two sides…

“Children who board in prep school experience abandonment and bereavement at a very early age. Even when surrounded by kindly adults and a caring ethos, they are captive: powerless to leave unless released by staff or parents” says Joy Schaverien in this powerful argument about early boarding.”Living in captivity, even benign captivity, is still imprisonment. The psychological parallel is that the emotional self also becomes imprisoned.”

On the other side of the argument, the director of the other BSA Robin Fletcher challenges those who say it is unquestionable that boarding is harmful, and that this approach ” simply does not present a full and honest picture of the sector”. He describes how as in any other school, there will be those who love it and those who don’t. As ever, there is a lack of recognition that if you don’t love it the damage has already been done by the time you can do anything about it.

72 thoughts on “two sides…

  1. I understood the case “against”… I couldn’t find a case “for” … I assume you mean the simplistic business plan/mealy mouthed statements by Robin Fletcher who doesn’t appear to be very bright!

    • I think inevitably there must be some, if not major psychological damage to a boarded child.
      Of course, I am basing this mainly on my own experience (as related in my recent childhood autobiography,
      Don’t Come Crying Home.)

  2. william, i have just downloaded your book from and look forward to reading it.
    what has happened to sally frazier? what has happened to this website? there apoear to be only 49 of us following this blog. i find this extremely strange considering the importance of this subject.

    • hi mary, I am sorry you did not receive the email to all supporters explain that I have had to resign from my role in boarding school action unfortunately, you can see my letter on the news and events page. Sam is taking over from me but it might take him a while to get the hang of updating the website. Best, Sally

  3. The case against: There’s absolutely no question…
    I have and still am suffering psychological damage from nothing other than my traumatic childhood.
    I was sent to BS at the earliest possible attendance age as soon as i turned 7.
    My emotional self did become imprisoned and has been ever since.
    I rebelled school right up to the age of 16 and then threw my future away just to be free.
    I soon turned to alcohol and drugs as I found relief for my endless loneliness and other issues but this of course eventually brought me to my knees after several close calls to deaths door.
    I am now 40 and in recovery. I work a 12 step program but its not enough.
    I suffer depression in the form of anxiety & discontent and also major mood swings.
    Ive finally given in to medication for this but still have not stabilised and am literally still in hell.
    This has had such an impact on me its unbelievable. I am still that helpless little boy.
    I am willing to go to any length to expose the gravity of psychological damage this can cause and has caused me and probably many others too. It must be stopped. End of story.

      • goodness me, that is young Hugh. Thank you for sharing your thought and stories, and I am really pleased to hear about your commitment to this very important cause. Personally I am taking a break from campaigning at the moment to work on a longer writing project around the issues, but you can get in touch with those actively campaigning via facebook or twitter. Best of luck, I look forward to hearing how you get on. SF

  4. dear hugh, i just read your harrowing story and will reply in full when i return from helping out with my grandchildren here in north carolina. i am a retired family therapist who went, unwillingly but briefly, to boarding school at the age of sixteen. even so, it took me years to sort myself out. my fundamental issue was discovering that my parents could do anything they wanted to me – and with no warning/preparation at all. i can only imagine what damage was done to you at age six. there are only two sides to the boarding school debate as there is between creationism vs. evolution. most sympathetically, mary

  5. p.s. in the meantime, hugh, please read “the making of them” by nick duffell. this spells your/my argument out. there are support groups as well as therapists that specialize in helping boarding school victims become boarding school survivors. i hope you will search for and find one. mary

  6. Hmm …. an interesting site. I’m not sure whether this post will be thought off topic, but here goes ….

    First, let me say that I am posting under my pen name of Gareth Greenwood for reasons that will, I hope become clear. Second, I did not attend a boarding school but a non-boarding public school in London (St. Dunstan’s College 1964-1971).

    I loved the school academically, was always if not at, then very close to the top of my year. That in itself caused problems because I was on an ILEA scholarship, and not much liked by fellow pupils whose parents paid for their education. Prep school types tend to be hacked off when at age 11, they encounter bright working-class kids who are there on merit and can beat the hide out of them intellectually. I felt very alone from the beginning.

    Collecting every prize I could to age 13, I then entered the science stream in the third form. That’s when things started to get nasty. It wasn’t other pupils but a new headmaster that was the problem, namely the abysmal Richard Pedley of Black Papers notoriety.

    You don’t survive in a boys public school if you are a shrinking violet. I wasn’t and often told prefects to piss off. This set Pedley against me and, despite my being the best linguist in the school (acknowledged even in the third form by the Modern Languages department), Pedley instituted a new rule to restrict the relevant academic prize to pupils who were actually in the languages stream. So, despite beating the rest of them hollow I never got the prize. Pedley knew how to make enemies.

    This was a catastrophic mistake. Bullies should never pick on people who aren’t afraid of them. Not only had I no fear of him, but through Labour Party and family connections, I actually knew far more about him than he could possibly have imagined. Of all pupils in the school, I was the worst possible choice of victim.

    Petty harrasments abounded thereafter until I reached the sixth form. By that time Pedley had made enemies of many of us – enough, indeed to form a communist cell. For two years that cell carried out guerilla-style espionage and sabotage against Pedley. Its greatest achievement was to stage a demonstration inside the Great Hall on Speech Day 1970.

    Big deal, you might think – except that, AFAI am aware, Pedley was and remains the only UK public school headmaster to have had such a spectacle staged at the one event during the school year when it could embarrass him in front of pupils, staff, governors and parents. It even made the front page of Peace News the following week.

    Pedley immediately and correctly suspected my involvement. But all I had done was to steal unnumbered tickets which were given to sympathisers from other schools who actually kicked off at the opportune moment. As I had planned, staff later told Pedley that he could be certain of two things: Firstly, I was undoubtedly behind it and secondly, I was perfectly capable of ensuring that he could never prove it. This very soon got around the London public schools grapevine and made Pedley a laughing stock among fellow headmasters. His reputation never recovered. It made him take to the bottle and he died less than two years later, regarded as one of the worst heads the school had had.

    Early in the 1970-1971 school year, Pedley retaliated by trying to get the ILEA to terminate my scholarship. He was unaware that we could intercept his letters. I knew what he was up to within days of his action. It was easily parried. ILEA chair Ashley Bramall was contacted on my mother’s behalf by family friend Frederick Elwyn Jones, who had been Attorney General in Harold Wilson’s first government. Jones advised Bramall that ILEA should ask Pedley for copies of my school reports. Academically they were so good that Pedley never dared to send them – as interception of his correspondence grimly confirmed.

    I say all this not to blow a personal trumpet. To all those who have been damaged by public schools, I say that none of it was your fault. The kinds of abuses that the Pedleys of this world got up to were by no means uncommon. It was purely by chance that some of us, at that particular time, in that particular school were able to punch so far above our weight that we consigned a vicious bastard to a premature grave.

    And yet these things have their costs. Running a spying operation stresses trained spies. Doing it when you are just 16 is even more stressful. Add to that undiagnosed autism and gender dysphoria and you are near the tipping point of mental breakdown. Little over a year after the Speech Day disruption I was in a psychiatric hospital from which I was discharged a few months before Pedley’s demise.

    I have had chronic mental health problems ever since. I can’t blame a public school for these troubles. It did not cause them – but it did trigger them at the worst possible time – the cusp of adolescence and adulthood. That alone has left lasting mental scars.

    I’m proud that I fought back and I know that what I did to a foul headmaster was remembered for decades after I left.

    Wars, however, have only losers.

    • thank you thank you thank you, to the person behind the name gareth greenwood. my experience was not the same as yours, but similar enough to give me a good belly-laugh and a really good night’s sleep as a result of your wonderful post, your wonderful achievement, your wonderful strike on behalf of “us all”.
      again, thank you,
      valerie harte (probably no one’s name, certainly not mine!

