Deprived of the opportunity to serve

The head teacher of Sonning Boys’ School was among those who felt called to join up. But his path to arms was denied when his employers refused to release him. He used the school log book to record his position for posterity:

4th December 1914

Having been accepted by the Sportsman’s Battalion (Lord Kitchener’s Army) I made application to the School Managers for leave of absence to join the Army for the period of the war. The Managers decided that they could not sanction my leaving unless I could find a substitute who would have to be approved by them and the Berkshire Education Committee. By a special favour I was granted by the Adjutant a fortnight in which to join the Battalion in training at Hornchurch. The Managers’ decision has consequently deprived me of an opportunity to serve as a soldier.

In reply to a further inquiry of mine asking whether, in the event of my leaving without giving the legal three months notice, the Managers would re-instate me if I returned, the School Correspondent, Mr Mathews wrote to the effect that my position as Head Master could not be kept open for me. He further stated that the Managers thought my patriotism could be better expressed by “remaining at my post”.

I cannot but here record my keen regret and disappointment at the Managers decision.

Another Berkshire school was affected by the war when it was briefly taken over by the army in December 1914. The log book of Gordon Road Boys’ School in Maidenhead records, on 4 December:

School used by Captain Carey (Durham Light Infantry) in the morning to pay his men, and in the afternoon to pay his billets.

Sonning Boys’ School log book (89/SCH/1/2, pp. 23-24); Maidenhead Gordon Road Boys School log book (C/El/107/1, p. 80)

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