As you know, we are celebrating the School’s Tercentenary this academic year and as ‘Mr RHS300’ I would naturally like to use this as my theme today.
If we were to put a date on the actual formation of the School, we could use a date in December 1712 when a Committee met and resolved that “as soon as the revenue of Greenwich Hospital shall be sufficient ….. to take in … children ….. they shall be instructed in writing, arithmetic and navigation”
Well a lot has happened over the past 300 years and a new educational resource has been established at the School – a Heritage Centre that will tell the incredible story of our School linking past with present and future. It will feature exhibits that belonged to Nelson and items associated with the great age of Arctic and Antarctic exploration. It is important that each and every one of us understands where this great School came from and we can gain strength from the collective achievements of all those who have gone before us.
Many of you will, this week, be collecting your copies of the School’s tercentenary book entitled “Celebrating 300 Years”. This includes stories and images that illustrate the School’s rich heritage and traditions and how this has, over time, informed the School’s core values. These values have been shaped over centuries and bind us together. They are the lifeblood of our community and a source of strength as we face the challenges the future will bring. The Headmaster has recently renewed these in the context of his vision for the School moving forward.
I would like to tell a few short stories from this book that outline the experiences of some past pupils, whilst linking these to the Headmasters vision and the values we hold so true at RHS.
RHS Olympic Connections and the importance we attribute to Fitness, Well Being and Healthy Competition.
Many of you will know of the cricketing achievements of Don Topley (our esteemed cricket coach) and more recently of Reece Topley, who may be destined to represent his country
But you may not know of footballer Gordon Rahere Hoare who was our first Olympic Gold medalist in 1912. He played in all three games at the Stockholm Olympics, winning each match and scoring two goals in the final against Denmark. He also played for top sides, Arsenal, Fulham, Queen’s Park Rangers and Manchester City.
You may also not know of top-shot Malcolm Douglas Cooper who left the School in 1965 and became the School’s first Double Olympic Gold Medalist – winning the shooting three position events in both Seoul and Los Angeles. He was also holder of fifteen world records.
And you may also not know that Hannah Stodel, a Howe girl who left in 2004, is a three times Paralympian sailor – in Athens, Beijing and London, coming sixth on each occasion.
Each one of these former pupils had to overcome difficulties, Gordon served in the World War in the famous Football Battalion witnessing the death of many of his footballing companions, Malcolm fighting to the last – tragically had his life cut short by Cancer and Hannah overcame disability to succeed. All of them demonstrated the RHS fighting spirit and as stated in the small blue book once given to every student who left RHS, entitled “A farewell Word” – they learnt to play the Game!
Fostering Creativity and Imagination and the intriguing story of Hollywood Legend, Bob Anderson
Bob left RHS in 1937 but this story starts back in the early 1950s after he took a fifth place in the fencing at the Helsinki Olympics. A chap from Pinewood Studios subsequently asked him if he would help an actor with his sword fighting techniques – this was none other than Errol Flynn. Errol was staring in the Master of Ballantrae and Bob coached him in his sparring, on one occasion even drawing blood. A friendship blossomed and he went on to work as Errol Flynn’s stunt double on many of his most famous swashbuckling movies.
In the 1960s Bob worked on the James Bond films and arranged sword-fight sequences and stunt scenes for the Three Musketeers. Then, remarkably, in the 1970s he got a call from George Lucas asking him to choreograph the light sabre combat sequences in the Star Wars Trilogy, doubling as Darth Vader in some of the scenes. He went on to work on Superman, the Zorro films and the Pirates of the Caribbean movies.
As Bob Anderson humbly stated, “We are all standing on the shoulders of those who have gone before us”. Interestingly, David Marsh who left School in 1984 also worked on “the Pirates” movies creating the visual effects and, in particular the mask for Davy Jones!
But RHS achievements go far beyond the movies, with talented musicians, singers, artists, photographers and authors – all of them demonstrating creativity and imagination!
One tragic wartime story confirms the importance placed on Service, Loyalty and Commitment
Did you know about the strong links between HMS Hood and the Royal Hospital School?
Well of course you know we have a girls’ boarding house named Hood. You will probably know that it was named after a great naval hero and you will also probably know that his name was given to perhaps our most famous World War II battleship.
However, you may not have heard of Hugh Thomas Henry Moore and George Caleb Lewington both of whom attended the School at Greenwich or of Leslie Victor French, a St Vincent boy or of Alan Charles Cooper, a Blake boy. All attended RHS and all of them (and many other RHS boys) lost their lives when HMS Hood was blown apart by the Bismarck on 24th May 1941. A former Assistant Chaplain was also lost with the Hood and for thirty years his mother presented a Trophy, The Stewart Cup, to promote swimming at the School. When you leave this chapel, some of you will pass the Chaplain’s board that records the Rev Stewart’s name – spare a thought!
Three days after HMS Hood sank former pupil, Benjamin Martin, launched the final torpedo attack that sank the Bismarck. He was later knighted – one of at least seven former students who have been so honoured. After the war many boys who had been orphaned by this tragic event (1,415 lives were lost) attended the Royal Hospital School supported by our parent charity, Greenwich Hospital, and many will have resided in Hood House.
Historical links with exploration have led to the importance placed on Encouraging Leadership, Adventure and Self Discovery.
Of all our alumni, the most famous explorer is Admiral Arthur Philip who has been attributed with the founding of modern-day Australia.
However, the early 20th Century saw RHS play its part in the Golden Age of Antarctic discovery. Former pupil, Edward Mills Joyce was in charge of the dogs and sledges for the Shackleton expeditions and he also has an Antarctic mountain named after him. Former pupil, Sir Joseph Kinsey (another RHS knight) helped fund both the Shackleton and Scott expeditions and on 24th March 1912 Scott wrote for the last time from his tent “We have been to the South pole as we set out. God bless you and dear Mrs Kinsey. It is good to remember you and your kindness. Your friend, Robert Scott”. And it was former pupil, Thomas Williamson, a member of the search party on the Discovery Expedition, who found Scott’s frozen body in a tent three-quarters covered in snow. The skis and poles he used on this occasion just over 100 years ago that are displayed in our new Heritage Centre.
What has gone before informs our future – this School has strong values than run deep and bind our community. In this Tercentenary Year, we should celebrate the past and look forward to a bright future with its vision underpinned by values that have stood the test of time.