    • I hate to burst your bubble, but I was at St Dunstans in 1976 – 1986 and never heard a word about any
      “great demonstration”.

      St Dunstans was a very good school. At least when I left I had the English and Maths skills to cope with uni, which is a lot more than most modern 1st year uni students.

      They did “ask my elder brother to leave” but then he deserved it.

      It was not perfect but much better than the alternatives and in my time there was never any issues with scholarship students being discriminated against. There was normal disputes between kids, some fights, but never real discrimination

      Yes Brian Dance (HM) was a tool of astronomical proportions, but that was made up for by the raft of good teachers you interacted with every day.

      I feel lucky to have had a chance at such a good education as it’s seen me pass officer entrance exams for the NZ Army then move into management roles in civilian life. It fostered a love of reading that is still with me and one of my main interests. None of that would have been possible without the grounding I got at St Dunstans.

      Your post to me sounds like you didn’t make much effort to fit in with the system at the school then wondered why you were ostracised. A precious mix of look how clever I was and poor me the victim. I can’t speak about the villainous Mr Pedley as I never met him but I can attest to the fact that St Dunstans has been turning out good young men (and now women) far many years.

      Sorry it didn’t work out for you

      • You’re not bursting any bubble. Even today there are those who seek to suppress accounts of what the SDC communist cell did. The 1970 Speech Day demo was deliberately designed to embarrass Pedley. We calculated that an affront to his vanity would have a highly demoralising effect on him, and so it did. When he started to take reprisals, we were ready and able to make a vicious response – only to be politely *asked* by the school chaplain if we would, “please lay off him”. At that point we knew exactly how hard we had hit him. All of the staff by then understood that we were both resourceful and ruthless and would not respond to being *ordered* to stop the war. There is very little doubt that the psychological effect of our activities precipitated Pedley’s decline into his final illness.

        One of the reasons for the appointnent of Brian Dance as Pedley’s successor is that by the time of Pedley’s death the governors had come to see his appointment as a mistake. Dance had been the head of a large FE college. It was at the time rather unusual for a public school to appoint a head whose immediately preceding position had been in the public FE sector. Dance didn’t have ideological baggage that had prompted our war on Pedley.

        There was an account of the 1970 demonstration in the 1970 Michaelmas term issue of the SDC Chronicle. That account was written by Tim Pratt, who articulated the official line that nobody at SDC was involved in the demo and that it was staged by hostile elements from other schools.

        Finally, though you might not have heard much about the SDC communist cell, I assure you that my (real) name was well and long remembered by the staff and that there was no small amount of respect for my willingness to take on any master alone if need be. Tim Pratt himself said to my face that he thought I “had some guts” to tell that prick John Reynolds (aka “Narky Jac”) where he could go.

        Reynolds suprvised my physics practical A-level. Strangely, mine was the only experimental set-up that didn’t work at all in the first part of the exam, leaving me with no results to put in my paper. I have no doubt at all that he deliberately sabotaged things for me. That and Pedley’s lies about me to ILEA were about par for the course in unethical staff behavior at the time.

        Another thing that I did not mention was that the then head of music, Philip Cooper, was a predatory sado-masochistic paedophile. He used to confiscate items from pupils so they had to go back to him at the end of the day to get them back, which was when the abuse began. Knowing that I had no fear of staff, he avoided preying on me. Others were less fortunate and on more than one occasion, I had to retrieve confiscated items for clearly terrified fellow pupils. I’m more proud of doing that than of my part in the Speech Day demo.

        There is also some circumstantial evidence that Cooper may have been poisoned by one of his victims. On balance, I believe that he was (deservedly) murdered and I have a particular individual as a sole suspect.

        On the brighter side, I agree that the teaching was superb and I have nothing but warm memories of those who taught me mathematics – but I never let this detract from recollections of abuses from Pedley and others at a time when SDC went through a very dark period in history. The only way to deal with that kind of situation is to stand your ground and fight. When Pedley picked on me, he pissed off the toughest pupil he’d ever faced and got the mother of all kickings. Schools never like to remember that kind of conflict.

        As for fitting in, you will have gathered that loners like me just don’t do that sort of thing.

  7. I, too spent seven years, from 1980 to 1987, at St. Dunstan’s College. Like Gareth Greenwood, I am writing under a false name.

    During my time there, homosexuality was rife. This was hardly surprising, as there were around 900 teenage & pre- teen boys there, but, with the regime in force- attending school from Monday to Saturday , and up to 3 hours homework every night- boys had little time to meet girls and form relationships.

    A number of masters were also homosexual; Ken Knight, Martin Preston, Nick Pallot, Ken Douie & Barry Mead definitely were, Robin Austin, Frank Stanton, Peter Baldwin & Mike Busk were generally believed to be, and some boys also suspected that Trevor Charlton & Keith Bamford were, although I, personally, did not.

    I was sexually assaulted, several times, while at St. Dunstan’s and I saw other boys being sexually assaulted, as well. Unfortunately, from what I have read, this is part of public school life. Boys are effectively imprisoned, in order to teach them to work and to obey. While this may enable them to secure high- powered jobs, the down side of this, of course, is that they cannot form normal relationships, so they form relationships with each other. When one hears of ‘gay sex scandals’, and child abuse scandals, among prominent figures in public life (not that I believe that all of them are true), the majority of the alleged participants have been educated at a public school.

    Most, if not all, of the masters, at St. Dunstan’s had been educated at public schools, and no doubt those who were homosexual had been introduced to same- sex relationships there. There were a number of unpleasant incidents, involving masters. Ken Knight left suddenly, for ‘personal reasons’; it later transpired that he had made sexual advances to no less than three boys. Peter Baldwin also left suddenly; I never learned the reason, but I do know that he had an unhealthy interest in a boy, whom I shall not name. I remember him tickling this boy, under the armpits, during a swimming lesson. Ken Douie died suddenly; I later learned that he had committed suicide, after Nick Pallot ended their relationship. I was also told, by an older boy, although I cannot corroborate it, that Nick Pallot invited him, and one or more other boys, to his house, where they were given wine to drink.

    When I was 15, I fell in love with a young lady, but she laughed at me, because, quite reasonably, she wanted a boyfriend who would spend time with her, and do things, together, with her, rather than someone whose whole life was taken up with schoolwork. After 5 years of St. Dunstan’s. I could no longer relate to ‘ordinary’ people (no disrespect intended), so I trotted out the line that I would make a better husband, as I would have a better job, than most people. She thought I was crazy. Shortly after this, though, I began to realise that I was being kept isolated from the outside world, so as to turn me into a robot, who would work all the hours he was told, make a lot of money, but miss out on life. The reason for all the homosexuality, at St. Dunstan’s, also became clear, to me, and I wanted out. I lost all interest, in schoolwork, with the result that the masters diagnosed laziness, and decided that detention was the cure.

    Not surprisingly, I got out as soon as I was old enough.

    • Sounds like someone has an axe to grind 🤔

      Sorry I will not stand by and see the names of some good people dragged through the mud when they aren’t in a position to defend themselves……..

      I went to St Dunstans 1976-1986 and was taught by Peter Baldwin, Ken Knight, Nick Pallot, Ken Douie, Barry Mead and Mike Busk.

      I even went away on skiing holidays with Peter Baldwin and he and his wife were friendly with my parents. He also taught me PE for 4yrs and rugby for 2. And to this day I’ve nothing but respect, admiration and friendship for the guy. I spent plenty of time alone with him and never felt uncomfortable.

      I had private tuition at Ken Knights house leading up to sitting the St Dunstans entrance exam. Hit was always f**king cold but there was never any hint of impropriety. I then went to P3 – his class. He was a hard man and set high standards, but needed that.

