Queens School Rheindalen and the Profumo Affair


Rheindalen, a great sprawling British military garrison.  Headquarters of the British Army of the Rhine and home to thousands of soldiers, their wives and children.  And within fairly short distances from the garrison,  massive  Royal Air Force bases humming with technology, bristling with weapons and with armed fighter and bomber jets on permanent standby to launch strikes against the soviets.  And dozens of military bases with enormous stockpiles of vehicles, ammunition, weapons including nuclear weapons, all supplying armed to the teeth Divisions of  infantry, regiments of tanks and batteries of artillery.

By the  early 1950’s, when the British military presence in Germany had changed from that of being a victorious army of occupation into a welcomed NATO defender of the Western way of democracy, it was decided that all those troops and military, with their wives and families needed schools for the rapidly expanding number of British children.   Queens school badgeSo it was, that in Rheindalen, was established a brand spanking new secondary modern school for children over 11, the Queens School,  set in pleasant woodlands on the edge of the great garrison.

It was, in my day, late ‘50’s/early 60’s,  a straightforward garrison school, designed for the children of other ranks, and having as its mission the desire to turn them into, well, other ranks.   Most of the officer’s children had grants (and the ancillary income) to attend posh boarding schools in England.  The Officers married quarters around the garrison and the military bases were a bit notable for the lack of children during term times.  Secondary Modern schools like Queens, were of course intended to take those who did not pass the 11 plus exam or those who only just made it.  And of course we all knew, sure we did, that officers children, in those days, were always much brighter than the children of other ranks.

A central feature of life at the school was the Combined Cadet Force.  playll-cadets With virtually every boy in the school being the son of a serviceman then this was hardly surprising.  Each Wednesday we travelled to school from the towns and villages and married quarter complexes around the Garrison, in ill-fitting battle dress Army Uniforms.   Boys from the RAF bases came in ill-fitting RAF uniforms and each classroom looked slightly more like a military barrack room.

In the basement of the school, next to the caretakers room and adjacent to the school boilers was the school armoury.  Stuffed with rows of serious and lethal weapons, which were issued out to the boys at about 2.30 each Wednesday, whereupon the boys  would march up and down the school playground saluting each other, with self-selected teachers dressed up as officers, shouting Orders.

From time to time the boys would don steel helmets and patrol through the woodlands, camouflaged and with fixed bayonets, searching for soviet enemies and learning all the soldiery skills of killing.  Oh it was such fun!    There were trips out to the vast military training grounds in Northern Germany to see how real soldiers lived.  We had the chance to  play with the big guns and pretend to be real soldiers.     And out in the wilds of RAF Bruggen, on the Dutch Border,  we would spend a couple of weeks fighting carefully planned battles with blank ammunition,  assaults, charges, capturing each other prisoner, eating army rations  and living in trenches under the German moonlight.

Of course we had a great advantage over English based cadet forces in that we were living in and around one of the most important military complexes in the world.   We thus had access to units and equipment unheard of in England.  And we were constantly encouraged in our military endeavours by visits from the Generals who peopled the nearby NATO headquarters.   Thus there would be British Generals, Canadian Generals, American Generals, Dutch Generals all would come and smile at us and inspect us on parade in the school playground.  And of course there would be visiting politicians looking for a good photo opportunity and anxious to show the military their appreciation of soldier’s families.

And so it was that we were exposed to Her Majesty’s Secretary of State for War, John Profumo.   download   He came to Queens to review and inspect the massed armed ranks of the school’s combined cadet force. I was there!

Now Profumo, while not exactly a spy for the Soviet Union, was careless and feckless and thereby betrayed his country and his people.   We were not to know this at the time.  Nor did anyone else really. But it was all published in the papers, the News of the World and the Daily Mirror in particular.

And then we knew.

We knew that we had diced with danger.    There was a photograph of his girlfriend,  Christine Keelor,christine keelor I didn’t quite understand it at the time, didn’t fully appreciate its erotic potential, just thought she had a strange way of sitting on a chair.  She it was to whom he whispered the Ministry’s secrets and she it was who passed on the secrets to her Soviet lover, a full KGB colonel.

Profumo reviewed the young warriors of Queens on one of our Wednesday afternoon military days.   We paraded on the school playground.   There was a military band from one of the garrison regiments playing suitably martial music , parents and teachers lined the edge of the parade/playground as we stood smartly to attention as  he moved along our military lines accompanied by various Generals and a few teachers dressed up as officers.   He actually spoke to me!

