On Wednesday, 16th June, the four tired but proud cohorts of the Roman XIV Legion - in the persons of Forms One and Two - arrived at Soham to make camp for the night.
The day's march had been hot, but a horse had been found for Legatus Bayes, and the prospect of a meal and a rest made the Legionaries step out in lively manner as they entered the school playing field arena.
The serenity of the evening was broken, however, when, as soon as the Legion had halted, it was attacked by a rabble of Celts who had evidently been lying in ambush - but a rabble nevertheless, who were brushed aside with an efficiency and speed which had characterised the conquest of the whole country.
Photograph in Summer 1970 School Magazine by courtesy of the Cambridge Evening News
A meal was taken, a stockade quickly erected, guards posted and tents pitched for both officers and other ranks. The march into the camp was carried out with customary dignity, and the Legion retired for the night. During the third watch a Celtic claque appeared, more hostile than the first, and the bugler roused the sleeping camp to arms. The attack was successfully beaten off and the remainder of the night passed in peace and quiet.
Early on the following morning, camp was broken, tents folded and packed and the Legion mustered for the day's march. Refreshed by their rest, the Legionaries paraded in full kit and a roll was called. Then, with the standard (complete with full battle honours) proudly borne by a tiger-skin-clad aquilifer, the Legion was inspected by, and then marched past, Mr. R. E. G. Jeeps, the honoured guest.
The whole pageant was an exercise in cooperation between boys, staff, parents and the outside firms who helped in so many ways. Our grateful thanks go particularly to Messrs. Tillotsons of Burwell for their generous gift of cardboard; to the Forestry Commission at Brandon for the loan of 300 stakes; to Messrs. Greene King of Bury St. Edmunds for the loan of frames for the officers' tents; and finally to Mrs. C. Human of the Riding School at Barway for the loan of 'Rustier' and for Bayes' lessons.
from the Summer 1970 Soham Grammar School Magazine: source Frank Haslam
If you have any anecdotes or further photos, please contact the editor.
Mel Cornwell (1967) 19 Oct 2003 - I have studied the 1972 School photo, and I know most of the faces on there. However, I had already left, late 1971, as my family moved to London (Thomas Hood High, Leytonstone). The references to the 14th Roman Legion, June 1970, are very interesting. By the time we had completed our preparation, and made the shields, helmets etc., we were heartily sick of anything Roman, and RAT was probably sick of us, too. I have a full 'dress rehearsal' photograph (about 170 boys) taken in front of the original 1 Alpha/1A classrooms/Old Dining Hall. This is the photo one Mr Noble was asking after in the Messages section, I believe? It even has the unruly Celts in the front row!
I had a struggle finding myself on the photo (back row, fourth in from the right hand side) because the helmets are a mean disguise. I am sure this picture would interest others too?
source: Mel Cornwell (1967): click on the image for a very much larger (225k) version
Mrs Kathy Howells (Biology 68-69) 20 Dec 2003: One of my vivid memories was the Roman Pageant that the lower school acted out in the summer term. This was a really splendid affair but caused me more than a few headaches. Mr Taylor presented me with two bolts of brown fabric and told me to organise costumes. I remember having to measure every boy in the Lower School to work out how much material was needed for his Roman tunic as there was only just enough to go round! Rather nerve racking at the time but fun. I lost count of all the tunics I made myself because some mothers (or children) couldn't sew.
Martyn Davies 66: 23 Sep 2005: I was one of the 'Celtic Claque'. I recall we wore sacking - probably courtesy of Clark and Butcher. We numbered about 14 or 13 so were outnumbered about 4 to 1 by the Romans. We would have been more, but two eager volunteers, Messrs Paul Cat Stevens and Mark Gamble were persona non grata as far as RAT was concerned "My word, I don't need your services, I'm not that desperate". It would be true to say that at that period Paul and Mark would interpret compliance with authority in a liberal fashion.Without their support Soham was conquered by the Romans.
Link: press report of Lower School Speech Day 16 June 1970
last updated 11 Oct 12