      Ken Douie was gay. For years he lived with his boyfriend Chris Carter another former SD teacher. I believe Chris died in the late seventies, leaving Ken heart broken. I remember the change in him when it happened and he was never his old jovial self again. I remember feeling sorry for him. He lasted another few years but eventually killed himself, I believe from a broken heart. He was a kind, compassionate man who went out of his way to help me when he saw I was I difficulty. I few kind words from him would lift my spirits.

      I was taught maths by Mike Busk. Didn’t like the guy as he had a high opinion of himself but he was competent and got me though my maths ‘o’ level. Was he gay – yes probably. Did we ever see any inappropriate behaviour from him. Absolutely not

      Nick Pallot taught me English and coached me rugby. Fiery temper, but with fierce determination. Lateral thinker and good guy once you got to know him. Was he gay? I honestly don’t know. Don’t really care – he was a good guy and never made any advances to any of us.

      Barry Mead was just a nice guy. Softly spoken and very patient. He helped my brother at school tremendously. I just liked Barry Mead

      My point is it doesn’t matter weather they were gay or not. Just because someone is gay does not make them a child molester. Just because a gay guy works at a boys school DOES NOT mean he grooming little boys. Would you say the same of a woman working at a boys school?

      If you were sexually assaulted why didn’t you tell your parents, or the school, or someone. Was it perhaps that you got a gym shoe or ruler across your backside for doing something wrong? And that’s sexual assault? Despite the fact that’s what happened schools in the early 80s. Ken Knight broke a 1m ruler over my hand when I was 9. Was it harsh. Yes. Did I deserve it? Probably not. Am I still pissed about it? No I always liked Ken Knight

      To me this post is resentment driven. You obviously blame St Dunstans for all the difficalties of your teenage years. Schools fault for you loosing a girlfriend – really? More like she just wasn’t that into you and didn’t want to hurt your feelings. Deliberately isolating you from normal people? I call BS on that. That was your issue not the schools.

      And a program to turn you into a homosexual robot? See that’s were your credibility heads a little south

      I think you need to accept a little more self responsibility. It’s always easier to blame others for our own failings.

      This is a bitter and twisted post from a bitter and twisted little snow flake. I hope you can rise above your misguided vitriol and get on with your life

      • If I were in your position, I would be somewhat less inclined to dismiss the effects of abuse on others who have suffered it. I’d also be less inclined to come across as so cocksure in responding to accounts of SDC at a time when you were not there.

        You might think it was just adolescent bolshieness but, as subsequent disclosures of public records attest, even MI5 had a watching brief on left-wing school activists. And, if my suspicions are correct, they were behind the removal of weapons from school CCF armouries in London during the 1970 summer holidays.

        Doubtless this was in part due to fears that the IRA might raid them. But they may also have caught wind of a plan that a couple of us were brewing to decommission the guns in situ using thermite incendiary devices, Very few people have any idea of how dark those times were at SDC.

        The communist cell was centred in the maths sixth. At that time SDC’s A-level maths course was one of the most demanding in the UK. In my year only five of us did it. Why on earth Pedley didn’t see that he was pissing off the best trained cohort in the school utterly escapes me.

  8. I was also a student at St Dunstan’s, from the early to late 70s. The only master who was openly gay was Preston. He would often talk about his sexuality in Divinity classes which, generally, comprised little more than sex education. There was never any questionable behaviour though and he seemed likeable enough, unusual for the SDC common room. I think it’s quite possible. even probable, that some of the other teachers mentioned were gay. When Pallot was 2A form master he would always invite us to visit his home during the holidays, which some did, but I heard of nothing untoward happening.

    The only impropriety I witnessed was from the French master, the aptly named Horne (can’t recall his first name). There was one boy in the first year he took a particular liking to, and would often approach him during lessons and apply ‘make up’ to his face in the form of different coloured chalk, all done in a leering manner. He would also bring his guitar into the classroom at the end of each term, and make every pupil sit on his lap whilst he put his guitar in front of us to play it. Today he would probably end up in court.

    I too was a scholarship boy but this was never an issue. I was far from alone though as a large proportion of those in the lower school A, then middle school Alpha, streams, had scholarships.
    The headmaster, Dance, was indeed a self important twat. The masters were invariably highly educated, but teaching standards ranged from the excellent, such as Shergold and the talented but volatile Pallot, to the very poor, such as Reese, uber chalk and talk old school and gifted only in his ability to send pupils to sleep. After three years of his nonsense most of the class knew so little Latin that we had to resort to leaning the translations of the set books parrot fashion for O level.

    My time at SDC was however a very happy one, in spite of the pompous and self important culture of the school, which I rebelled against from the fourth form onwards. I could not have wished for a better bunch of fellow students, and I have never felt so at home with those around me, either at primary school before or later in adult life.

    PS – I also heard nothing about this ‘great demonstration’.

    • In 1967 I cajoled Martin Preston into lending me a copy of a Penguin book called “He and She”. It was one of the earliest UK sex education books. Martin usually issued it only to sixth formers. When I gave it back to him, I said that it was an excellent book and that he should issue it to my year (then 3rd form). He did just that. Hope that those who came later benefitted from one of my (rare) moderate interventions in SDC life.

  9. Hmm … I seem to have sparked a minor flurry of responses. Picking up a few themes:

    Getting a ruler across your backside is nothing. Philip Cooper would pull down your trousers and pants and whack you with a violin bow … and that was just for starters. There is a very clear line between corporal punishment and sexual abuse.

    … and at the risk of making some uncomfortable by self-disclosure, I want to make it absolutely clear that I am not in any way LGBT-phobic. Indeed it would be hopelessly hypocritical if I were, since I am a now 17-years post-op male-to-female transsexual. My name now is Olwen Morgan. Back then it was David Blyth and I’m pretty sure that most of my SDC contemporaries, both staff and pupils, will remember me.

    I am also borderline for autistic spectrum disorder. If you are both gender dysphoric and significantly autistic, you are at very high risk of serious mental breakdown in late adolescence or early adulthood. SDC did not cause those problems for me but Pedley’s regime added quite unnecessarily to the raft of stresses that put me into a psychiatric hospital six months after I left school. I was there for a year.

    Nobody ever sexually abused me and I can barely imagine what it was like for victims of that kind of thing. When Pedley started to pick on me, it was at a time of my life when I had more than enough to cope with psychologically. Opposing him was not at all heroism on my part. It was simply that I was not prepared to let school make a difficult situation worse. (Why, after all, should it?)

    When, once, I spoke about Pedley to my grandmother (whose maiden name I later took), she snapped back, as though it were a moral failing, that I should not be afraid if him. I trusted her and followed her advice implicitly. That was why I gave Pedley such a kicking. If she had thought it best for me to stick a knife in him, I would now be a killer out on licence.

    It is of no consequence whatsoever that I happened to give Pedley such a fight. I recall it here only to give moral support to those whose untold school experiences may have been worse. There is nothing wrong with vicious personal retaliation against abusers. If you think I’m just blowing my own trumpet, fine. If it helps you to talk about your own sufferings, that’s even better. Fnck people’s reputations. The Buddha always taught that such things are illusions anyway.

  10. In response to certain comments, which have been made, the sexual assaults, which I suffered, were not punishments- they were assaults, involving other people doing things to me, with their genitals, and doing things to my genitals also. I do not consider myself a snowflake- I was assaulted. I did tell my parents, and they told Brian Dance, but he was keen for it to be brushed under the carpet, to protect the reputation of the school, and my parents felt that taking legal action, against his wishes, would harm my education. Thirdly, If I ever met the girl, who laughed at me, again, I would shake her hand, and thank her for showing me the light. I have done very well, for myself, since leaving St. Dunstan’s, but it horrifies me that children were subjected to the regime which I experienced.

