Old Uffingtonians Association (1994)

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More Sports Memories - Bernard Ward

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Mr. Mervyn Rees and After-School Training
The appointment of Mr. Mervyn Rees as the boys' PE specialist, despite the fact that he played rugby for London Welsh, revitalised soccer at W.C.G.S.  It was he who encouraged regular training & practising, and enabled good soccer teams to emerge from only 350 boys from 11-18 years to defeat on occasions some all boys schools of 800-900 pupils.  His regime required a pattern of exercise Monday to Thursday after school ended.  Mondays & Thursdays were what would now be called jogging days, Tuesday he held a P.E. Club and all people who belonged to any team were required to join.  Wednesdays until end of October we developed basic skills on the pitch and thereafter we used the hall generally finishing with a rough and tumble, dignified by the name of handball.  Following a shower after the Thursday run we used to gather at the Hall doors to watch the Folk Dance Club perform.  It was not long before Joan Keen (nee Turner) had us taking part and further improving our fitness.  Indeed throughout the VIth form years some of us played on Saturdays, a match in the morning and one in the afternoon and twice a month in the evenings went Folk Dancing to the Square Dance nights at Cecil Sharp House, H.Q. of the English Folk Dance & Song Society off Regents Park.  Now it doesn't seem possible we had that amount of stamina!

In retrospect it is surprising that team games survived as they did during the war.  The school's main playing field off Longstone Avenue was given over to the war time "Dig for Victory" campaign, where allotments sprung up like mushrooms on any available ground.  It was still allotments when we left in 1950.  The only pitch we had was on the playing field adjoining Uffington Road and across the back of the school and even that section Mr. Wallis had converted part to grow vegetables.  Thus it was inevitable that until one reached the heights of the 1st XI football, fixtures were few and far between.  But they never stopped us playing football, even if we improvised with a tennis ball and were the despair of our parents as shoes were scuffed to bits playing on asphalt in the middle quadrangle.  That game seemed to start in September with the school year and continue to the end of July with breaks for holidays.  It had no regard for numbers or the windows of which several were broken over the years. 

Harlesden Odeon Saturday Morning Club Team 1946-47
However in the VIth form fate took a hand.  A form colleague, Eric Gill, recruited both Len Woodford & I into the Harlesden Odeon Saturday Morning Club Team.  In a way we had turned 'pro' for although we had formally to join the Saturday Morning Club we never attended but were 'paid' by being allowed free into the adult programme.  Remember this was pre-TV days and long queues formed outside cinemas.  Len tells me he traded on those matches played on the McVitie's ground alongside the main line from Euston long after he left school and even University as he followed the Assistant Manager at the Odeon on his career ladder to the Odeon Leicester Square and finally as manager of the Finsbury Park Odeon!  Our big rivals were Watford Odeon, where the manager was at the same game of securing local 'stars' to reinforce his team.  That year (season 1946-47) we reached the Area Final (v. Watford of course).  Watford arranged for us to be shown around Watford F.C. ground by the manager Mr. Jack Bray ex. Manchester City & England half-back prior to playing at the amateur club, Wealdstone.  The photograph (shown below) before the game shows the team had 6 W.C.G.S. players; Les Fitchett, Len Woodford, myself, Eric Gill, Harry Gigg, and Malcolm Glass.

Harlesden Odeon Football Club 1st XI 1946-47:-

From left to right:-
back row - L. Fitchett
*, L. Woodford * , B. Ward *
M. Stoneman, C. Howe, E. Gill
front row - R. Hobbs, D. Priston, H. Dorsett, H. Gigg
* , M. Glass *

* W.C.G.S. pupils

School Soccer 1st XIs
Stan Lambdon and Derek Vasey were the first in our year to be selected regularly for the 1st Xl in 1946-47.  The team photo shows them in such august company as Richard (Dickie) Bates, Tony Herbert (capt.), Ray Prodger and Ullman (an unorthodox but effective goal keeper) and Ian McCall. 

