Haec Olim Meminisse Juvabit

(it will please you to remember these former things)

Stanley Stubbs on Soham Grammar School 1940-45

from the Summer 1972 and Summer 1945 issues of the Soham Grammarian.
If you have relevant photographs to enhance this page, please
contact the editor.

The end of an era, the passing of a great institution, the loss of an old friend, are events that stir the blood and the mind. The last years of Soham Grammar School, which combines all three, will evoke many thoughts and memories in a great company of those who are proud to have been members of this historic foundation.

Nostalgia and gratitude will flow freely in hundreds of recollections of events and persons, of opportunities given and of those who gave them. History will be recalled, both distant and more recent, for it was always being made by endeavour and achievement, and while tradition was always revered, it was the present that counted to each generation.

After native cautious approval, an accepted challenge, whether academic or administrative, was always taken with vigour, enthusiasm and loyal dedication and largely with success, for the school could not otherwise have survived the changes of the centuries. As with other grammar schools, local loyalty and a sturdy independence ensured opportunities for the next generation and the school was enabled to thrive and prosper.

It is interesting to recall that it is within living memory that the modern period began in the transfer of the school from the old buildings in the town centre to the spaciousness and beauty of the present site. The records of Old Boys' show the depth and spread of contributions made to the community both near and far and it is well that Soham Grammar School passes from us in full strength and with proper pride.

In a school whose history goes back to the end of the 17th century, the six years covering my Headmastership are but a brief span. But 1939-45 were no ordinary years and their importance and impact on our lives gave an impression of a much longer period of time, which in fact demanded from all intensity of effort and endeavour owing to the challenges faced by everyone in this time of war.

It was nonetheless a most inspiring period and one felt a surge of purpose and brotherhood, both local and national, which was reflected in the close fellowship of school and town in our sphere of activities and the school played its part well. This is not the time or place to attempt the story of those years but a few glimpses may perhaps remind others of some of the pages in their scrapbook of memories.

The basic quality and variety of the life of the school has, in my experience, never changed, for the Headmaster has often stated what I myself also had found - that the family atmosphere in work, effort and unity of purpose was one of its treasured possessions. And it is against this essential background that everything should be seen.


Mr Stanley Stubbs,
from the Spring 1940 Soham Grammarian

I would first of all like to pay tribute to the Soham Grammarian and its editors and contributors. The records of the term's events and functions recall emotions and pleasures, and sometimes happenings not recorded, except possibly obliquely in 'Current Quotations'. My first impressions of Soham Grammar School in January 1940 were of a flurry of wartime activities - the building and maintenance of trench shelters on the field, the unheralded practice alerts and the evacuation of the buildings to them - which we discontinued after a period of experience - the participation of staff and boys in Air Raid Precautions, staff as wardens, special constables, Red Cross officials, members of the Royal Observer Corps and later of the Home Guard and ATC - we all wore several hats in those days! There were repeated collections of waste-pig food, paper, metal (including the old German trench mortar, a relic of the last war, railings, aluminium for Spitfires), Digging for Victory, harvesting and so on. Everyone was busy, every­one was content and determined.

Then came the real war with the evacuation of Dunkirk, air raids and the beginning of the long hard slog with stricter rationing, shortages of all kinds and the black-out. Life became grimmer but no less determined in spirit - we felt with others that we were indeed in the Final! After Dunkirk we really did expect invasion probably begun by parachute drops, so we erected goal posts that Summer to prevent landings and among many other things planned suitable fields of fire for the rifles we expected to receive. More staff were called up, often to be succeeded by temporary women teachers. Announcements of Old Boy casualties began. The effects of the war on our daily lives became more rigorous and all pervading. Yet the school work also went on vigorously and we all worked practically round the clock in our several ways.

I recall my first intimation of Dunkirk from an airman as I drove him from Ely station to Soham one night (another service we volunteered to do) and also my astonishment when an Old Boy called at school one afternoon and told me he had been at Dunkirk that morning. And during the still days and nights we could hear the distant guns. The blitz followed with its alerts, warnings, and redoubled preparations. There were air raids on the area (Newmarket was bombed by day) and at night the drone of air activity. From the road by the water tower could be seen the flashes of the raids on London. Nights on a variety of duties, lectures, exercises, co-operation with the local services followed the day's teaching. There were also lighter moments. One meeting was planning events and routes for a war effort march through the town and it was agreed generally to follow the procedures of Jubilee Day. An impasse in a heated discussion on what actually had been done was resolved - and dissolved in laughter - when a member challenged 'What are you talking about - that wasn't at the Silver Jubilee in 1935'. 'No, of course not,' was the reply. 'I'm talking about Queen Victoria's Jubilee'!