“And what does your father do young man?”  He asked

“He’s a soldier sir”   I snapped back in my fiercest 12 year old voice.

“Just like you then” he said and patted me on the shoulder and moved on down the line with his accompanying Generals, all smiling and chuckling at his wit and obvious rapport with the heavily armed schoolboys.

I have no doubt that later that evening he whispered into Christine’s ear as she sat awkwardly on that funny chair, and told her all about us.  No doubt we were betrayed.   We can be confident that shortly afterwards the school’s armoury appeared on Moscow’s war maps, earmarked and targeted for Soviet air-strikes.   And for sure, the advance elements of Soviet invasion forces were warned to avoid Queen’s school because of its massed, heavily armed, well trained fanatical youth movement. Especially on Wednesdays.

It took me many years to get over the betrayal.   It hurt, damaged my development as a fully rounded member of society.   If you can’t trust the Secretary of State for War, then who the hell can you trust?

It was probably that incident, and my inherent sensitivity, that so traumatised me that I became one of the more difficult pupils of the school.  This was sharply manifested in my epic confrontation with the headmaster Mr. Aspinall

There was a school tuck shop.  It sold sweets and ice cream and other nutritious healthy educational treats for the always starving kids.   Profits went to buy sports equipment or perhaps ammunition for the CCF guns.   Anyway there was always a queue and if you were still in it when the bell went then hard luck, you had to answer the bell and return to the classrooms without delay.  On the fatal, hot summer day, I had just bought and paid for a cooling nutritious ice cream, when the bell rang summoning us back to the books.    I took the view that the tuck shop really shouldn’t sell ice creams so close to the bell.   It was unfair.  An infringement of my Human Rights.  As the profit of my purchase was going to the school I thought it entirely reasonable that I should take and finish the cooling confection in the class room.

This was considered behaviour of the very worst kind.  Just what you would expect of the son of a corporal or of  those bloody other-ranks.   It was much worse than the betrayal by Profumo.   I half expected to be taken out and shot by a firing squad from the CCF.  Instead I was frog marched to the headmaster’s study, subjected to an arbitrary trial and sentenced to be caned, six strokes, to be delivered with immediate effect, before the ice-cream even had time to melt.

But after Profumo, my respect for my elders was gone.  I refused to submit.  I REFUSED TO TAKE THE PUNISHMENT!.   This was un-heard of.    I reasoned that I was making a stand for tuck shop consumers, a stand that would echo through the ages.  I may lose thought I, but the wounds that would be inflicted by the brutal strokes would be remembered, in tuck shop queues, in schools across the world, from this day until the end of time.

My father was summoned to persuade me to take the belting.   He came with all the deference that other ranks have for their betters.   He called the teachers “Sir”.   It wasn’t that he was particularly deferential.  That was the way then.   Teachers expected to be called Sir by other rank parents.   Teachers were honorary officers and socialised in the Garrison Officers clubs.   They mixed with captains and colonels, dined with Brigadiers.   They were accustomed to deference.

Of course my rebellion could not survive the combined pressure from headmaster and parents or the betrayal of Profumo.    The stick was wielded with particular ferocity and dug deep into my rebellious bum.

WHACK you will not WHACK eat WHACK ice-cream WHACK in WHACK  my WHACK classrooms WHACK

It took me many years to forgive what happened.   The physical scars faded fairly quickly but I carried the mental scars for the rest of my life.   Still do.   I left the school as thick as two short planks.  Not only did I not have any GCE’s I didn’t even know what a GCE was.   I became a professional rebel, becoming an active trade union organiser, often comparing my members to metaphorical tuck shop victims.   It was the trade union movement that enabled me to truly recognise the value of education and take some serious steps to remedy the disastrous years at Queens.

It was only in my late forties that I finally came to terms with the Profumo affair.   I realised that it was not Profumo who betrayed me.   It was that bloody school.

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9 thoughts on “Queens School Rheindalen and the Profumo Affair

  1. I might have given you full stars for a good piece except for the spelling error. “Dutch Boarder”. I think not. “Border” more like. :}
    But it was a fun piece and I enjoyed it.

  2. I am not sure this is all correct. By the time I went to Queen’s School in the early 70s, there were lots of Officer’s children going to Queen’s and there were sets for children that did pass there 11plus – not all Officer’s children. As teenagers we were not that bothered about the ranks our fathers had. And not all boys were in the CCF. Otherwise an interesting essay. I wasn’t aware that Profumo had actually visited.