  11. Further to my previous comments, if anyone wishes to type ‘Public school buggery’ into Google, they will find several articles concerning homosexual practices in British public schools. Simon Turner is fortunate that he was not subjected to any sexual abuse, but I was not so fortunate. While I an aware that there are homosexuals in all walks of life, the concentration of homosexuals, in St. Dunstan’s College, was far greater than anything I have ever encountered since. It is blatantly obvious that the abundance of homosexuality, in public schools, is due to the fact that, with the regime in force, many boys do not have time to meet girls, and to form heterosexual relationships- Simon Turner is fortunate if he did- and so they form homosexual relationships with each other, as I stated in my original post. Likewise, the large number of homosexual masters, at St. Dunstan’s- again, a far greater number than anywhere I have worked or studied since- was no doubt due to the fact that they had been educated at public schools, and had been introduced to homosexuality there.

    Re. Ken Knight, he was one of those who abused me, both masturbating me and instructing me to masturbate him, and I subsequently learned that he had abused two other boys, as well. I also read, in the Daily Express, in 1986, that Ken Knight had been jailed, for abusing boys while working as a private tutor. The man was a pervert- end of.

    Re. Peter Baldwin, I know what I saw. he came up behind a boy, whom I shall not name, on the poolside during a swimming lesson, then began tickling this boy under the armpits. He also addressed the boy by his first name, while tickling him; this was highly unusual, at St. Dunstan’s.

    There are two types of victim, in the world of public school homosexual abuse. those who, like myself, are disgusted by it, and want out, and those who learn to accept it, and then to subject others, usually younger than themselves, to it. The latter group, of course are known as psychopaths.

    Finally, I couldn’t help laughing at Simon Tuner’s comment, ‘Schools fault for you loosing a girlfriend- really? If Nick Pallot read this sentence, he would despair at Mr. Turner’s errors, in punctuation, spelling and comprehension. He would probably require Mr. Turner to write out ‘School’s’ and ‘losing’ 100 times each, and would point out that, as the young lady, referred to in my original post, did not want me as her boyfriend, she was not my girlfriend.

    • Mike – I’m so sorry you suffered abuse while at SDC and can’t begin to imagine the damaging effects at such a vulnerable age. I attended 1980 through 1987 and pretty much agree with your description of the teachers. I stayed in touch with Martin Preston and Richard Clarembaux after I left and never suffered abuse from any teacher though I did get a lot of attention. I think some of the kids who came through the prep school may have been more vulnerable than those starting at 11. Ken Knight was a classic groomer and I never quite understood why so many of the ex prep boys revered him, when all I saw was a violent bully.

      I know about affairs between sixth form students and teachers and I heard some very troubling rumors about younger pupils that I won’t go into without firmer evidence. There were other teachers who came and left suddenly like Simon Benedictus who used to pick me up, if he saw me at my bus stop, as he drove from Vauxhall to Catford. He left very suddenly and some teachers were concerned about my car rides with him, but I’m relieved to say nothing happened to me. Ken Douie was my 2b form teacher and I could see his decline into depression which wasn’t helped by my year group who were a little shits (including me) – Douie even stopped giving us his customary Mars bars on Fridays… Ultimately, the poor fellow had a complete breakdown after being criticized for the low standard of Latin by his 2b students that progressed into 3 alpha. The SDC common room ostracized the teacher who criticized Ken (after his suicide) and that teacher left soon after.

      There’s another thing that hasn’t been mentioned and that’s the racism I witnessed by teachers towards black and asian students. I witnessed appalling treatment by Stan Holt in Bennett House and I will never forgive myself for not taking a stranger stand to protect my friends.

      Incidentally, I remember Simon Turner getting beaten up next to the multi gym by that psycho bully with ginger hair and big eyes who was in the year above me. Simon may never have experienced the attentions of teachers and should count himself lucky, and in that light, should not not pass judgement on the experiences of others. There was a very real and dark underbelly to that school and no one should be surprised, especially given the context of the period where the likes of Saville abused cynically, unchallenged.

      Finally, let’s recognize that SDC was a complex environment – The teaching staff comprised of individuals who were gay, straight, a-sexual, celebate, paedophile, and the rest. The paedophile contingent were the ones who did the damage to my fellow pupils like Mike and it’s important to acknowledge this heartbreaking abuse.

      • Thank you for this, Simon. I am glad that more people are coming forward, with their experiences of homosexual activities, at St. Dunstan’s. I didn’t know about Simon Benedictus; he appears to have been another one. I did once hear a suggestion that Stan Holt was, as well, although it was only a suggestion.

        In the context of public schools, the distinction between homosexuality and paedophilia is very blurred. In many public schools, it is a long- standing tradition that older boys bugger and sexually abuse younger boys. Some of the younger boys lean to accept it, become hardened to it, and then, as they get older, satisfy their sexual urges by buggering & sexually abusing boys younger than themselves.I would regard this as homosexuality, rather than paedophilia, as it stems from their lack of ability to meet girls, rather than a sexual attraction to children. This lifestyle then becomes the norm, for such boys, and then, those who become schoolmasters see nothing wrong in continuing to perform sex acts on the boys in their charge. I am sure that the homosexual rights lobby would be offended, by my opinion, but that is what I think.

        Do you also remember that, in the Lower School, we had 2 rugby shirts, a white one and a blue one, so that we could have 2 teams, but Ken knight liked to have one team wearing shirts and one without shirts. Ken Knight would also shower, with the boys, after games.

        I joined the Prep School, in September 1980, and was in P8 (Nick Townsend), then 1B (Dai Bevan) and 2A (Barry Mead). The abuse began in November 1980, and ended in October or November 1981, when Ken Knight left suddenly. It was not until the autumn of 1982, however, when I read about sex in a biology book, that I understood what Ken Knight had been doing to me, and that he was what was known as a homosexual, whereas I was a heterosexual.It was not, however, until 1985, when, as I said previously, I fell in love with a girl who laughed at me, that I realised why homosexuality was so rampant, in the school.

        I always believed though, that Ken Douie killed himself after Nick Pallot ended their relationship; I did not think it anything to do with poor Latin teaching. Nick Pallot did teach Latin (He taught me, in 2A, and I remember becoming confused, after some of his teaching directly contradicted what Brian Dance had taught me in 1B), but 3 Alpha was always taught Latin by Reg Harvey. Ken Douie died in October 1984, and Nick Pallot left in July 1985, but Reg Harvey remained at St. Dunstan’s until July 1986.

        Finally, with the rampant homosexuality in St. Dunstan’s, I am wondering if Brian Dance had leanings in that direction. I know he was married, but so wee Ken Knight & Peter Baldwin.

      • Hello Simon,

        It’s interesting what you say about ‘little shits’ as there did appear to be a particularly high percentage of such children at the school. Finally though, it’s not very surprising; a brutalising culture will often create brutalised kids who will, in turn, brutalise others.

        My experience of SDC in the 1970s was much the same as what has already been written here. I am currently deciding whether or not to post.

      • Benedictus turned up at the swimming pool one day whilst we were playing water polo.
        He had his chalk stained suit on and hair all over the place and was carrying one of those large 1980’s camcorders. He put it up on his shoulder and started videoing us.
        Nobody said anything.

        • Sebastian – I bet we know each other. Thank goodness there’s someone out there who remembers stuff like that – I’m in contact with a classmate from that time who has no memory of anything and is constantly surprised when I bring up incident and conversations from that time –

          Richard Mott… Blimey, how he terrified me.

          • I remember Baldwin wrestling ma and another couple of my classmates in the changing room and writing on us with a biro (weird).
            I went on holiday to America with him, his wife and his 3 kids and about 10 classmates and he seemed like a family man.
            Him and his wife were friends of Raoul’s Mum & Dad and Raoul’s Mum told me that Baldwin was always having affairs. So I don’t think he was a paedo…just strange. Remember if you forgot your trunks for swimming lessons he would make you swim baked.
            That’s wrong.
            Who are you Mike?
            Give me your initials and I bet I can guess

          • Sebastian – I don’t really mind revealing my true identity – KA – By the way, I’m still in touch with Tamer who went on the same trip to the States. I still say hi to him when I visit Dulwich and am still in touch with Richard from the same year. I do know that Baldwin pinned Dance up against the wall as his last stand just before he left.