At school work and games continued successfully and some excellent concerts and entertainments were arranged and indeed there was much to enjoy and to be thankful for. In 1941 we formed 773 Squadron of the ATC in two Flights, school and open and over a hundred boys joined, some cycling many miles from the Isle of Ely to attend parades and pre-Service training. Our Hawker Hector aircraft (not serviceable, of course) remained with us until after the war. We paraded on Sunday mornings as well as week-days, starting with a service taken by the Rev PF Boughey, the vicar and a Governor, who with his wife participated fully in all Soham activities.

We received and helped to educate evacuees, held war weapons weeks, attended joint church services and co-operated in many joint war efforts and parades. Shooting competitions, military demonstrations and ATC camps and courses (where officers were privileged to observe briefing and debriefing of air crews, whose superb bravery was beyond praise) filled less active hours and of course we had soldiers billeted in Soham both before and during the invasion build­up. Meanwhile our bombing raids went on - American by day, RAF by night - and an occasional German raid in our vicinity or passing over us kept us on our toes.

And so we come to the school's greatest test when our preparations became active service. On the night of Friday, June 2nd, 1944 a train of over 50 waggons each loaded with some 44 x 500 lb. bombs, en route for the East Coast, stopped to investigate a smoking axle in Soham station and a vast explosion occurred in two of the wagons. Two railwaymen were killed and others injured but mercifully civilian casualties were few and slight. Over 750 houses were damaged however and the school, although damaged by blast and like the rest of Soham without gas supply became the Rest Centre as planned (this was another of the hats I wore) under the authority of the Regional Commissioner, Sir Will Spens. We housed and provided for up to 250 people and workmen at a sitting, helped by the Queen's Messenger Service which erected field kitchens on the lawn and we slept up to 100. All services, local and national were involved and the Rest Centre ended its duties on Sunday afternoon, was cleaned up by staff and volunteers and school was resumed without a break on the Monday morning of June 5th - one day before D Day, with its tremendous air activity and exciting events.

I have a fund of memories of those three sleep­less days and the work of the weeks which followed with Government Departments, of the willing help of Soham residents, Home Defence Sections, of Cambridge friends and officials, of the messages of goodwill, of the good humour and bravery of those intimately concerned and of the essential goodness and kindness in human relationships. We were highly commended by the powers that were. Many will remember the mobile laundry we borrowed from the London blitz area and at first I needed staff help to encourage its use in the Market Square. But it was well patronised for the few hours we could keep it. The whole incident showed great courage in danger, co-operation in help willingly given and the impressive and indomitable spirit of a closely-knit community. The hymn 'Through the night of doubt and sorrow' has held thereafter a deeply personal significance.

Inevitably these recollections are of the less usual in the school life of the war years but the normal was not neglected and indeed as life was fuller its quality was enhanced. The scholastic content prospered as the examination results show with other successes in many fields. Open-air plays were produced on the lawn, we enjoyed concerts by famous artistes and we held many social functions and sporting events. We even successfully negotiated new buildings which was quite a triumph at the time. Life was both grim and gay and the casualties hurt but there was much humour, bonhomie and mutual concern.

A vivid experience will surely be remembered by many. A crippled German bomber flew over the playing field where games were in progress and everyone stopped to watch as guns from a following old-type aircraft rat-tatted into it. Suddenly from high above a fighter swooped down to join battle but a waggle of wings indicated 'My bird, Sir' and the three aircraft passed from view. The bomber came down in a Fen and the remaining air crew were taken to Soham Police Station and ultimately collected by the RAF. The incident had much comic detail which would take too long to recount here but let it suffice to say with Kaspar: 'It was a famous victory'.

