What Keith Douglas got up to at CH

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alterblau
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What Keith Douglas got up to at CH

Post by alterblau » Wed Nov 25, 2015 7:34 am

Keith Douglas (1920-44), OB and poet is considered by many to be the best war poet of World War 2. He was a most unusual character, a highly talented poet (certainly thought so by TS Eliot and Edmund Blunden, amongst many others), horseman, rebel, sportsman (especially rugby), a gifted, skilled artist and modelmaker. In stark contrast to his rebelliousness he was a most enthusiastic member of the Corps (OTC in his days). His most striking escapade at Housey is recounted below. This is taken from a biography (details at the end) which I have just finished reading. If you are not interested in his poetry, about half of the book can be omitted without any difficulty. It’s a great read, not only because he caused havoc at Housey. Most of his school masters mentioned in the book had returned to teach in the 40s and 50s, so I knew them. (All the more interesting for me.) He fought throughout the whole North African campaign as a tank commander and was wounded. Four days after the Normandy Landing he was killed at the age of 24, by a mortar fragment, while reconnoitring on foot.
“At the end of the term Douglas asked permission from the major in charge of the Corps to take home an old and useless rifle from the armoury, to clean and restore it and return it in January. Permission was refused. Whereupon Douglas broke into the armoury, removed the weapon, and took it home. Unknown to Douglas the War Office made a check every four years on the school armoury. A few days after the vacation began, Mrs Douglas found two policemen at her front door, inquiring about the theft of a weapon. Douglas appeared, and showed them to his room where the rifle was laid out on his table, each part newly cleaned and oiled. He was summoned back to school, interviewed by his housemaster and then by the War Office major and the headmaster.”
Although this incident followed several other less serious problems, Douglas escaped expulsion by the skin of his teeth, and at the age of 16 was transferred to another house and housemaster. (He had a very poor relationship with his former housemaster.) However the move proved successful and the remainder of his school career was relatively incident-free.

Keith Douglas 1920-1944, by Desmond Graham, (OUP, London, 1974, 295pp)
Last edited by alterblau on Thu Nov 26, 2015 10:26 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: What Keith Douglas got up to at CH

Post by brian walling » Wed Nov 25, 2015 8:46 am

I'm not familiar with his poetry at all, but if he's as good as suggested it's a pity that he has not been recognised more at CH. I can connect with much of what is aired in the post and I had a fairly literary time at CH (1953-60), not long after the 2nd WW, but there was definitely no mention of Keith Douglas during my time (Malins, Cherniavsky, Spurrier, Jesson-Dibley etc). Maybe his non-conformism pulled his memory down. I'm going to try to read the book.
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alterblau
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Re: What Keith Douglas got up to at CH

Post by alterblau » Wed Nov 25, 2015 9:53 am

Although I was at CH before Brian Walling, I also heard no mention of KD at Housey. The masters mentioned in the biography include, Hon DS Roberts, Messrs AH Buck, ACW Edwards, HLO Flecker, DS Macnutt, EG Malins and GW Newberry, all of whom I knew somewhat and most of whom were still there after 1953. Flecker, Macnutt, Malins and Roberts knew KD best. The book should be available through Amazon, etc. and your local interlibrary loans, though perhaps not in Penang.

Are there many other WW2 poets whom you think are of the highest quality? (This question is addressed to all readers.)

I hope that you get to read it and even more that you then comment in this forum on it. Good luck with your quest.
Last edited by alterblau on Fri Nov 27, 2015 4:20 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: What Keith Douglas got up to at CH

Post by J.R. » Wed Nov 25, 2015 1:38 pm

I certainly never heard the Douglas name mentioned in my time. Cherniavsky, Spurrier, Jesson-Dibley, ACW Edwards, and DS Macnutt were all still around.

I must admit Douglas sounds like my kind of guy, but then I again I didn't conform and fit in during my latter time at Horsham !! Sounds sort of familiar !
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Re: What Keith Douglas got up to at CH

Post by sejintenej » Wed Nov 25, 2015 8:23 pm

Talking about poetry, there was one master I didn't get on with (could have been Kit in the early days) who was really into rape poetry. I never understood how rape and the lock fitted together but I did understand detention
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Re: What Keith Douglas got up to at CH

Post by J.R. » Thu Nov 26, 2015 11:47 am

I suppose at this point I should admit to have NEVER being a lover of poetry.

Literature - Yes. I still try to read at least one book a week, but poetry leaves me completely cold.
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Re: What Keith Douglas got up to at CH

Post by Kit Bartlett » Thu Nov 26, 2015 12:57 pm

There are several copies of the Desmond Graham Biography available on the Amazon website together with a collection of his letters and also a volume of his poems.
Is it fair to say that C.H. has never particularly enthused about those Old Blues who never expressed much interest , affection or support for the school ? Names that come to mind in this category include Constant Lambert, Bernard Levin and Michael Wilding all of whom are or were very well
known . There are of course many others in this category.
Talking of Michael Wilding, when he married Elizabeth Taylor there was a most laconic entry in The Blue referring to his marriage to Miss. E. Taylor.
This reminds me of the reference in "The Morning Star to Princess Anne's wedding in 1973 at Westminster Abbey which mentioned that traffic congestion had occurred in London due to the wedding of Miss Anne Windsor.

alterblau
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Re: What Keith Douglas got up to at CH

Post by alterblau » Thu Nov 26, 2015 5:47 pm

I agree with Kit Bartlett but, unlike those OBs mentioned by him, KD was much more nuanced in his attitude to CH. He had a life long close friend, Norman Ilett, who was his housecaptain (and KD the second monitor). Their paths crossed in Egypt during their military service and they socialised frequently, often including locals in their escapades. Similarly they both enjoyed the company of other OBs, when they were in that region. The following quotation from the biography (p39) confirms his faceted attitude to CH.
“In 1936 in an essay (on the back of an exercise book, [so probably a personal outpouring, not a set piece of work]) he described his school as inculcator of bullying, fascism, anti-Semitism, the love of Hitler and militarism. Yet this essay also allowed a positive celebration for the school’s traditions to seep through the deliberately mannered account which had preceded his vilification.”