    • There weren’t many officer’s children there in 1959/60 and it was more than a secondary modern-there was a grammar stream. I found the officers’ children very much cared what rank you father was- mine was a civilian, albeit high-ranking and that was considered beneath consideration. I have never forgotten the snobbery.

  3. I know nothing about Queens in the 70’s, or indeed anytime after 1961. But that was a period of great agitation in the world of Education which saw the end of secondary modern schools and the introduction of comprehensive schools together with a near revolution in social and educational values, particularly amoungst the teaching profession… It would be no surprise that Queens moved on a bit.

  4. Queens was a great place in the 70s. I never took the 11 plus but had as many officers children in my class as children of other ranks! I agree with Scarlett – we weren’t at all bothered about the ranks of our fathers.

  5. A related selection of comments from the discussion moderated by Rob Pilgrim on an old Queens school site:
    Was Queens a school for other ranks children?
    by wig » Thu Apr 07, 2005 12:05 pm
    Flightie
    by Rob Pilgrim » Thu Apr 07, 2005 11:00 pm
    wig wrote:
    Thats a midly interesting question. Much more interesting, in my view, would be how many parents were officers and how many parents were other ranks.

    Might help me overcome my complete conviction that Queens, in my time at least, was a school for the children of other ranks designed to make them other ranks.

    Well, I never really thought about it to be honest. I have no idea what the parents of those that I hung around with were – except that Mike Leake’s Old man was a civvie. But, looking at the ‘sort of chap’ that I got on with, lower-middle class would be thugs, probably all had OR fathers.

    My OM? – Flight Sergeant.

    As to whether the school was looking at producing more cannon fodder, I think I must disagree – for my time at least. I think the poor benighted teachers were simply trying to turn out reasonably well educated, reasonable well rounded people who would go wherever their abilities took them.

    I do know of several from my time who went on to join the forces or the para-forces (Fire Brigade / Police / Merchant Navy) – but not all as ORs by any stretch of the imagination.

    by Gordo » Fri Apr 08, 2005 8:22 am
    wig wrote:

    how many parents were officers and how many parents were other ranks

    Is there something genetic in the Irish to create categories and divisions of the population where none really exist…or is this just something that gets conditioned into the training of barristers ? What is the emoticon for ‘rhetoric question’?

    It borders on the ridiculous to see Queens as some sort of Sandhurst for the plebs. It is not as if all the teachers were officious little dictators. In fact some of them were quite normal.

    Apart from anything else, it isn’t part of the school’s blurb, and the recent ofstead report makes no mention of pack-drill, manouvers, etc:
    http://www.ofsted.gov.uk/reports/manreports/1477.pdf

    It seems silly to imply some sort of conspiracy theory involving the Service Children’s Education, Ministry of Defence, the military, the parents and even the children themselves. It looks like wig is in a minority of one.

    As mentioned elsewhere on this site, where people lived is an indicator of whether the family belonged to the officers class, one could even ask where the parents may have socialised, e.g. USOC (officers), I think that civilians at the camp could also be classed in either group.

    I like Rob’s comment regarding “…lower-middle class would be thugs…” I am continually surprised that more of us didn’t end up on the ‘most wanted’ lists of national and international security services. Somehow things have turned out all right. Well…most of the time.
    Gordo

    by Rob Pilgrim » Fri Apr 08, 2005 10:10 am
    Gordo wrote:wig wrote:

    how many parents were officers and how many parents were other ranks

    Is there something genetic in the Irish to create categories and divisions of the population where none really exist…or is this just something that gets conditioned into the training of barristers ? What is the emoticon for ‘rhetoric question’?
    It borders on the ridiculous to see Queens as some sort of Sandhurst for the plebs. It is not as if all the teachers were officious little dictators. In fact some of them were quite normal.

    Now Gordo, take a deep breath, remember how you warned me about a certain intemperate response, there is no need to be quite so affronted – as John says, he’s talking about a time before we were at QSchool. I would not be at all surprised to find out that he’s right. We only caught the tail end of the teachers that Roger Waters describes:

    Waters wrote:When we grew up and went to school
    There were certain teachers who would
    Hurt the children in any way they could
    By pouring their derision
    Upon anything we did
    And exposing every weakness
    However carefully hidden by the kids
    But in the town, it was well known
    When they got home at night, their fat and
    Psychopathic wives would thrash them
    Within inches of their lives.

