Pongo - Eric Littlefield

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ASR
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Pongo - Eric Littlefield

Post by ASR »

I was in Pongo's house, BaA, from 1966-1969. Does anyone have a potted bio of him? The rumour was he'd been a Spitfire pilot in WWII. He smoked Rothmans continuously, was single, taught French in a desultory manner, had a fondness for running his hands through your hair, beat me with a gym shoe and seemed very old school, even at the time.
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J.R.
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Re: Pongo - Eric Littlefield

Post by J.R. »

I only remember him as a master who presided over the dining hall and ran the R.A.F. section of the CCF. He never taught me but I know he had a fearsome reputation.
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Re: Pongo - Eric Littlefield

Post by Mid A 15 »

He was running the School cricket 1st XI when I started in 1965, being succeeded by John Dennison (?spelling) a year or two later. If he (Littlefield) was deemed good enough to run the the first XI, at a time keen and able cricketers like Basil Gregory and Tom Keeley, amongst others of similar age or sightly younger, were also about, I suspect he may have had a decent background in the game although I know nothing of it.

Otherwise, apart from his role as Hall Warden, I know little of him.
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Re: Pongo - Eric Littlefield

Post by brian walling »

Pongo: I doubt very much whether he had been an RAF Spitfire pilot in WWII. I don't think that he had the dash and flexibility required for that. I was in the RAF section at CH, but never heard anything like that. As I recall, the belief generally was that he had served in the War in the RAF in some form of important intelligence/interrogation role, which languages would have equipped him for.

He wasn't my housemaster, but he was my first-year French teacher in the Lower Fourth. I remember him as ponderous and pedantic, yet thorough and efficient. I remember especially that the first several lessons in French had to be lessons (which Pongo handled well) in English grammar, grammar terminology and particularly the different parts of speech, since a basic understanding of all that was necessary in order to understand the French course.
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Re: Pongo - Eric Littlefield

Post by AStaverton »

Here some facts (and opinions) about Eric Arthur Littlefield.

- He was a pupil at Merchant Taylor’s School in Northwood, Middx.
- He then studied French and German at Oriel College, Oxford.
- He captained his college badminton team and always kept a photo of the team on his mantelpiece. It was accompanied by a photo of his mother.
- He spent one year teaching at CH before WW2.
- He attended a course on Swedish gymnastics before WW2.
- During WW2 he was an interrogator in RAF Intelligence, using his knowledge of German. He presumably was never a pilot because he always wore spectacles.
- He ended WW2 as a Squadron Leader and that was his rank in the CCF, in which he headed the Air Section.
- In Sept 1946 he rejoined CH as the senior housemaster of Barnes A and continued in that role till he retired.
- After WW2 he played a role in CH’s PT and gymnastics, but always collaborating with John H Edwards, the head of PT and gym. Sometimes EAL presided over the gym sessions when Barnes A attended.
- He did not usually offer to accompany his house for voluntary house baths on Sunday mornings.
- He taught German and French, but during the 50s only taught German to lower forms (ie never grecians). I think he preferred German to French.
- He was very keen on sports and frequently refereed house rugby matches. Also he played fives well.
- For many years he was master in charge of the 1st XI.
- He was assistant Hall Warden to Noel Sergent for some years. When Sergent retired he became principal Hall Warden. Unlike Sergent he was respected (and feared?). He performed those duties well.
- He was keen on the theatre and always directed a senior house play. It was always an elaborate and excellent performance and he was a very competent make-up artist. He chose pre-war West End plays. Also he had play readings in his study on many Sunday evenings for senior boys, again preferring to read the same sort of play.
- He bought a bungalow in Pulborough at the end of the 50s, to which he retired. After retirement he often visited CH, usually to attend cricket matches.
- He had no close relatives of whom I am aware. In his will he bequeathed a sum to CH to be spent on the 1st XI. It was to benefit the team in ways not otherwise normally available. (eg holiday tours, but that’s a guess)

- He was reserved, not at all outgoing, and a very strict disciplinarian, but always fair. Houses in those days had a sort of reputation which was much influenced by the senior housemaster. In this sense Barnes A was considered a polite and well behaved house.
- He was conservative in manner, politics and dress and always neat in appearance. He had strong likes and dislikes (eg he was never enthusiastic about soccer, far preferring rugby)
- Two surprising abilities were to play the piano and dance (ballroom dancing) well. But he very rarely demonstrated these talents.
- His car was a pre-WW2 mid blue and very elegant Wolsely. It was always immaculate in appearance.
- His closest friend on the staff was J Colin Tod. They sometimes spent holidays together on the Broads, with boys.
- He was a believer (religious) but never forced his opinions on anyone, nor even discussed such matters unless a boy would introduce the topic.
- He (like virtually every other master in his days) would beat (cane on buttocks, covered by breeches) perhaps about 3 times a month. There was no indication at all of sadism. He would often administer only 2 or 3 vigorous strokes, but on occasion more, up to 6. He had one unusual post-beating characteristic. At the end of the beating he would formally shake hands. One had the feeling that the matter was now concluded and he never referred it again. I don’t think any other master shook hands in this way.
- The origin of his nickname, Pongo, is unknown. There are at least two theories. The more likely one is that it derives from the French word for penguin, for he had an unusual walk, holding his arms vertically downwards and slightly bent, so resembling a walking penguin’s wings. The other it is from a WW2 RAF nickname for a soldier. But I cannot imagine why it should apply to him.
- David Arnold, a Barnes A member during Pongo’s regime, has written an autobiography. It is called “From Hackney to Horsham: A Schoolmaster's Life,” is published by Grosvenor House Publishing (2018) and available at Amazon. It is worth reading and contains a chapter entitled, “Pongo.”
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Re: Pongo - Eric Littlefield

Post by loringa »

His record of service is available here, assuming he is the E A Littlefield mentioned: https://www.forces-war-records.co.uk/

This confirms that he was Admin / Special Duties branch which presumably included intelligence.
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Re: Pongo - Eric Littlefield

Post by sejintenej »

loringa wrote: Mon May 04, 2020 11:15 am His record of service is available here, assuming he is the E A Littlefield mentioned: https://www.forces-war-records.co.uk/

This confirms that he was Admin / Special Duties branch which presumably included intelligence.
Intelligence is usually separately listed. In his case he might well have been posted to RAF stations.

