THE Stratford Mop of 1914 appeared little changed from previous years. Wartime austerity had not yet set in and few people foresaw that the conflict would be lengthy. One of the great traditions of the fair was its roasts. No less than five oxen and seven pigs were rotating on the spits outside the pubs on the big day. The excursion trains brought their usual hundreds of revellers from Birmingham and other centres of population. None of Stratford’s conscripts had yet embarked overseas, although just five days before, a regular with the South Wales Borderers, Sgt RH Savage, had been the first Stratfordian to fall victim to the war. He had been struck by shrapnel at the Battle of the Aisne and died of his wounds in Bournbrook Military Hospital.
Four years ago Ellis Holtom, of Stratford-upon-Avon, was born with half a working heart. Later, the Herald featured his condition as a tribute to the work of Birmingham Children’s Hospital where he was treated. Now, to mark Congenital Heart Defect Week his mum, Vicki, updates his story. . .
ALL 326 local planning authorities in England, councils like Stratford-on-Avon District, need a local plan. The core strategy is a component of that local plan. It contains all the local district wide policies that need to be considered when processing planning applications. New development needs to satisfy local needs, helping to realise the hopes and ambitions of its communities and protect them from situations they fear. New homes and places to work should provide then with a healthy lifestyle, a pleasant place to live, good recreational facilities and above all the infrastructure that enhances their quality of life. The buzzword to describe this is ‘sustainable’.
THE poor are paying more than they should be for their energy, according to damning new evidence from Stratford-upon-Avon’s Citizens Advice Bureau. Prepayment meters (PPMs) are costing users in fuel poverty a “disproportionate amount” for what little gas and electricity they can afford, the bureau has found. There are around 7.2 million people on prepayment meters in the UK and several thousand in the district of Stratford. Despite Stratford’s reputation as an affluent area, the bureau is being forced to come to the aid of more and more people living in fuel poverty on an increasingly regular basis.
A UNIQUE collection of poems, pictures, letters and manuscripts, written by a former pupil of King Edward VI (KES) who died fighting in the second world war have returned to the school he loved where they will form part of a future exhibition in honour of his memory.
The large collection of Richard Spender’s work was bought by KES for £4,375 at an auction hosted by Bonhams in London earlier this month and includes several books of his poems that were published such as ‘Laughing Blood’, ‘Parachute Battalion’, a poem entitled ‘Big School’ written exclusively about KES – the same school that educated the world’s greatest playwright.
The collection also includes 17 previously unpublished poems, as well as letters to his mother and father, and poignantly, the Post Office telegram sent to them at their home address on Banbury informing them of their son’s death in action in 1943.
The collection was initially kept in storage by Spender’s brother – Jim Spender – who then passed it on to his son Michael, who was Spender’s nephew and it was he who offered the items to Bonhams.
The manuscripts were bought as a result of donations made – and the determination of – Tony Bird, Chair of the Trustees, at KES. They will be archived and later exhibited with diligent care by Richard Pearson, the archivist at KES.
Richard Spender attended KES from 1930-40, he joined as a six year-old at the prep school and left when he was 18 to fight in the second world war.
School records clearly reveal a pupil of tenacious spirit who excelled in studies and sport. He was Captain of School, gained his 1st XV and 1st IV colours, Company Sergeant-Major of the Cadet Corps, secretary of the dramatic society, secretary of the debating society, and edited the school magazine. He even managed to engrave his name in an historic jacobean table situated in the Guild Hall at KES as hundreds of other pupils have done as well.
His poetry was published in Country Life, The Observer, The Times Literary Supplement, John O’London’s, and The New York Times. Although awarded the Bracegirdle Scholarship in Modern History at St. Catherine’s Oxford, he chose to enlist instead.
“It’s one of the great “ifs” isn’t it?” said KES headmaster, Bennet Carr. “What if Richard Spender had lived? Might he have become as synonmous with literature as Dylan Thomas or JB Priestley, it’s something we will never know, but, we obviously feel a great deal of pride to now have his collection at the school and I’m sure he would be immensely pleased to learn that his work has come home,”
Spender was a platoon commander in C Company of 2 Para Battalion his commanding officer was Johnny Frost who a year later led one of the allied airborne attacks on Arnhem Bridge in Holland, made famous in the 1977 film ‘A Bridge too Far.’
Spender was killed leading his men into battle in 1943 while assaulting German positions in Tunisia as part of Opertion Torch, during the British-American invasion of French North Africa. He was 21.
Spender’s gravestone in the Imperial War Graves cemetery in Tabarka, Tunisia, is inscribed with lines from his poem, The Young Soldier.
He undoubtedly had a great deal of affection for KES where his collected works are soon to be exhibited. The affection is best summed up in a dedication he wrote which appeared at the beginning of one of his books
‘To my Mother and Father and to King Edward VI School, Stratford-upon-Avon, because their joint conspiracy gave me the happiest first twenty-one years of life that anyone could dream of having’