    There were a lot more of them around in the late fifities and early sixties, but the dregs were still there in the late sixties.

    Gordo wrote:Apart from anything else, it isn’t part of the school’s blurb, and the recent Ofstead report makes no mention of pack-drill, maneuvers, etc:
    http://www.ofsted.gov.uk/reports/manreports/1477.pdf

    Yes, but it also says that the students were happy, behaved well and had good attitudes – not true in my time, nor in yours. Things change, and sometimes quite rapidly. – actually, I need the emoticon for ‘Thank God!’

    by wig » Fri Apr 08, 2005 10:20 am
    How unfortunate that Gordos contribution is prefaced by a racial slur on the Irish. As it happens I am entirely English with a dash of Scots from many many generations ago!

    I still believe that in the 60’s Queens was a school for the children of other ranks. Officers children generally went to boarding school in England – their fees paid for by the Army or Air Force. They came home for the summer holidays otherwise we never saw them and rarely mixed. Other ranks children went to Queens. You could see it in the bus routes whereby the school buses would invariably call at the officers married quarters to pick up one or possibly two children and the rest would be picked up from the other ranks married quarters.

    The teachers were honoury officers and moved in officer’s circles, officer’s messes, officers clubs etc, and many parents, including my dad (Cpl) would call them sir. They were snobs and some of them, but by no means all, barely tolerated the other ranks kids.

    One of the central focuses of the school, at that time, was the CCF and I dare say that most of the boys went on to join up. Certainly I did and served for many years after leaving school at 14and a half and joining the Junior Leaders, rising to the dashing rank of Cpl, before seeing the light.

    I therefore know a bit about other ranks. And by now, in my current profession, quite a bit about officers or at least people who think they are officers…..
    Wrinklies will know.
    by Rob Pilgrim » Sat Apr 09, 2005 6:18 am
    wig wrote:I still believe that in the 60’s Queens was a school for the children of other ranks. Officers children generally went to boarding school in England – their fees paid for by the Army or Air Force. They came home for the summer holidays otherwise we never saw them and rarely mixed. Other ranks children went to Queens. You could see it in the bus routes whereby the school buses would invariably call at the officers married quarters to pick up one or possibly two children and the rest would be picked up from the other ranks married quarters.

    Maybe, I was numb to it all, but I didn’t even think about how the officer’s kids got to and from school – or even if they did.
    As to the boarding schools, I too was given the opportunity to do so, paid for by the RAF – I just turned it down – so in the late 60s it wasn’t just officer’s kids. Sometimes I wonder how my life would have turned out had I gone to Kirkham Grammar, not QSchool.

    wig wrote:One of the central focuses of the school, at that time, was the CCF and I dare say that most of the boys went on to join up. Certainly I did and served for many years after leaving school at 14and a half and joining the Junior Leaders, rising to the dashing rank of Cpl, before seeing the light

    I don’t recall there being a CCF, and I’m pretty sure that my old man would have tried to get me into such had it existed at the time. That light you saw … train coming the other way down the tunnel?

    Finally, I find this question interesting, do you mind if I ask the wrinklies the same question? Some of them are of your vintage.
    Who are the wrinklies? Well, that’s answered on another forum here

    Wig wrote:
    I still believe that in the 60’s Queens was a school for the children of other ranks. Officers children generally went to boarding school in England
    More generally, well-off English families often send their children to boarding school and the less well-off had little choice and went to the local school. The higher numbers of other ranks children in Queens is as a result of the economic situation.

    Wig wrote,
    One of the central focuses of the school, at that time, was the CCF
    The CCF is active at many schools throughout the UK so I don’t see anything significant in that it was active at Queens at one time in the sixties. It is true that the purpose is to introduce kids at a young age to the military life but not in a subversive way. There are 40,000 members of the Army Cadet Force, including 10,000 girls, at 1,700 units in the UK and various groups, who have the welfare of the children at heart, support the cadet movement.

    Rob wrote,
    We only caught the tail end of the teachers that Roger Waters describes
    Again, this view, even if popular, is not unique to Queens. I’ve heard some appalling stories of the treatment of kids in schools but none of them had the motive of producing recruits for the military forces. Some recent stories indicate that it is now teachers who are abused by the pupils.

    Rob wrote,
    the students were happy, behaved well and had good attitudes – not true in my time, nor in yours.
    I really enjoyed my time at Queens and I’m genuinely sorry for anyone who didn’t enjoy their teenage years because of life at school.