And then of course everyone had his bomb story. One night I was on duty with two members of the staff in Tanner's Lane when a bomb thundered near us like an express train travelling through a station, to land with an earth-shaking bump not far away. We had automatically hurled ourselves to the road­way and then thankfully and a little shamefacedly arose to count our bruises, scratches and torn clothing. On another night we wardens were investigating a stick of bombs in the Shade area which had failed to explode. We had evacuated the houses we felt might be in danger, had discouraged those who wished to return for sundry personal belongings, such as teeth, medicines, food, etc. (which Hitler was not going to deprive them of!) and were smoking a contemplative cigarette, having made our report to H.Q. We did not know the number of bombs in the stick and suddenly discovered by torchlight that the end one was very near to where we were standing and we beat a hasty retreat. The bombs did not explode and were subsequently dug out by an Army Bomb Disposal Unit and taken away to everyone's great relief.

The doodlebug was a very unsocial type of bomb for its light was visible as it sped overhead and went out as it dipped to fall. It was naturally willed onwards as it passed! One night at the Warden's Post at the Fire Station our enquiries were answered by a report that one had dropped near Burwell. 'Has it done any damage?' 'Yes, indeed, old So and So has lost most of the apples in his orchard' was the indignant reply! In so many ways we were fortunate to escape major damage in all our 'incidents'. Surrounded as we were by airfields we might well have suffered heavily but we were spectators of much and we anticipated and prepared for more and felt truly in the picture.

Before I left for my new appointment in Cambridge as the war was ending, I examined the school roof for damage and found scraps of metal and one hand-sized twisted piece which I believe came from the Railway Station explosion. I left Soham to become Headmaster of the Perse School, Cambridge in September 1945, with many happy memories, and my wife and I have kept alive in our hearts and in our personal meetings the many friendships formed during those stirring years when we were all very much together in school and in town life. With the fullness of time there were also other departures from the scene and an era came to an end and a new one began.

Change is inevitable, change is constant; change is nature's law. Among the feelings and emotions which naturally arise in times of transition, faith and hope must always find a place, and appreciation of the best in past tradition. And we hope especially that the ancient qualities of truth, beauty and goodness, sought in our philosophy of education, however imperfectly achieved, will flourish in the future.

'As when
The bird of wonder dies, the maiden Phoenix,
Her ashes new-created another heir
As great an admiration as herself.'

Thus Shakespeare gives hope in the final change, and as we enter yet another era, it is with gratitude to all who have served faithfully and belonged to Soham Grammar that we may quote the motto of another ancient school, 'Spes durat avorum' - may the hope of our forefathers endure for we know that their aims and achievements were good.

Stanley Stubbs, June 1972


Soham Grammarian Summer 1945

EDITORIAL

This term, the longest in the school year, with its fine weather, usually proves the most interesting, and following custom, we have not been disappointed, for the past three months have been crowded with exciting events, which reached their peak on the day when the victory of the Allied Forces in Europe was proclaimed.

Unfortunately, we are saying several sad "good-byes" this term, first and foremost to the Headmaster. We heartily congratulate him on his new appointment as Headmaster of the Perse School, Cambridge, but we have, at least, the consolation that he will not be too far away from us. We cordially wish both the Headmaster and Mrs. Stubbs much happiness in their new and wider activities.

1939-1945

It is good when leaving one sphere of activity for another to be able to do so with regret. This, I feel, is a measure of the happiness and satisfaction one has found in one's work, and my term of office at Soham Grammar Grammar School is no exception to this rule. In a School whose history goes back to the end of the seventeenth century, six years is a very brief span - one generation of schoolboys - but the years 1939-45 have been among the most momentous in British history, and their impact on every institution and every individual has had a meaning and importance as decisive as many a far longer period of time. When I spoke to you about these things at our VE Day Service of Thanksgiving, I did not know that this would be my last term with you, and so perhaps I may add here a more personal note to the end of this chapter in the School's history.

After speaking of the great events of the struggle we shall never forget, I recalled some of the things we in Soham shall always remember - building trench shelters, the air raids, the three particular war incidents which shattered some of our glass, the School as a Rest Centre, the troops of many nationalities we had around us, the Old Boys in uniform, the casualty lists which happily were not as long as we at one time feared, the days of ordinary school work after noisy nights awake, searchlights, the days when trains arrived late because of incidents on the line, the travel difficulties, the shortages, the thrills of excitement and pride, the D-Day broadcast in the dinner hour, the ATC parades and inspections, German bombers over the camp airfield as our bombers took off, VE-Day and the hundreds of small incidents vivid to each one of us. But we have happily been free from major disturbances and the great difficulties of evacuation and fortunate compared with many schools, and although these years have been "battledress" ones for some of our activities, we can safely claim not only a period of maintained standards but also one of great progress.