            Collectively, we could write a novel about our experiences from what I’ve seen on this board.

  12. Wow.
    Just found this place and can confirm that most of what Mike says is true. I was at SDC at the same time so we probably know each other.
    Everyone seems to have forgotten Dickie Clarenbeaux (sic)
    Proper arse bandit.
    I was never molested by the way because I think that they all knew that if they tried it with me I would have battered them.

    • I, too, remember Richard Clarembeaux; he taught me French. However, I was not aware that he was homosexual. There were probably a few more, who kept it sufficiently quiet that no- one realised they were.

    • In my experience, the only thing that stops schoolteachers abusing pupils is for them to be afraid of the possible consequences. Paedophiles in particular have to choose victims whom they can intimidate into silence. Philip Cooper was one of my house masters (the other was John “Narky Jac” Reynolds). He, at least, saw that I was too dangerous to pick on.

      On one occasion Reynolds asked my father to come to the school to discuss my “problematic behaviour”. (this was undoubtedly at Pedley’s behest). I vividly recall my father telling my mother after that meeting that Reynolds had said, “the trouble is that he is head-and-shoulders intellectually over the rest of the school and the prefects can’t handle him.” Shortly thereafter Pedley issued an instruction to all prefects that I was off limits for them. Instead of exercising their disciplinary “prerogatives”, they were told to report any matter of concern to Cooper and Reynolds. Since Cooper was running scared of me, it fell to Reynolds to deal with whatever came up.

      A few weeks later. I was walking along the first floor corridor and came across Reynolds shaking a prep-school pupil and shouting into his face. I turned to Reynolds and shouted at him, “Do you never pick on anyone your own size?” He left off with the other pupil and turned on me. By then I was at the top of the stairs from the ground to the first floor. I had my back to the flight of stairs as Reynolds bellowed at me and raised his hand as if to hit me. Little did he know that cell members had envisaged this sort of confrontation as a way of getting rid of him.

      I was quite prepared to take the back of his hand round my face to get the opportunity to fall down the stairs, feign concussion, get taken to Lewisham hospital, have my family complain to the police and get Reynolds fired. As Reynolds raised his hand, I looked him straight in the eye and said, “Go on, then” That’s your answer to everything, isn’t it.” I was expecting him to hit me but he didn’t. If, as briefly passed through my mind, I had just stuck my tongue out at him, he probably would have knocked me down the stairs. Ever since, I have regarded myself as having blown the best opportunity to get rid of him.

      A couple of days after that, I was taken aside by Tim Pratt, one of my maths teachers, and given a mild talking-to about challenging Reynolds. I told Tim that Reynolds was always behaving like that and it should stop. He said that it was not my place to do anything about it. I replied that somebody needed to do something about it and I didn’t see any action coming from the staff. Tim didn’t press the point. He simply said, “I’ll say this for you. You’ve got some guts.” I replied that I would never again attend house meetings but would spend the time studying in the Library. No further action was taken against me.

      After that pseudo-bollocking by Tim, the only masters to whom I would speak were him, Alan Sherlock, Tom Downing and Martin Preston. They all treated me with respect and there was never any trouble between me and any of them.

      It probably went in my favour that by then, I had started seeing a psychiatrist and made this know in a Divinity period when we were discussing the subject of mental illness. In all probability, Pedley was by then running scared of coming down to heavily on me in too overt a way. Unfortunately for Pedley, he was a little careless in what he said. After I told a certain sub-prefect where he could go, he retorted with, “Make the most of it. You might not be around much longer.” That could mean only one thing. Pedley was planning to expel me on trumped-up politically-biased grounds.

      At the time my late mother worked for the Greater London Council, (GLC), whose offices in County Hall were shared with the Inner London Education Authority (ILEA). She had a friend in the ILEA post room whom she asked to watch out for letters about me from Pedley. HIs mendacious missives were intercepted before they received and ILEA post-room time-stamp. Thus, we had very early knowledge of what Pedley was up to. He was blocked in his efforts by the intervention of Frederick Elwyn-Jones, as I have stated in an earlier posting.

      As I have earlier also said, cell members were able to get into Pedley’s office. In fact, even before Pedley’s writing to ILEA, we had stolen a small supply of his SDC Headmaster’s headed notepaper. This was to enable us to attempt to discredit him. We had specimens of his prose from our reading of his contributions to the Black Papers on Education. His style was easy to imitate. (By then, I could imitate an author’s style in English, French, and German.) The idea was to write a letter to ILEA, ostensibly from Pedley, making utterly false and politically biased allegations about me and others. When he denied it, we would produce a forged “original” copy and release it to the press. True, this would risk blowing a big secret, namely that we could get into his office, but in extremis, it would be worth it. I was only a few months from my last term in the sixth form and it would block any attempt he might make to expel me before my A-levels.

      A second foray into Pedley’s office turned up no originals of his letters to ILEA. We concluded that he probably kept it and other evidence of his authoritarianism in his house. Had he kept his mouth shut in front of prefects, my family would, at a critical juncture, have lost several weeks in parrying Pedley’s actions. There is no doubt that Pedley would have promulgated all sorts of lies about me in revenge for the Speech Day Demonstration. He was, however, utterly out-manoeuvred by my family’s political connections and my own exploitation of his weaknesses.

  13. Last Wednesday was my 65th birthday, a date on which I have lifted a self-imposed embargo on disclosing certain details of the SDC communist cell. I am now preparing a further account that is more chronological, and puts in more detail – in particular names of various masters who either helped us or turned a blind eye. Now that I myself have reached state retirement age, nothing that I say now can affect the careers of the masters whose names I disclose. I’m writing it offline and will post it when it is finished.

    • so looking forward to your post. if you have not already seen the award winning julian mitchell film “another country” i hope you will watch it now. i will send it to you from amazon uk, if you would like.

      • I’m taking my time about writing it. Some people outside SDC who are still vulnerable passed on information to me that allowed me, some time after I left, to piece together what I believe to be a balanced account of what the SDC cell managed to achieve. Also, since some of the things we did were just plain illegal, I am having to use a first person convention that if I say “I” did something, the it was down to me alone. If I say “we” did something, then it was unspecified cell members among whom I may or may not have figured. I would also like readers here to understand that I have assumed that any persons I know to have been abused will rightfully expect me not to identify them. It is, after all, up to them to choose whether or not they wish to described their experiences.

        Some of the things that I will describe, I have discussed elsewhere before, but not in the specific detail that I now propose to give. I’m still having to say some things in quite circumscribed terms, so I am not hurrying to complete the account, partly because it gives details of what I reckon as instances of nine different criminal offences (in respect of which today’s SDC remains free to pursue a complaint with the Metropolitan Police – though I doubt whether they will do so because of lingering sensitivities).

        I ought further to clarify that in addition to anonymised accounts of abuse to individuals, I have also hitherto held back on detail because of the risk it might have of rebounding on masters whom I greatly respected and who, after I left, would have been placed in an awkward position if certain things were made known.

  14. Changing the subject, does anyone remember Colin Matten, who taught Divinity? Despite the prospectus stating that all religious instruction would be taught in line with the principles of the Church of England, Colin taught a form of Hinduism. At the time, I did not understand where his beliefs came from, but I now understand that he belonged to a cult, called the School of Economic Science, which taught a mix of Advaita Vedanta, which is a form of Hinduism, and the teachings of two mystics named George Gurdjieff & P.D.Ouspensky. The most important part, of this cult philosophy, though, is total unquestioning obedience to one’s so- called ”betters”, and, in so doing, giving up one’s individuality and free thought, to become part of the hive mind.

