From war to the dawning of a new era

From war to the dawning of a new era

David Pardoe’s memoirs give a fascinating insight of his long years at QE, from arrival at the age of just nine in 1942 – which proved to be quite literally the dark days of war for the pupils – to his departure at the dawn of a new Elizabethan age.

Now retired and living in Australia, David took an electrical engineering degree at Queen Mary College, London, on leaving QE in July 1952.

National Service followed: in 1955, he joined the RAF and was commissioned as Pilot Officer, Technical Signals Branch, and posted to Bempton on the east Yorkshire coast. On promotion to Flying Officer, he was moved to Linton-on-Ouse, just north of York, where he stayed until demobilisation in 1957.

He then forged a successful career at the forefront of telecommunications, joining Standard Telephones and Cables (STC) at New Southgate, where he was one of a team designing STRAD, a new type of message-switching system. This eventually took him to Mauritius to commission the first installation of a new type of message-switching system for the Royal Navy and then to Sydney to oversee the handover of a further two systems for the Royal Australian Army.

While in Australia he met his future wife, whom he married in Sydney in 1964. He returned to England the following year with his wife. For ten years, he worked for STC on computer-based communication systems. But in 1975, he and his wife decided to make a change. “Our family moved to Sydney, ‘on spec’, without a job or a house or school to go to. Eventually, I took a technical/marketing job with AWA, a communications company and in 1984 joined a consultancy firm as research manager from which I retired, at age 71, in 2003.”

Today he and his wife, a retired nurse and social worker, live in St Ives, a northern suburb of Sydney. His two sons both work in IT.

In his memoirs, David, who is pictured above in his mid-20s, devotes many pages to memories of QE which remain crystal-clear more than six decades later.

Born in 1932, in his younger years he lived with his parents and brother in Crown Lane, Southgate, north London. “The county boundary ran down the centre of the road—I was on the appropriate side to be eligible for Queen Elizabeth’s…

“In 1942, when I was enrolled, I knew nothing of its history or achievements but was only aware that my father wanted me fixed up in a secondary school before he went overseas with the RAF. Accordingly, one morning I went along to the school with mum, took the Entrance Exam and went home.  A few weeks later my parents were told that I had passed and that there would be a place for me in September 1942, when I was still nine.”

The School had moved to its site at Queen’s Road only ten years before, with classrooms that were, in David’s words, “designed to be large and bright and airy”.

“However, this was not possible under wartime conditions, which required that splinter-preventing fabric was glued on to each pane of the windows and sand bags were stacked up outside, in some cases restricting the light entering the rooms on the ground floor.”

He soon established his place in the School, which was thriving under the long headmastership of E H Jenkins. The Library fostered his fondness of reading – Agatha Christie was an early favourite – while he devoted many hours to helping backstage with School plays, an outlet for his love of theatre.

His account of Founder’s Day shows that proceedings on that highlight of the QE calendar are to a large extent unchanged today.

“There were two specially empathetic masters, ones whom I could really relate to,” he writes. “The first was Mr Brian Dickson, the Chemistry master. His use of homely analogies to illustrate chemical reactions and concepts was so good that most boys achieved excellent results in the subject, as I did, gaining a Distinction in the School Certificate.

“He was especially nice to me when my mother died, and I still have the letter of sympathy that he wrote to me. I can remember phrases from his letter today and I have used them myself when writing to people who have lost loved ones. He was a devout Christian and was the president of the School Christian Union. He later took holy orders and became a priest.”

“The other master who I got on with, and owe a debt of gratitude to, was Mr A H Raines, whose subjects were Maths and Chemistry. I believe Mr Raines was responsible for turning my school career around. He firstly showed me that I could do Maths. I was always good at arithmetic, but algebra was almost a closed book. I realise now that a minute spent at the beginning of a problem to properly understand it and to seek the method of solving it was the key and this could be applied to many situations in life. Mr Raines showed me this and by doing so let me find out for myself how easy the subject is.”

1952, the year he left School, was the end of an era not only for him, but also for the country:  “On 6 February, a dark, cold and rainy morning, we were called to the Hall at about 11.30 for an Assembly. The Headmaster walked to the rostrum in his usual manner and briefly explained that King George VI had died in his sleep and that there would be no more lessons for that day and we were to go home.  He concluded with a short prayer and declaimed: ‘The King is dead; God save the Queen.’”

David concludes: “I find that, in writing this account of Queen Elizabeth’s, I still have (mainly) fond memories of my teachers, and I appreciate the efforts that they made to create interest in their subject, and admire the way that they put up with some very mischievous behaviour from the boys on some occasions!  It must not have been easy for the School authorities to find teachers of quality under wartime conditions and I thank the Headmaster and the Governors for the job that they did.”