Thanks to the devotion of the older members of the Staff, of whom we await the return from war service of Mr Riley and Mr Lait, and the service of the more recent and temporary members, our work has gone on with marked success - in particular in the increased number of boys entering Universities and also at the Higher School Certificate level, for in one year we had a 100% success from unpicked candidates.

Numbers have increased to a double stream entry, the House system has been revised, improvements in curriculum have been made, guidance in choice of careers has helped many boys, standard Athletics helped to achieve a record year at the March Sports, plays, matches, clubs and societies, excellent lectures and CEMA concerts have been continued in spite of all difficulties, School dinners have increased to two hundred daily, the Library, new Art room, and extended Handicraft room now give us good accommodation for these subjects, the ATC with a hundred certificates of Proficiency and about fifteen full Advanced Training Certificates to its credit, has given preliminary training to over a hundred members of HM forces, and now we have a new block of buildings almost ready with kitchen, dining room and classrooms to give us a fine start to the new chapter in our history which will open next year.

But more important than all these things, you have been privileged in this time to be in a society working in an atmosphere of liberal education which aims at sound scholarship and a Christian moral way of life. Consciously or unconsciously, in work or play, by precept or by example, you have had the opportunity of receiving far more than the knowledge you came to seek. If you have played your part - and everyone has his contribution to make to this society - you have learned how to begin to build your life on a sure foundation. By your training in good manners (for "manners makyth man"), in discipline which later becomes self-discipline, in moral ideals, you develop a sense of personal responsibility and initiative for service to the community, and so make your character and your claim to true citizenship of our country.

All these things are yours to take from the life of a good school, but you must never forget the great truth that you can only take out in the same measure as you put in - by your whole-hearted contribution to every side of school life. Always give of your best in full measure, avoid "the nicely calculated less or more," and you will be rewarded abundantly. Seek the eternal values in life, strive always to recognise the first-rate, learn to think for yourselves, and you will find, as many Old Boys have done, that there is more than a grain of truth in the definition of education as "what you have left when you have forgotten all you were taught."

Since coming to Soham I have had the happiest relationships and co-operation with the Governors, LEA officers, staff, parents, boys and School servants, and I would like to express to all my appreciation of the many kindnesses, consideration and support I have received and to thank you for so many kindly expressions of regret and good wishes on the occasion of my leaving. My own personal regrets are tempered by the thought that I shall be near enough for our friendship to remain. To all boys, past and present, I wish every happiness and good fortune, and offer my sincere good wishes for the success and prosperity of the School which it has been my privilege to lead during these eventful years.

STANLEY STUBBS.


The Times 12 September 1939

Public Appointments
Grammar School
Cambridgeshire Education Committee.
Soham Grammar School for Boys.

Applications are invited for the position of Headmaster. Candidates should be Graduates in Honours of a British University. The salary will be at the rate of £600-£25-£700 per annum, according to qualifications and experience.
There are at present 197 pupils in the School, and a new Headmaster's house is about to be built on the School site.
Application forms (which should be returned by Monday 25th September 1939) and further particulars will be forwarded by the undersigned on receipt of a stamped addressed foolscap envelope.
H Morris, Education Secretary, Shire Hall, Cambridge.

source http://www.sohamroots.co.uk/genealogy/ancestorsnews.html

Editor - this advertisement appeared 9 days after the declaration of war against Germany. One of the casualties appears to have been the new Headmaster's house?

 

Soham Grammarian Autumn 1945

At the end of last term, when Mr. Stubbs left us, he was presented with a cheque as a small token of our appreciation of all his fine work here, as were also Mr, Copland, the Handicraft Master, and Mrs. Crick, the caretaker, to all of whom we extend our very best wishes.


Terry Allen 39 (8 Mar 2005): Stanley Stubbs, or Old Blood and Guts as we called him. I would like to say something nice about him but I cannot think of anything.