    I am not a Christian, I am a Spiritualist (yes, that is the church with the mediums), and I agree with some of what Advaita Vedanta believes: namely that, by practising meditation, one can expand one’s consciousness. That is how mediums are able to see people who have died; we believe that, while the body dies, the spirit passes to another dimension, and Advaita Vedanta believes this too. However, it is not necessary to become subservient to others, or to give up one’s individuality and free thought, to expand one’s consciousness. I do know that much.

    • I remember Colin Matten. Didin’t have much to do with him but he always seemed like a decent guy. As regards Christian teaching, Martin Preston was pleasingly non-dogmatic, I thought.

      In the end, via being a Quaker for many years, I’ve ended up as a Buddhist. Too much LBGT-hostility in the monotheistic religions, I’ve found.

      • Colin Matten was a perfectly decent guy. My point is that I do not understand how, when the school prospectus stated that all religious instruction would be taught in line with the principles of the Church of England, was he allowed to teach his pseudo- Hinduism. Clearly, there was very little control over the staff.

  15. Well, some recent postings have been a surprise to me. I had expected Philip Cooper to be fingered (no joke intended) by some of his victims. Maybe those posting here about arse-bandits were at SDC after Cooper died late October 1971.

    I must confess that I am having great difficulty writing a single coherent account of the SDC cell, so I’ve decided to deal with it instalment-wise here, where I shall now flesh out the details of things to which I have previously alluded.

    First, the matter of Philip Cooper:

    To me, Cooper always looked creepy. I never liked him. I’ve told in earlier postings how I had to get a confiscated item back from Cooper to save a middle-school boy a beating. I’ve also said that I consider it more likely than not that Cooper was killed by one of his victims. Here’s why I think that:

    The cell was centred in the Maths 6th where it had three members. I and another of the three were card-carrying members of the Young Communist League (YCL). The third one appeared to have a private agenda against the establishment. He became quite withdrawn as he progressed through the 6th form and I had the idea – not entirely sure how – that he was gay.

    Being able to get anywhere in the school without tripping alarms, early in the 1970/71 year, we raided the CCF quartermaster’s stores for tea, sugar and powdered milk. It was all stored under the floor of the Maths tutorial room. The first time we wanted a brew-up, I went to the Tuck Shop to borrow a teapot. Florrie, the Tuck Shop supervisor handed me a bright shiny one with the words, “Here, love. Take the headmaster’s teapot – the rude old pig!”

    (This was not the first time that I had noticed dislike for Pedley among school staff. Late in my 5th-form year, I was in a Chemistry lesson given by Keith Ellis (great guy – much respected). At one point, Alan Hall, the second master came in and had a few words in Keith’s ear. I overheard the reply. “No. You can tell the headmaster I’m not doing that.” I realised then that Pedley was using Alan Hall as his errand-boy for conversations with other masters that he didn’t want to conduct himself. At this point, I began to realise that Pedley was not much respected by the teaching staff.)

    … anyway, back to the teapot …

    As I carried the teapot back to our tutorial room, I noticed under a napkin on the tray was Pedley’s Sweetex dispenser. While we were drinking our tea, I picked it up and showed it to the other two cell members and said, “If we put some white lead in this, we could poison the bastard.” The quiet boy who I thought was gay (hereafter I’ll call him Douglas) immediately replied, “No. Not lead. Just put some bits of a Death Cap in it.” We all laughed and the incident passed by without further comment.

    About a week later, in the locker where we kept tools borrowed from the school handyman, I noticed a Sweetex dispenser of the same size as Pedleys. The next time I looked into the locker – just a few hours later – it was gone. I didn’t put it there and neither did my fellow YCL friend. That left only one other person who had a key – Douglas.

    Now, on my foray into the Music room to retrieve the confiscated pencil case, I noticed that Cooper also used Sweetex and had a dispenser the same size as Pedley’s. I thought nothing of it until I heard that Cooper had died after a short illness in late October 1971 – just after the start of the Michaelmas Term after the cell members had left. As it came to me, the cause of the illness was acute liver failure – precisely the kind of symptom that arises from poisoning by amanitin – the mycotoxin in the Death Cap.

    After I had recovered from the breakdown that put me in Bexley Hospital for a year, I began to reflect on the factors in my situation at SDC that had contributed to it. In the course of these reflections, I recalled Cooper’s sudden death and remembered also the time when Douglas quipped about putting Death Cap particles into Pedley’s Sweetex.

    At once I saw a possible explanation for Cooper’s demise. If Douglas had put a few dozen dried fragments of Death Cap into a Sweetex dispenser and then swapped it for Cooper’s, it would have given Cooper a series of small doses of amanitin that could well have initiated liver failure. Of course, it could not be guaranteed to be fatal, but there was a very high probability that it would make Cooper pretty ill. Then my reasoning went as follows:

    Cooper avoided abusing me because he knew I would stand up to Pedley and he couldn’t be at all sure that he could cow me into silence. Douglas, on the other hand, was a different matter. He played a musical instrument and therefore would have come into regular contact with Cooper. Also, as I have said, Douglas appeared to become markedly withdrawn as he passed through the 6th form. Something that would account for that would be if he were having trouble coming to terms with being gay and this was being exploited by Cooper to abuse him sexually. Homosexual paedophiles are very good at picking up on gay boys who are struggling with their sexuality. Douglas would have been an excellent target.

    When Friends Reunited started up, I sent Douglas a message asking if he would get in touch regarding Philip Cooper. He never replied and I left it at that. Nevertheless, despite the highly circumstantial nature of the evidence, and after much pondering on my part, I sincerely believe that Douglas poisoned Cooper.

    I have described these circumstances to a police officer. Without hard forensic evidence, there is no possibility either to prove or to disprove my belief. Several times I have considered getting a copy of Cooper’s Death Certificate but have decided against it because of the situation it might create. Therefore, given that Cooper was a predatory, sado-masochistic, homosexual paedophile, I am content to take the position that if Douglas did finish him off, then he made SDC at least a little safer for those who followed.

    I have some hopes that perhaps some SDC people from the Pedley era are reading this, and if they were abused by Cooper, perhaps might feel encouraged to unburden themselves here.

  16. I too attended St Dunstan’s from ’77 to ’86 and read the comments posted here with interest. I have very mixed feelings about my overall experience.

    On the one hand, there were several gifted and talented teachers. Simon Thorogood, Tim Pratt, Martin Banks and John Gaskell spring to mind and I am sure there are others. The school had a wonderful range of extracurricular activities such as the CCF, music, drama and sports. Overall I left the school with a range of analytic, writing and leadership skills that have served me well in my career.

    Some of the teachers were certainly gay, Martin Preston being the only one to be openly so to my knowledge. However, the majority of these gay teachers were not pedophiles, an important distinction. I was invited over to Ken Douie’s and Mike Buske’s houses on a couple of occasions and there was never any hint of impropriety.

    On the other hand, there was certainly a dark side to the school. At the mild end, Colin Matten was a religious zealot who really should have kept some of his views to himself. Jack Reynolds had what today would likely be described as “anger management issues” and almost certainly needed psychiatric help. Though it was more of a cultural norm, many of the teachers would make racist jokes at students’ expense to a level which is embarrassing to recall.

    Worse yet was the toleration of sadistic and pedophilic activity from some of the teachers. I observed disgusting behavior from Peter Baldwin (watching boys in the dressing room etc.), and later heard that he was jailed for sexual crimes against children, though I have not been able to verify this. Simon Benedictus was a member of the notorious PIE (pedophile information exchange), though he was immediately dismissed when this was discovered.

