MGS & War

The Boer War and the Combined Cadet Force (CCF)

The Boer War lasted from 11th October 1899-31st May 1902, fought between the British Empire and Dutch speaking Afrikaans.  29 former students of Maidstone Grammar School died in this conflict.  The Boer War, and its initial set-backs, were a major reason for the introduction of a national Cadet Force to train the future officers of the British Army.  Maidstone Grammar School’s CCF started in July 1906; experiencing their first summer camp in 1907.  

There was only one commanding officer who went on that summer camp and that was Capt CG Duffield, the Headmaster of the school at the time.  33 students went to Worthing in Sussex out of 59 students that were in the CCF from the start.  In 1948 the CCF divided into three different parts: Navy, Army and the RAF.  However it hasn’t always been known as the CCF, from 1906-1908 it was known as the Cadet Corps;  then from 1908-1940 it was known as Officers Training Corps, from 1941-1948 it was called the Junior Training Corps and Air Training Corps; finally from 1948 to the present day ithas been referred to as the Combined Cadet Force(CCF.)

                                                                                                The Boer War memorial windows in the Big Hall

World War I (Great War 1914-1918)

How did the War change education in Maidstone and in MGS?

WWI History booklet (Compiled as a project for the 2014 ELW)

In the Big Hall 43 names of Old Maidstonians who died during the Great War are engraved on 2 panels.  Considering the school had an intake on average of about 15-20 students per year, this is the equivalent of about 3 cohorts, but remember that over ¾m of the 5m British soldiers put into service died.

Wooden Panels in the Big Hall

A Quote from 'Maidstone Grammar School 1549-1949, a Record':

‘By the time of the First World War, there were about 139 students at the Tonbridge Road site. During WWI, the school, like all others, played its part and those who can remember those fateful years can remember too, the many old Maidstonians whose company to-day we should have been so happy to enjoy’.

To pay our respects to all the soldiers who died during the Great War, MGS regularly organise trips to take students to visit Tyne Cot Memorial, the Menin Gate and the Flanders Fields museum in Ypres.  

Former MGS student 2nd Lieutenant S.A. Meyers’ name is engraved into one of the memorial stones at Tyne Cot Cemetery. When the school visit MGS staff and students lay a wreath underneath his name. We also pay tribute to Old Maidstonian Sapper H.R Mount who is one of the 50,000 names on the Menin Gate Memorial in Ypres.

Unfortunately, a member of the school staff, G. Ormrod, was killed in battle. There is a commemorative plaque in the MGS Staff Room in memory of him. 

“Sic Itur Ad Astra” translates as “Thus one goes to the stars”.

World War II (1939-1945)

Maidstone Grammar School was presiding at Barton Road when World War 2 broke out, in 1939. War had several implications for both students and staff, the most prominent being the ones described in the December 1939 wartime issue of the Maidstonian. It describes the trenches on the field and how it was disfiguring the school. While Maidstone was not suspected to be a high profile target it could come under attack and so the main points where fortified. As well as trenches, tank traps were built, where massive pits were dug and concrete spikes known as dragon teeth were placed in the pits, to trap tanks. One of these was discovered when putting in the foundations, for the 1981 building work, where the current technology rooms are.

A common practise as described by an Old Maidstonian, was that in the wartime, before playing any sorts of field games, the field had to be scanned, this meant that the boys would have to line up in a row and check the field for bullet casings that cascaded down during the Battle of Britain roaring above them. With the threat of air attack, air shelters were regularly used and are still under the court and field. The entrance is along the back entrance to the school and is very overgrown and no longer accessible.

With the new invention of aviation warfare, the obvious threat was from the sky. During the course of the war, about 240 bombs were dropped on Maidstone, killing 53 people (over 60,000 civilians killed nationwide). The nearest bombs to our school fell on the 13th September 1940 where bombs struck the Foster Clark Estate, Greenside, Birch Tree Way and South Park Road.

In December 1939, MGS found themselves sharing the site with the senior members of Alleyn’s School, Dulwich, who moved from London for safety reasons. As well as this the war suspended the use of the classic MGS house system, as “it was found the school house had very few seniors”. From then on the school was described by its students as having a “ghostly appearance”. The daily visits to the air raid shelter, the trenches and tank traps in the field along with the ever obvious military presence made the school a rather dismal place to the few students that were attending at the time. As well as this a student described how the windows had to be taped over with adhesive, to stop the glass flying if the school was attacked from the air, which in turn cast a eerie glow over the classrooms.

While Maidstone was not a high priority target, there was a major fear of German invasion and the army even went as far to install a machine gun post into the room we now know as the IT room 7, as it had ample view over both sides of the field like so.

A main achievement of MGS, was the farm and growing skills displayed to help the war time rationing effort. Rationing was introduced straight after the war was announced and Maidstone Grammar School helped ‘Dig for Victory’ and in 1940 managed to successfully grow a staggering 2 tonnes of potatoes, one and quarter tons of carrots and a quarter tonne of onions.

Also in August and September during WW2 many MGS students helped bring in the grain harvest and hops on farms as far away as Marden.