Edward E Ewbank writes from New Zealand (17 Sep 2010): Although not an old boy myself, I thought it may be of interest that my brother and I were billeted, as 9 and 10 year-old London evacuees, with Mr Stubbs and family during 1942, at their home at the bottom of Tanners Lane. We saw very little of him. He was no doubt very busy in those days, what with RAFVR training and headmastering. I was rather overawed by his reserve officer's uniform, and by the bi-plane that was parked in the school grounds.

Not mentioned on his page of your website is his lovely lady, Mrs Stubbs, and their beautiful little girl, Anne, who was perhaps about 7 years of age.


Stanley Stubbs, MA was Headmaster of The Perse School, Cambridge, 1945 to 1969. He and his wife Margaret are buried in the Ascension Burial Ground (St Giles Cemetery) Huntingdon Road, Cambridge.

Cambridge News 21/4/69 via the Cambridgeshire Collection

NOW FOR A NEW PHASE OF LIFE

When Stanley Stubbs retires from the Perse School, Cambridge, at the end of August, after 24 years, it will be the end of an era. Few headmasters can have woven a personality so richly into the fabric of a school.

Mr Stubbs has been headmaster at the Perse for two generations. Several thousand boys throughout the world will find it difficult to think of the school without him. Like the school itself, many of them might respectively regard him as an institution.

The Perse, house in an ultra-modern building off Hills Road, has a 350-year history. It is an independent and direct grant public grammar school, represented on the Headmasters’ Conference and the Governing Bodies Association. Its complement is 570 boys.

First headship

Mr Stubbs is fond of regarding the school and its staff, parents and old boys as a big happy family. “Everybody comes to this school because they want to come.” he says. “This is an enormous asset, encouraging a vigorous life of endeavour together.”

Gentle, assured, friendly and with a quick humour, he is so completely one’s image of a headmaster that it is a surprise to learn that he might once have considered something else. Yet he rejected a successful business career in favour of teaching.

He was 23 or 24 at the time. “I tried myself out by teaching at a preparatory school for two terms to see if I was being foolish. I had always been very happy at school and although I enjoyed business, I felt it didn’t satisfy the ‘soul’ in me.”

Remarkably, he was manager of the USA export sales department of Royal Doulton Potteries before going up to Emmanuel College Cambridge. Characteristically, he loved Cambridge life, and he took a BA honours degree and a mediaeval language tripos.

“I ought to have come up to Cambridge on leaving school, but I went straight into industry,” he explained. “And I have never regretted it: my business experience has helped me enormously.” Years later, this acumen helped him shape the new design of the Perse School.

His first headmastership was at Soham Grammar School in Cambridgeshire, a smaller school of its kind, accommodating 240 boys. He had already been housemaster, and senior German and modern languages master at Gresham’s School, at Holt in Norfolk, between 1934 and 1939.

Mr Stubbs gained his first headmastership after only five years teaching. “It was a very good county grammar school, and still is. One of the attractions at Soham was that it was so near to Cambridge: I was coming ‘home’ all the time, and I was very happy to be back.”

He was appointed headmaster of the Perse School in 1945, after five years at Soham. Between 1945 and 1961, in addition to a complete post-war reorganisation of the school curriculum and routines, he acquired land, purchased property, and developed the school’s expansion.

“The school had been bombed in the war, you know. The bombing was in 1941, but I had a lot of cleaning up to do. We first of all bought one of the boarding houses, then the war memorial, and eventually we bought the land the school is now standing on in the Hills Road.”

He approved the revolutionary design for the school, which was opened by Princess Alexandra in 1961, and he feels that in practice the building has worked excellently. “We have got to provide everything,” he said, “and I am responsible for the weathervane on top, to the drains below.”

Mr Stubbs and his wife, Margaret, ran a boarding house at the school for 14 years. “I ought to say that we have enjoyed everything,” he says, “the whole social life of the school.” They have a daughter, Anne, married for seven years and now living in Cambridge.

Special interest

Cheerfully, he has accepted one of the late President Truman’s dictums, that for a man in his particular office, “the buck stops here.” And it is appropriate that one of his special interests is the comparative systems of education both in this country and in the United States.