1st XI Soccer Team 1946-47:-

From left to right:-
back row - Vobes, ? , Ray Prodger, D. P. Davis, Derek Vasey? , Stan Lambdon, Ullman
front row - Richard Bates, Tony Herbert, Mr. Rees, Ian McCall, Ling

The experience of Dickie, Ray, Tony and Stan was available for the 1947-48 season when Doug Boath, Len Davies, Roy Impey, Gerry Tooth, Len and I were selected regularly and was no doubt responsible for the team having a successful season.

1st XI Soccer Team 1947-48:-

From left to right:-
back row - L. Davis, Richard Bates , Ray Prodger, Len Woodford, Bernard Ward, Gerry Tooth, Stan Lambdon
front row - A. Rogers, Tony Herbert, Mr. Rees, Roy Impey, Doug Boath

1948-49 was again a rebuilding season and the magical skills of Ben Storkey were added to the team.  It was that season Mr. Rees decided that some of the team should be entered for the Middlesex Schools Under-18 trials.  Len Woodford was selected for the team v. Gloucester with Ben Storkey as reserve for the match on 23rd April. 

Middlesex v Gloucester

The following April 1950 Len Woodford and Doug Boath were selected for the match v. Surrey at Brentford F.C.'s ground and I was a reserve.  This shows the strength of that year's School 1st XI - W.C.G.S.' name appeared three times on the programme with no other team appearing more than once.  That I was not fortunate enough to play was hardly surprising for in my place as right back was R. B. Bassham of Walpole Grammar School, a leading schoolboy international, capped 3 times for England in 1948-49! 

Middlesex v Surrey

It is interesting to recall how strong schoolboy football was in the Enfield' Schools F.A. at that time.  Playing in the under-15 side was Johnny Haynes, later of Fulham and England capt. and Tony Marchi of Spurs & England.  I have particular cause also to remember Doug Boath's powerful shooting.  At Imperial College I played in gaol against L.S.E. and one of Doug's specials dislocated my right thumb - it still aches on a cold day!

1st XI Soccer Team 1949-50:-

From left to right:-
back row - Doug Boath, Ben Storkey, Len Woodford, Stan Lambdon, Malcolm Barker
Pat Cook, Bernard Ward, Mr. Rees, Pete Chambers, Gordon Little
front row - Ray (?) Ryan, John Glass

Of the players who opposed us, some were very good.  The one who tormented us most was Miles Spector of Hendon G.S., who played as an amateur for Hendon in the Athenian League and later for Chelsea and England's amateur side.  There was also Barry Walsh, who later played for Arsenal.  Len Woodford met him when they played for Middlesex v. Gloucester.  Being fixture secretary he suggested a match between ourselves and Isleworth G.S., where Barry was captain.  It was a rare mid-week game at the end of the season and we were thrashed 10-1, the worst result in our school career, Len our goalkeeper also recalls the game well!  He recollects that Walsh actually missed a penalty - the only one he had missed all season, and despite the score, Len had a reasonably good game!

Old Uffingtonians F.C.
In the 1948-49 season the Old Uffingtonians F.C. was re-establishing itself after the war.  The nucleus of the group were the Barnard brothers, one of whom was the Secretary and No. 1 supporter, Arthur Sills, Norman (Nosher) Robertson and the very dynamic Ken Fletcher.  As they found it difficult to field a full side every week, they invited members of the 1st XI to play.  In these early days it was the odd Saturday afternoon and more regularly a Sunday morning fixture in Gladstone Park.  Len believes he was the first to accept this invitation playing for the Old Uffs in a friendly against an R.A.F. XI at a Twickenham base arranged by Ken Fletcher, who was ex-RAF.  I played regularly in the Sunday games.  The Old Uffs F.C. still survives to this day playing in the London Old Boys' League.

Table Tennis
The other winter sport taken very seriously was table tennis, which was very popular at the time.  Fostered not only in school but also in the many youth clubs, it spawned many good players.  The only good table at school was kept in the Prefects' Room and was widely believed (but wholly untrue) that they hired it out for House Matches.  The School had so many good players, who could easily make six teams of four players, and these were fairly evenly divided between the Houses.  The Inter-House matches were ferociously fought out after school in the Arts Room and usually watched by more people than would watch the Inter-House Football competition.  The names which come readily to mind were Maurice Bernstein, (a star of N.W. London Jewish Boys Clubs and knocking on the door of the County side,) New, Shorrick, Stan Lambdon, Tony Rogers, Robin Keen, Len Woodford and myself; and they were the pool from which the school team were selected.

