In 2005 the website Memories of Monty was launched by Howard Blake, a former pupil of Montgomery of Alamein School In Winchester.
He had amassed material from various sources including the Headmaster himself, Dennis Beacham, who died only two years later.
In this post, you’ll see precious historical images of the school, its teachers and pupils, and Lord Montgomery renaming the school in 1968.
However, the website closed down in 2011. An aerial view of the campus, old snaps from the School Photographic Club, including Beecham’s famous 1971 staged dousing of a teacher in the swimming pool, and a series showing the final demolition of the school are just some of the treasures gone with Memories of Monty.
Shortly before that, and in response to Howard’s open invitation to contribute photos, I emailed him my 1988 collection which pleased him; but neither they, nor any other new material ever appeared on his site. This warned me ‘the end was nigh!’
There must have been many ex-pupils who ended up copying as much as possible before everything was lost!
Researching Montgomery of Alamein school through Friends Reunited
Then I remembered Friends Reunited, a website which had become a repository for all sorts of memorabilia, visual and otherwise.
In the event, it proved an ideal new home for the rapidly accumulating material. Anybody can log on for free and upload their own photos; the process is simple thanks to the expert organisation of the Friends site.
Surprisingly, at that time their Montgomery of Alamein box had only 10 or so pictures, in spite of a 1,000-plus ‘membership’.
You can imagine what the Field-Marshal would have said…not to mention Beacham!!!
Treasure hunt in my garage
This sent me off to the garage, rooting around in cardboard boxes, memories racing back. It was just too good a school to leave undocumented.
Click to enlarge or download the picture.
The place used to be alive with opportunities. Sport aside (archery with Mr Ogier was my favourite), anything from aero-modelling to archaeology was supplemented by a packed music and drama schedule where everyone put in 100% after hours.
Rock-climbing arrived with the new Head in 1967.
Click to enlarge or download the picture.
Of course, all this had been developing since the days of the old ‘Romsey Road’ School; hardly surprising considering the key staff who stayed on.
Great names from the 1950s, like Bone (Maths) Ellis (Geography) Amos (History and …ex-boxer!) Young (English) and Haynes (Science) – somebody scrawled on his desk ‘Hitler was a little man, too!’ – carried on the best traditions, galvanised in 1967 by the inspired leadership of the incoming new Headmaster with his new intake, uniquely dubbed “The Beacham Boys.”
Head of English Peter Mason
Only recently, a former ‘Romsey Road’ pupil reminded me that the Head of English, Peter Mason, who later played Fagin in the unforgettable 1968 Montgomery of Alamein production of Oliver, ten years previously had directed Cinderella in the same Hall.
That same pupil, who added “The guy who played Cinders was that good, it worried me!” went on to become an architect.
A decade after Oliver new talent was to emerge in Colin Firth (also a former pupil of Montgomery of Alamein School), but that’s another story!
Montgomery of Alamein School Magazines
Back in my garage, I realised that the few remaining old textbooks and most of the exercise books had been discarded years before. Worse still, photos I knew to be there, including the 1969 French exchange (with Mr Noel), were in some untraceable ‘safe place’.
A rusty tin box revealed a load of ‘old papers’ and three of the very first Montgomery of Alamein School Magazines (1971, 1972, 1974) together with the Jubilee Issue (1977), all with staff contributions and the obligatory ‘Letter from the Head’, bringing the voices of those distant teachers back to life.
And the ‘old papers’? Well, they turned out to be Beacham’s lengthy Annual Progress Reports to parents revealing the long-forgotten day-to-day running of the school.
Unfortunately, no pictures but, later on, in transferring some old slides, a real chance find turned out to be the 1971 Fair, with a dozen or so staff – in colour.
Still more turned up: slides of the 1970 Nevasa Cruise to Athens (with Mr Ellis) and 1971 Rhine Trip (with Mr Young) and a yellowing copy of a 1973 Southern Evening Echo had a refreshing take on the school with a revealing aside on the proximity of the Danemark School…for girls !!
All this has been added to Friends Reunited for everyone to enjoy and now virtually every year of Montgomery of Alamein School is documented, up to Beacham’s 1984 retirement and beyond.
Interior views of the building are few, so if you know of any unexplored garages/lofts, get digging! Surely someone must have a picture of the Main Hall! The School Photographic Club took all sorts of indoor pictures, even occasionally disrupting lessons!
The mystery of the silent film of Lord Montgomery renaming the school in 1968
The ultimate mystery, however, must remain the whereabouts of Mr. Ellis’ short black and white silent film of Lord Montgomery renaming the school on 1 July 1968.
The last time I saw this was at the 1977 Reunion in the Main Hall, where Mr. Ellis himself set it rolling, as of old, on the original gigantic reel-to-reel projector from the Geography Department.
Until quite recently, the Hampshire County Film Archive didn’t even know it existed. Now, that film would be a find!
It’s not just old school… it’s EVERY blast from the past.
To help us with the history of Montgomery of Alamein School, please visit Montgomery of Alamein on Friends Reunited, and share any picture or story you have with us.