    Worst of all was Ken Knight. I had the misfortune to be in his class and watched daily ritualized corporal punishment that he clearly relished. He later was jailed for pedophilia. John Gaskell was head of the prep school at that time. Though it is unlikely they knew of Knight’s pedophilia, I find hard to believe he and other teachers were not aware of the level to which Knight was beating the children under his care, which clearly surpassed any reasonable use of corporal punishment, even by the standards of the day. The fact they let allowed this behavior continue unabated sullies the reputation of the school.

    All in all, I would not send a son to a single sex private school. Proponents may point towards the high academic standards but the all-male approach leads to a highly competitive environment that generates bullying, discrimination and worse that can lead to a pupil having a difficult transition into 21st century society. A well-funded, coeducational state school system is surely the way forward.

    • Simon Thorogood was I prefect while I was at SDC (1964-71). TIm Pratt took me for applied maths. he and Alan Sherlock were top-notch maths teachers.

      You’re right about John “Narky Jac” Reynolds and I re-iterate my apologies for screwing up a plan to get rid of him (see my earlier posts).

    • I started in 1977 also so you were probably in Ken Knight’s class at the same time as me. He was a total weirdo and vile sadist. Pleased he killed himself.

      • Sebastian Dangerfield, how did you hear that ken Knight killed himself? if it is true, then I say ‘Good riddance to bad rubbish!’

        • I heard that after leaving he got involved in private tuition and got caught again but this time went to prison and committed suicide whilst there

          • Ken Knight was jailed in 1986, so it was probably some time ago that he died. Might I ask where you heard about his suicide? I would like to research it further.

  17. Hi Mike,
    After leaving I went to OD’s Rugby most weekends and it was common knowledge there

    • Hello, Sebastian. I do indeed remember you- I think you were a year above me. If you don’t mind, I would prefer not to give my real name. Did you also leave in 1987? If so, that would fit the time frame.

  18. Ken Knight was jailed in 1986, so he probably killed himself shortly afterwards. I hope the Devil is buggering him, every night, with his red- hot todger!

    • Haha…hope so too. Never touched me but I knew he was evil.
      Would be interesting to know full details.

  19. I attended St. Dunstan’s in the 1970s and can confirm that Knight was indeed an extremely nasty piece of work. He tried classic early-stage grooming on me but gave up when I told my mum that something wasn’t right and she told him to back off. There was nothing overtly sexual; more it was a gradual, insidious, day by day belittlement, both intellectually and emotionally (sadistically underpinned by him calling me by my Christian name) and it continued to one degree or another throughout my time at the school. I witnessed him break a metre rule on a child’s hand (not Turner) because, I believe, after repeated hits, the boy refused to cry out. Another favourite was the flying blackboard rubber, launched across the room at those suspected of not paying attention. Anyone ever experience the ‘kneel on the desk, head in the wastepaper basket, recite your favourite nursery rhyme’ punishment?

    Knight allegedly started counselling a boy after the boy started using soft drugs. Roughly a year later, that boy was dead from an overdose. Whilst this could be coincidence, given what we now know about Knight, it might not be.

    I heard that he hanged himself in prison. I have been unable to confirm this and no amount of internet searching brings up anything about him outside of this forum. That said, I used to occasionally bump into the art teacher, Johnny Russell (one of the few great teachers at the school) and the last time I did so, I quizzed him about Knight. Never a tall man, Johnny visibly shrank and just staggered away muttering ‘..terrible, terrible..’.

    I was doing rather well in Prep. 1, but by the end of Prep. 3 I had lost all academic confidence. There is no doubt that a solid year of Knight was very damaging.

    Baldwin always had his favourites; small, skinny and fine-featured and yes, his overt tactility was, by any measure, inappropriate.

    For those that forgot their swimming trunks, it was swimming in the nude and more than once, P.E. too.

    Fletcher (Prep. 1) also left under a mysterious cloud, although I heard rumours about pornographic magazines. He used to sit me on his lap.

    R.O.D. Hughes beat me around the head with a closed fist.

    Once, as punishment for drawing naked women (as I remember, mine was actually rather good!), Ridley made me another boy and write an essay on sex and specifically told us we could make it as graphic as we liked. We were then required to seal them up in an envelope, sign across the seal, leave them with him and return a week later. I thought this all rather odd even back then and his subsequent dramatic burning of them, ‘unopened’, in a wastepaper bin did nothing to assuage my suspicion that he had read them in the interim.

    I tend to look more charitably on Clarembeaux, who was once extremely decent to me after I told him to fuck off in class. Douie I found to be extremely affable, although our paths rarely crossed.

    • You can be pretty sure that what was burned was not your essays. He would have kept those for the purposes of blackmail.

    • R.O.D “Rod” Hughes was one of the cell’s lesser targets after Pedley, Cooper, and Reynolds. I once drove him into a rage at the 6th Form Forum by needling him about the unspoken inferences he clearly left others to draw from what he said. He went ballistic and I was sent out of the Forum Meeting immediately – but there was no other comeback. By then the school establishment was running out of credibility when it punished me for what I had said rather than something I had done.

      Hughes was a pompous c*nt but he was not in the nasty league that Pedley, Cooper and Reynolds were.

  20. Several masters used the flying blackboard rubber, but most threw it at the desk, rather than at the boy. If Ken Knight actually aimed it to hit boys, that was seriously out of order. I remember both Ken Knight and Peter Baldwin coming into the changing rooms, with us, both before and after games/swimming.

    Personally, I never had a problem with any of the others, but the fact that there were so many homosexuals, in St. Dunstan’s, made me very uncomfortable.I don’t remember a Mr. Fletcher; he must have been before my time. Some teachers I did like: Dai Bevan, Tom Downing, Myles Ripley, Johnny Russell, Reg Harvey, Nick Townsend & R.O.D. Hughes all count among them. I also got on with Barry Mead, Ken Douie, Frank Stanton & Richard Clarembeaux, but was nervous of them once I realised what they were.

    Ultimately, it appears that either Brian Dance had very little control over what his staff did, or, he was, himself, a closet homosexual, and surrounded himself with fellow homosexuals.

    • Our 2b French teacher, Clare-Hunt (don’t mention his nickname), was another one who liked to throw the wood board cleaner – He once hit Jason Child square on the head and from quite some distance – When Jason burst into tears in obvious distress, I sensed vulnerability in the bully and he seemed genuinely worried. He got away with it… He gave me a right dressing down after I failed to let him go before through changing room doorway- I was a prefect in the 6th form and it was a total power play on his part – Glad to see that his past has caught up with him… Just read some of the news articles about his subsequent fall from grace.

    • Yes, Fletcher was the form teacher for Prep. 1 when I joined in 1973. I don’t remember exactly when he ‘left’, but I don’t think he was around when I was in Prep. 3.

      Incidentally, re. Jack Reynolds, my understanding was that he lost his family in a car crash and that all his issues stemmed from that.

  21. … Incidentally, another suicide from that period was Barry Mead who was found in Ruskin Park. Does anyone know about that?

    • I believe that Barry Mead was diagnosed with terminal cancer, in the mid- 1990s, and killed himself rather than waiting for the cancer to kill him.

  22. The Eagle Day Plan

    The SDC cell acquired keys to everywhere in the school quite early in its existence. Among them were keys to the CCF Armoury and Quartermaster’s Store. I shall have to be somewhat reticent on how we acquired these keys. Suffice it to say that some were stolen, some coped from stolen specimens that were then put back whence they were taken, and some were filed down from blank strips of mild steel from vernier measurements on actual keys. One of our members was particularly good at copying keys that way. We also knew how to disable, selectively, any given part of the school’s alarm system.

    This led to consideration of a pretty radical plan to make Pedley look incompetent. The idea was to decommission in situ all of the 100+ Lee-Enfield 303s, 4 Stirling submachine guns and 2 bren guns in the Armoury. (Quite WTF a school CCF needed with enough weapons to start a small rebellion escaped me then and still does today.)