This is something he hopes to develop further when he has retired from the Perse. In 1966, he made a three and a half month tour of more than 30 schools and universities in America and Canada, and he made a return visit to a school in Massachusetts a year ago.

He is retiring at 63 because “after this very interesting but exacting life, I wanted to start a new phase of life.” He and Mrs Stubbs will not be subjected to the same social pressures; and they will have many more opportunities to travel widely.

“You don’t retire, you re-tread,” said Mr Stubbs, with a twinkle in his eye, confessing that he will be retreading from a house in Hills Road, little more than a stone’s throw from the school. He will never be very far away from the school he loves so well.

 

Cambridge Evening News, 4th July 1969, via the Cambridgeshire Collection


"We've had a lot of fun says Stubbs" - Mr & Mrs Stubbs at a presentation of his portait on 3rd July 1969

 

Cambridge Evening News, 26th October 1976

Former Perse School head dies at 70

A former headmaster of the Perse School for Boys, Mr Stanley Stubbs, died at his home in Hills Road, Cambridge, yesterday, at the age of 70.

He leaves a widow, Margaret, and a married daughter, Anne. The funeral will be in the city.

After a childhood in Newcastle, Mr Stubbs went straight into commerce after leaving school - to be come manager of US export sales for Royal Doulton Potteries.

At the age of 23 or 24 he decided to go into teaching. He did a stint at a preparatory school and then came up to Cambridge to take an upper second in the Modern and Medieval Languages Tripos.

He once said: "I ought to have come up on leaving school, but I have never regretted it. My business experience has helped me enormously."

Mr Stubbs gained his first headship at Soham Grammar School after only five years teaching. In 1945 he became head of the Perse, where his business acumen helped him reshape the school, which was rebuilt on revolutionary lines and opened [sic] in 1961.

When he retired in 1969 he said:"You don't retire, you retread."

He was a staunch opponent of comprehensive schools as a road to educational equality, and defended the "proven excellence" of the direct grant system.

An entire chapter is devoted to Mr Stubbs in a book called "Perse" by the Secretary of Cambridge Chamber of Commerce, Mr John Mitchell. It will be out early next month.

 

The Times, Oct 27, 1976; page 18
Full Text: Copyright 1976, The Times

MR STANLEY STUBBS

Mr Stanley Stubbs, headmaster of the Perse School, Cambridge, from 1945 to 1969 died on October 25 aged 70. Taking over the school at a difficult period, housed as it was in inadequate and war-damaged premises, he restored it in reputation, raised it in numbers, and had the satisfaction before he retired, of seeing it housed in new and worthy premises.

After leaving Newcastle High School, Staffordshire, Stubbs spent five years at the Royal Doulton potteries, and at 23, was manager of its American department. Resigning to take up teaching, he graduated at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, where he captained the college football eleven. After teaching at Charterhouse and Gresham's School, Holt, he became head of Soham grammar school in 1940. His evident success there appealed to the Perse governors, confronted with an unusually large list of applicants in 1945.

Stubbs restored older teaching traditions, largely jettisoned in the interregnum following the retirement of Dr WHD Rouse and re-established sound relations with staff, parents, Old Perseans and pupils. To a direct grant school, with little in the way of endowments, Stubbs's early business background was to prove invaluable. The new senior school, the first public school to be entirely rebuilt for over 20 years, was formally opened by Princess Alexandra in 1961.


17/10/10 Peter Askem (Art 1954-72): Stanley Stubbs rings many bells in my mind as he was my Headmaster during quite a number of years whilst I was a schoolboy at The Perse. He was a very fair man in contrast to the previous Head who was very harsh. One of the very old school types. Cecil Crouch was my Art Teacher and encouraged me so much. The previous Art Teacher was a Scot and used his belt on us.

When I applied for a job at Soham Grammar School I asked Stanley for a ref. I was a bit amazed when Edward Armitage asked me at the interview if I had dyed my hair because Stanley had stated that I was ginger! He had muddled me with my father who was ginger.

I believe there were in the region of 80 applications for the job but I was the lucky one. Perhaps because I made them laugh at the interview, or maybe it was Stanley who pulled it off for me?

Happy Days they were indeed. My very good wishes to you. I can see that the 2010 Old Boys Dinner was a great success. I wish I had been there. Yours Peter.

 

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last updated 18 Sep 10