I have certain reservations about those records. I looked up a particular name whom I know was captured on day 5 of WW1 and was officially listed as War Office; he appears twice as "special" and twice as Intelligence). As for WWII he is listed as special even though he started as Naval Attache Budapest until Germany took over, then was in SOE and ended up commanding a naval vessel holding RNVR rank. Those three I know for certain. I do not know the timing but he claimed to be a member of the team working out where the Bismark was headed! The lists seem to list naval personnel separately.
Last edited by sejintenej on Mon May 04, 2020 1:34 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Pongo - Eric Littlefield

Post by J.R. »

Just to add some points.

Anyone connected to/with armed forces during WW11 would in security/S.O.E, for obvious reasons, had their service records 'hidden'.

'Pongo' was a common name for senior members of the R.A.F.

As I remember him, he was a tall man. I seem to remember that Spitfire and possibly Hurricane pilots had a height restriction for obvious reason. If memory serves, I think 5ft-8" was the maximum. My late Mother was very friendly with an ex fighter pilot who went on to fly Mosquitoes. His service photos are still fresh in my memory !
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Re: Pongo - Eric Littlefield

Post by William »

A man of few words, Pongo did not speak unless he had something meaningful to say. Once a week he had a session with his house captain, when the punishment book was presented and house matters discussed. With one house captain, Piers Ashworth, this session often had long periods of silence, for each was a taciturn fellow.
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Re: Pongo - Eric Littlefield

Post by Foureyes »

I remember Pongo Littlefield with great respect. He taught me more about English grammar than any English language teacher and then taught me German. I recall 'Deutsches Leben' (with yellow covers) and 'Emil und die Detektive'. As a result of his excellent grounding I spent a month on an exchange visit in Austria and ended speaking good German (but with an Austrian accent, of course)!

I am certain that he was not in any flying branch. I have a photograph of him in RAF uniform during the 1953 visit by Barnes Wallis and he has no wings or any other brevet. I know from other research that the RAF branch 'Admin and Special Duties' covered not only secretarial officers but also a wide variety of men and women on clandestine duties of one sort or another, including not only intelligence but also espionage of various types. (TheArmy equivalent was the 'General Service Corps')

I note that JR says that the term Pongo is used as a common name for senior RAF officers. In 30+ years in the Army, including many working closely with the RAF, I never once came across that. What I do know is that 'Pongo' was a common RAF term for Army officers. So, why it should have been applied to Mr Littlefield I have no idea.

I was in Lamb B so had no experience of him as a housemaster, but as a teacher of German I rate him very highly.

David :shock:
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Re: Pongo - Eric Littlefield

Post by Oliver »

Pongo was taller than 5’ 8”. But he did have a curious characteristic. Either he always wore a jock strap or his ‘wedding tackle’ was unusually small.

In the Housey version of “She’ll be coming round the mountain when she comes,” of Pongo’s days, one popular verse was, “She’ll be wearing Pongo’s jockstrap when she comes.” It was sung in the coach when returning from a rugby match and on other such informal occasions, even if a master was present. Is there a contemporary Housey version of this delightful song? Although ancient readers of the Forum like me won’t know the references, could they be provided by a young reader, to provide a historical record of course?

In the 1950s he smoked Senior Service cigarettes.
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Re: Pongo - Eric Littlefield

Post by Foureyes »

Oliver says:
"But he did have a curious characteristic. Either he always wore a jock strap or his ‘wedding tackle’ was unusually small."

I have no wish to be prurient, but how on earth did you know that?

David :shock:
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Re: Pongo - Eric Littlefield

Post by Oliver »

By the general observation of the external shape of his lower pubic region when trousered (that is when Pongo was trousered, not the observer).

I must modestly assert that it was not my discovery. Many others, who were not necessarily keen singers, shared this opinion of his jock strap and/or genital size.
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Re: Pongo - Eric Littlefield

Post by Foureyes »

Oliver,
Thank you. I shall not pursue this subject further, fascinating as it might be. Anyway, I had - and retain - too much respect for Pongo Littlefield as a teacher.
David :shock:
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Re: Pongo - Eric Littlefield

Post by Jabod2 »

Oliver wrote: Mon May 04, 2020 4:08 pm In the Housey version of “She’ll be coming round the mountain when she comes,” of Pongo’s days, one popular verse was, “She’ll be wearing Pongo’s jockstrap when she comes.” ....

In the 1950s he smoked Senior Service cigarettes.
In my time the song of the day was a variant of 'Early one morning' sung as a love song from him to Matron Ellie Van Alphen, who we had most improbably romatically linked...

I visited him in Pullborough on my last day at school, with my parents, who watched aghast as he offered me an untipped cigarette (probably Senior Service although I would have guessed Capstan Full Strength). I avoided parodying his tapping ritual to compress the end, but recall my parents double-take as they were unware I smoked...
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