Thursday, June 17, 2010

Huge relief...

St John's

Things have been very tense over the last ten days at the Villa Hedlius as my son, Guy, has been doing his common entrance exams and we have been waiting to hear about his result. We have been helping him with his revision for the last month and so I have had very little time for painting. Him passing these exams was by no means a foregone conclusion, as he is quite dyslexic (my daughter sensitively calls him "Yug"). He needed to get 55% in his core subjects of English, Maths and Science and an average of 55% in the others. We got the results today and despite failing French he managed to get enough on the others (including an A for physics: shock!) to get his place at St John's, Leatherhead.

Where I used to work

St John's alumni include the architect Richard Rogers (who kindly got his studio to make a scale model of the Lloyd's building, where I met my wife, for our wedding cake) and Anthony Hope, the author of the Prisoner of Zenda.

Serious uniforms in Ruritania

From a military point of view the most interesting old boy is Lieutenant Geoffrey Harold Woolley, who was the first Territorial officer to win the VC. He was a member of the Queen Victoria Rifles and his unit was posted to Ypres where on his first day at the front a hand grenade was thrown into his trench. Woolley calmly picked it up and threw it out saving six or seven men.

Woolley on Hill 60

On the night of April 20th-21st 1915 the Germans launched an attack on the trench held by the QVR. Soon all his superiors had been killed leaving him in command of the forces on Hill 60. He was ordered to withdraw but refused, saying he would only pull back if properly relieved. Waves of German troops attacked the position but Woolley stood on the trench parapet in full view of the enemy throwing bombs at them and encouraging his men to hold on. When eventually they were relieved their unit had been reduced from 150 to 20 men. Woolley was promote to captain two days later. He survived the war, served in North Africa during WW2 as a chaplain and died in 1968. His brother, who also went to St John's, was the famous archaeologist Sir Leonard Woolley who excavated the Sumerian city of Ur.

Leonard Woolley (right) with TE Lawrence in Carchemish where they were excavating between 1911 and 1914

Now of course, I have all the expense of getting Guy's uniform and sports stuff so that will cut my wargaming purchases a bit this summer !


  1. Excellent news! Well done Guy (and Dad for his coaching)!

    Best wishes


  2. Congrats on Guy's placement - as a parent, I know it can be very trying to see your son struggle but it's always worth the stress to see them overcome an obstacle.

    My son is just finishing his first year of High School and then it's off to Europe for three weeks with a school group. I have a suspicion that his mother and I will be surprising him in Athens at the end of the trip.