At least once he happily visited CH while up at Oxford, but under unusual circumstances. He came in a red sportscar, with a then current Chinese girl friend, who was a fellow student. At his request she wore traditional Chinese dress. They visited his history teacher, DS Roberts (whom he greatly respected and to whom he was particularly close), and some other masters, whom he liked. This visit caused a sensation, as you can imagine. However some masters whom he disliked greatly (eg Messrs ACW Edwards and HLO Flecker) presumably were not visited.
Last edited by alterblau on Fri Nov 27, 2015 7:36 am, edited 2 times in total.

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Adrian
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Re: What Keith Douglas got up to at CH

Post by Adrian » Thu Nov 26, 2015 6:47 pm

Clive James is a big fan of Keith Douglas. Here he is reading one of Keith's poems:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qo3SjTAUyW0
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Re: What Keith Douglas got up to at CH

Post by michael scuffil » Fri Nov 27, 2015 3:01 pm

Are there many other WW2 poets whom you think are of the highest quality?

The only WW2 poet I am really familiar with is Henry Reed (it was Peter Austin Jones who introduced me to him), and they don't come much better. I'm not aware of Keith Douglas's work, but I'd be interested to read it.

Edit: five of his poems can be found in full in 'War Poetry. An Introductory Reader' on google books.
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Re: What Keith Douglas got up to at CH

Post by postwarblue » Fri Nov 27, 2015 7:47 pm

Please, what were KD's dates and houses at CH?

All the staff names here are very familiar and indeed at one time or another they taught me (or I sat at a desk and pretended to pay attention), except for ACWE who was the librarian by my time at CH. The ones I did not appreciate were Kit (boring, unimaginative, pedantic) and Cherny who was a loopy lefty although his reminiscences of immediate post-war Berlin were interesting.

I knew nothing of KD while at CH but picked up on 'Alamein to Zem Zem' later.

I'm pretty picky on poets with a strong preference for Donne, Coleridge, Kipling, Chesterton, Belloc, Betjeman, Dylan Thomas. For WW2 poetry I would nominate John Pudney.
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Re: What Keith Douglas got up to at CH

Post by sejintenej » Fri Nov 27, 2015 10:37 pm

I am violently anti poetry and poets for the reasons given above. ECA put me off newspapers and that woman off art. Some way to encourage the young!
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Re: What Keith Douglas got up to at CH

Post by Kit Bartlett » Sat Nov 28, 2015 10:48 am

Keith Douglas was at C.H. from 1930-38. He started in Lamb A under Teddy Edwards and transferred to Middleton B in 1936. presumably after his
troubles at the Armoury.
Over the years a considerable number of boys have been "transported" to other houses for varying reasons . Not all were on disciplinary grounds.
I can think of a number who were so transferred because of the absence of a suitable replacement House Captain in a House.
It would be interesting to compile such a list although perhaps libellous in some instances.
I wonder who first used the word transported which has a certain stigma about it not unconnected with Australia.

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Re: What Keith Douglas got up to at CH

Post by alterblau » Sat Nov 28, 2015 1:49 pm

I never came across the word ‘transported’ in this sense at CH, but always ‘transferred.’

There seemed to me to be two totally different types of ‘transfer’. The first, mentioned above, was for someone usually in his last year and a Grecian, who went elsewhere to a house that had no one suitable to be house captain. The ‘transferee’ became the house captain. This was relatively common (perhaps about once every 2 years) and a sign of faith in the ‘transferee’. Because the circumstances were carefully considered, it normally worked well. The ‘transfer’ fulfilled a need and was generally accepted, though perhaps not very willingly by the most senior boys in the receiving house, one of whom presumably would otherwise have been house captain. The second sort of ‘transfer’, at a much younger age (KD’s sort of move) was very, very uncommon. I am not aware of any such ‘transfer’ during all my years at CH.

I can contribute the following to the suggested list of ‘transferees.’

1923 – Louis Gray from Ma B to Ba B (‘transfer’ type 1)
1949 – Piers Ashworth from Ma A to Ba A (‘transfer’ type 1)

1936 - Keith Douglas from La A to Mid B (at age 16, ‘transfer’ type 2)

Very many of KD's poems can easily be found on the internet.

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Re: What Keith Douglas got up to at CH

Post by Kit Bartlett » Sat Nov 28, 2015 3:37 pm

Names that spring to mind include :-
G.Smith Mid B to Mid A (Later Senior Grecian in 1943-44)
M.Phillips Mid B to Lamb A.
C.S. Drake Col. A to Barnes B .(Falling out with Blamire-Brown.) L.M. Carey liked him and took him to Maine B in 1946 when he got married and required a Master's house. How many Old Blues can claim three houses ?
J.L.A. Lewis ,Peele A to Barnes A.as House captain ? 1945 or 1946
M.C. Griffiths CB to Mid B, as House Captain ? 1945 .
B.G. Fisk Coleridge A to Peele B 1948,
L.A. Byrne CA to CB. 1942.

Were these matters decided between individual House Masters or was there a special staff meeting to discuss particular problems ?

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