Boys v. Girls
It is perfectly understandable that we can recollect little of the girls' prowess at sport.  There was an annual match between the Hockey 1st XI and the Soccer 1st XI as a bit of fun.  The boys had to play left-handed and generally lost.  We also played an annual game of netball against them and this we generally won despite some harsh refereeing decisions because of the lads' insistence on bodily contact!

Cross-Country Running
Mr Rees also introduced Cross-Country Running, which is difficult in a London suburb.  A circuit of King Edward Recreation Ground led to a run along Doyle Gardens, around Roundwood Park, a return to the Recreation Ground, another circuit and back to the school.  Most of us hated it but all turned out for the Annual House Race unless you were hospitalised!

Most of those who were keen on sport took happily to the nets at the start of the Summer Term even though late April & May are sometimes difficult to associate with cricket.  The term is also a short one and includes public exams so there were always gaps appearing in the school team.  Robin Keen was capt. in 1949-50 and although some of the same names from football kept cropping-up others also appeared.  From the football ranks perhaps Ben Storkey was the most gifted, excellent in all aspects of the game but there was a lad called Young, who played for an Ealing side and occasionally for Middlesex.  For as a left arm spinner he was regarded as second only to the great Jack Sims, who like so many top sportsmen lost the best years of his life to the war.  Dickie Bates was perhaps our most stylish bat and Ray Prodger like John Warr were accurate medium paced bowlers.  There was always a special tension when we played Kilburn Grammar School, the other Grammar School in the area.  They had a good fast bowler to whom as we recalled we could find no answer.

I learned to swim in the open air pool at Gladstone Park near my home.  The Inter-House Swimming was held in the last week of term and the whole school decamped to the King Edward's baths next door.  I was cajoled into taking part for the Danes, but I didn't enjoy it.  I even managed to be disqualified in the breast stroke for turning my head from side to side.  Whereas Len Woodford revelled in it although there was little style about his swimming as he would be the first to admit.  Must be because he was born under Pisces. 

Summer was also the time for athletics.  The first event was the Inter-House Competition held in the enclosed King Edward's Recreation Ground.  It was again Mr. Rees, who improved the standard.  An outstanding athlete himself, he knew all the techniques required for track and field events.  Based on the results of the House competition, a team was selected for the County Sports at Alperton and the best athletes there were selected for the All England County Championships.  Training for many consisted of a few laps of King Edward's cinder track, which in one place was like ploughing through gravel.  Most of us were pretty fit and this was not our idea of fun.  Nevertheless some outstanding people spring to mind.  David Presland broke both school and county records for the discuss and shot, which had been set several years before.  Then there was Gerry Schwarz, who with his eight foot stride fairly "gobbled up" the track in the mile.  We cannot remember his times but in a House race against him Len recorded just over 5 minutes and he was way behind Schwarz.  In 1950 I recall that I came second in the 440 in about 45 seconds and first in the long jump with 18' 6".  At Alperton in the 440 the elastic in my shorts broke but I still finished fourth!

When Mr. Eddon returned after War Service he introduced the boys to the concept that tennis was a man's game as well as cricket.  The problem was facilities.  Such as we had, the girls had first call and so it was difficult for us to find times to play.  However tennis was becoming popular in the wider world; Tony Mottram and other English players then appeared regularly on the Centre and No. 1 Courts at Wimbledon.  The now defunct Evening News organised a knock out competition in the London area to try to find new talent from among the many who used the public courts.  Several of us - Stan Lambdon, Gerry Barker, Robin Keen, Len and myself alternated between Queens Park and Gladstone Park courts. 

We frequently had to wait and as a consequence rather than do nothing we began to play bowls on the indifferent green in Gladstone Park.  We soon realised this was a game of real skill and not just for the elderly!

Jack Eddon managed to fix up an arrangement with South Hampstead Tennis Club, whereby we could join at a reduced subscription, playing at off-peak times. 

It is perhaps appropriate to end these reminiscences with the fact that the strong link with South Hampstead and the old days of W.C.G.S. still exists through Ted Ducker, Ken Fletcher and several others.

G. Bernard Ward