    Shortly after we became able to get into the Armoury, we stole detailed engineering drawings of each of the different types of weapons it held. This led us to realise that all of them could be rendered useless in situ in the Armoury without our having to remove them. The plan was really very simple. We would make long plastic tubes by joining together plastic drinking straws and fill the tubes with thermite, a mixture in stoichiometric proportions of aluminium and ferric oxide This has a high ignition temperature but when it ignites, there is a highly exothermic chemical reaction in which the ferric oxide i reduced to iron and the aluminium burns to become aluminium oxide. The temperature of reaction is well over the melting point of steel If, therefore, a plastic tube full of thermite was slipped into the barrel of a gun and ignited, it would burn down the bore melting the rifling and thus rendering the weapon unusable.

    A cell member who was studying chemistry confirmed to us that the high ignition temperature could be achieved by using fuses made of magnesium ribbon, which burns sufficiently hot to ignite thermite. Some trial thermite incendiary tubes were tested and worked quite well. This led us to consider how we could carry out the decommissioning. The plan was thereafter called “Eagle Day” after the WW2 Luftwaffe plan to destroy RAF Fighter Command on the ground. We planned to decommission all the CCF guns while they were still padlocked into their racks in the Armoury.

    Enter at this point the cells mathematical expertise. The mathematicians in the cell had all taken Maths O-level a year early. That meant that in the 5th form we spent a year getting exposed to a wide range of interesting topics before starting our A-level courses. We were taught these topics from American university maths books (such was the high-powered nature of the SDC maths course).
    Among the topics we studied was game theory and we used it to assess lkely reactions to Eagle Day if we carried it out. We reasoned that a raid on an Armoury that destroyed rather than stole weapons would be an exceptionally unusual crime. Moreover, it would be investigated not only by the ordinary police but also Special Branch and possibly MI5 (who were quite right to be concerned about us 🙂 Though our security arrangements fooled the school staff, they would certainly not fool professional spy-catchers.

    We reasoned as follows: The spooks would ask themselves who gained by the raid. To this there would be no obvious answer. Then they would have asked themselves who lost by the raid. The obvious answer would be Pedley, who would have been exposed as lax on security. Then they would have asked who wanted Pedley to be exposed. The answer t that question would have been the cell members – and they would have been onto us in a matter of hours, if not minutes. Moreover, this would be the inevitable result even if we had broken into the Armoury instead of using keys, in an effort to make it look an outside job. We concluded that the leats dangerous way to do Eagle Day would be in the winter of 1971, a few month after we had all left SDC. The logic of this really p!ssed me off as I would have loved to do ED if we coould have got away with it. Yet the game theory analysis was sound and we called ED off.

    There was, however, a way of finessing the MOD and MI5 into removing the guns themselves, which some of us thought was worthwhile to try and pull off. What we did was to leak to a suspected informer in the Schools Action Union that we were able to get into the Armoury. This was done shortly before the 1970 Speech Day demo. Lo and behold, the MOD pitched up in the 1970 summer holiday and removed the guns for safer keeping. AFAI am aware, MI5 never knew anything about the ED plan and we had succeeded in getting the gund taken away without any serious risk to ourselves.

    As a result of subsequent disclosures of public records, I am reasonably confident the the suspected informant not only alerted MI5 but is actually still working for them as an informant in a position he has held for decades. The spy in me appreciates a professional operation when she sees one!

  23. What Pedley never knew.

    Throughout my time at SDC, over 90% of the punishments meted out to me were for things I had said. Pedley clearly thought that punishing me for it would ultimately deter me from repetition. Not only was he wrong but he had not the remotest idea of how wrong he was.

    My mother’s family is Welsh and my late grandfather worked for the Labour Party. He was the constituency agent in Llanelli when it returned its first Labour MP. Thereafter my grandfather was blackballed by Llanelli employers and moved to London to work for the party full-time.

    My mother and grandmother often told me stories of how the English establishment had tried to eradicate the use of the Welsh language. It had engendered in Welsh working-class people an implacable opposition to being told what they could and could not say, whether it was in Welsh or not.

    I went to SDC with this idea firmly in my head and would allow no “Sais”, as we call you Saxons, to circumscribe what I could say. Pedley never knew this and hence never realised that the more I was punished for what I said, the more I would speak my mind freely – and all the while, the f*ckwit thought he could intimidate me? !

    He had only himself to blame for getting his arse comprehensively kicked.

  24. Resourcing the cell

    The cost of running the cell’s activities was small but not zero. We needed ways to acquire the necessary resources. Mostly these were “borrowed” from various parts of the school but we also needed small amounts of cash for things that could not be obtained in that way. We got the case by stealing and re-selling school stationery.

    Early in 1971, we opened a trapdoor to the floor void in the maths tutorial room. There was a finger hole to life the trapdoor and it was not in any way locked. We decided that the floor void was very useful and that we should fit a lock to the trapdoor as a minor security measure. To do that we stole a screw-operated window-opener mechanism and cut it down so that it could be used as a deadbolt. The mechanism was then fixed to the underside of the trapdoor and a bolt bracket fixed to the floor joist next to the bolt mechanism. The mechanism was operated by a square key and the bolt was positioned so that the female receiver for the square key was directly under the finger-hole in the trapdoor. We could then lock the trapdoor simply by turning a square key in the key mechanism. This remained undetected by the authorities until they needed access to the floor void top install a computer a few years after the cell members had left.

    We then needed quick access to the floor void for stolen items. To do this, I crawled along the void until I was under the set of wooden lockers that we each had. Below the floor of an unused locker I cut a 10-inch square hole in the floorboards. I then cut a similar hole in the floor of the locker that was just above the floorboard hole. We also fitted a non-standard lock to the locker door so that it could not be immediately opened by masters who had standard drawer/cupboard keys. Again, this was never detected until the computer was installed.

    We learned that there was a small market in binders and refill-pads. On one occasion there was a substantial delivery of stationery that was left on a canvas sheet in the space at the foot of the west staircase. Then delivery driver left it there then went into the office to get the delivery signed for. While he was in the office, we dragged the whole delivery into the maths room on the canvas, opened the locker and dropped every item in the delivery into the floor void. There was never any investigation into the disappearance of the stuff.

    Then we made it known that we would sell a quarto binder and Oxford Pad refill for 2/6d to anyone who wanted one. The trade was sufficient to give us a few quid to but tools that we couldn’t purloin from the school handyman. We also diverted some of the stationery to the Schools Action Union for their use.


    I know that some details of this became know to the school authorities in the mid 2000s. Indeed, I first started letting out od snippets about the cell in the late 1990s on Friends Reunited – whence they were removed, without explanation. As far as I could discover, there had been some form of objection from a party or parties associated with SDC – possibly because of my descriptions of Philip Cooper’s sado-masochistic paedophilia.

    Today, therefore, I am really enjoying giving an account of some of the things that we did that were just plain criminal. Nobody at SDC is going to pursue any complaint against me because even almost 40 years later, there are still sensitivities at SDC over what the cell did. Maybe this is due entirely to the stuff about Cooper and a wish not to get embroiled in historical sexual abuse matters. Nevertheless, AFAI have been able to discover, the existence and operation of so effective a subversive group during Pedley’s time is still something that today’s SDC would [refer to forget about.

  25. BTW: Apols for the wayward spelling in my postings. My eyesight is not what it was, I am a poor trypist, and an even worse poofreader. 🙂

      • Although my late mother was completely screwed up as regards her attitudes to heterosexual relationships, she was always quite relaxed about gay ones. (Though I never had any cause to think her a closet lesbian.) The result was that I was never much concerned about people’s sexuality and that probably meant that my “gaydar” never got switched on very much 🙂

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