confusion occurred because Dennis decided that the title was not sufficiently dynamic to attract members; he wanted 'something powerful like Strontium'!  So Strontium it became.  Unfortunately this was when the embryo CND movement was hoping to recruit University members and I, as secretary, received many communications. I duly placed them in prominent places on the notice board, and wrote to CND explaining the confusion.  There were no takers for CND for a long time which perhaps explains why Keele was rather late in forming a group.  Dennis had many cuttings from newspapers decorating his room 'Delay for the Queen Mother' - 'Delay causes chaos at London Airport', were two that I remember. Our Strontium Society won the rag float competition in 1958 with Glenda Lubelsky and Oliver painted blue, dressed scantily in sacks as ancient Britons. C V Wedgewood judged the competition and was perhaps biased by our historical theme. I can remember returning something I had borrowed from Mary Wilson afterwards, forgetting that my face was painted bright blue.  She appeared with her niece's two year old in her arms; he promptly screamed and went into convulsions. Dennis and I also hitch hiked in the Christmas holidays in snow along the A5 to Libby Trevelyan's cottage near Machynlleth. Dennis had never hitched before and decided that the best way was to give the drivers a determined look.  As he had just shaved his head and was quite a fearsome sight, we had no success so I had to ask him to hide in a hedge until I got the lift, and then to produce him when someone stopped. Many miles of this journey were done on the open back of a truck, looking at the frozen countryside.” Sheila Everard (1961)

Denis Delay RAG “I too remember Dennis with considerable affection - he is a great character. Sometime in the early 60s a group of us including Dennis Delay, Ticker Hayhurst (1960) and Tony Powell (1959) were somehow 'invited' to a party in the Dorchester suite of Feisal al-Mazidi (1959).  Dennis (like most of us) was fascinated by the bell-pushes in the bathroom: one was marked 'chambermaid'!  Guess who wanted to push it to see what happened?  Dennis had a great world view: brains were good as long as they thought appropriately (i.e. socialist).  I'm afraid he thought me irredeemably Tory but we were for many years good friends.  That was Keele of course: I was once called a Fascist swine after a SU debate on South Africa and the question of scholarships:  it took me some time and several pints to work out that this was actually a compliment to the consistency of my views.” Brian 'Ned' Lusher (1960)

“Ned, I think you may be wrong about that party in the Dorchester. As I remember it, Harry Wynn who did the bell pushing while lying fully clothed in the bath. Harry was about 7ft tall but the bath was twice his size. Denis wasn't a National Serviceman, he was called up towards the end of the War and was sent to occupied Germany. He was in the Ack Ack or Home Guard from the age of 16, right in the thick of the blitz.” Ticker Hayhurst (1960)

RAG Photo: Ticker Hayhurst furthest left, Denis Delay third from left.
 
“Dennis Delay brought so much colour and originality to our lives at Keele.  I also remember the famous party in Feisal's suite at the Dorchester and Dennis and Harry were there together with a substantial part of the Keele population.  I think I probably went with Joanna Jellinek (1961), Joan Squires and Dawn Meadows.” Eden Davies (Bird) (1961)

Did you enjoy this? Why not read more stories from the Keele Oral History Project?