    To conclude, there is little to convince me that there is any validly in Wig’s statement that Queens was designed to take the children of other ranks and make them into other ranks.
    I quite agree. I was there 72 – 75 and there were loads of officers’ children.

    OK, some went to boarding school but then so did other ranks’ kids. My Dad wanted me to but I said no.

    As for the CCF, I saw nothing of it. Yet, years later, was commissioned into the WRAF to serve the ATC and loved every minute.
    by wig » Mon Apr 11, 2005 8:37 am
    Ah come on now. I know nothing about Queens in the 70’s and you will just have to accept that you know nothing about the school in the 60’s. I’m also quite happy to acknowledge that I may be wrong. I don’t think so, but I may be. Some student of politics or sociology will one day do some proper research on the subject and I’d be willing to eat my Queens school tie if it does not show that the school (before comprehensives were born) was in fact a school for other ranks children. A good start would be to poll the 105 or so people who responded to the current poll with the question as to whether their fathers (it was in those days only fathers) were officers or other ranks.

    The CCF is another story altogether……

    The School Tie
    by Gordo » Mon Apr 11, 2005 3:39 pm
    Wig wrote,
    I’d be willing to eat my Queens school tie

    The fashion in my time was to pull threads out of the tie to give it a more stripey (and threadbare) appearance. As a result my school tie has long since disintegrated. Does anyone know if Windsor currently uses the same tie as Queens did in the 60’s & 70’s ?
    by davell » Tue Apr 12, 2005 1:46 pm
    This has been interesting stuff to read! I actually went to Queens in the mid to late 70s (age 15 to 18). Looking back I can say that my friends were a mixture of the children of Oficers/ORs/Civilians and don’t knows (by which I mean I don’t know, not that they didn’t). I don’t remember it being an issue fo me or any of the people I knew at the time. I’m also not aware of anyone I knew at the time going on to join the Armed, or Para, forces, although I’ve no empirical evidence to back this up – maybe someone should do a study, it’d make an interesting Sociological thesis (if such a thing is possible ). As I say, this was the 70s and maybe by this time schools were less interested in perpetuating the staus quo (despite the fact they were such a great band ) than they had been in the 50s and 60s. Maybe there was no status quo to preserve. Maybe it was because Queens was a Comprehensive and the kids there were able to find their own academic level within it regardless of their father’s (or mother’s) rank which gave everyone more opportunities on leaving. Actually, what was the school in the 60s, Secondary Modern? Finally, if there is one trend I’ve noticed in my *peer group* it’s the preponderance of people who’ve migrated into the world (?!?!?) of IT – and remember, from that age group I doubt if any of even saw a computer until we were in our 20s
    by wig » Wed Apr 13, 2005 1:38 pm
    Of course there must be vast differences between the school in the 60’s and the school in later generations. There can be little doubt that Queens’s teachers of the 60’s were caught up in the great education debate then engulfing English schools and sought to move Queens away from a Secondary Modern structure to the more Comprehensive model of schools that were then beginning to be developed. And there can also be little doubt that such teachers, confronted with the weekly sight of young boys dressing up in uniform and marching around the playground with weapons slightly too big for them, must have tapped into the growing anti-war movement coming out of Vietnam, not to mention the end of National Service which occurred in about ’62, and started to put less stress on the CCF. Incidentally, the Queens CCF could not be compared with the cadet forces in English mainland schools. They were in the middle of the British Army of the Rhine. More generals than the whole English Cadet force would see in ten years probably inspected Queens CCF. The boys had access to the main training grounds of the Army and Air Force with all the kit they could get their little hands on. Their dads were all soldiers or airman (other ranks of course!) At Queens it was almost part of their family and school culture to be military minded.

    What a wonderful sociological study it would make. Surely we have some University lecturers in our midst who might encourage such a study?

    Uni Lecturer
    by Rob Pilgrim » Wed Apr 13, 2005 11:30 pm
    wig wrote:What a wonderful sociological study it would make. Surely we have some University lecturers in our midst who might encourage such a study?

    You’re right, I think it would be quite interesting to look at the changes in that period – but I don’t know that I could:

    a/. Get the funding.
    b/. Do it from here in Oz.

    Ranks
    by Fred Williams » Mon Apr 25, 2005 3:04 pm
    I dont know what you are all on about- in my experience most top set classes were RAF NCO kids, with officers offspring slightly less able and the Army kids bottom (officers kids too- good on being superior and close minded but somewhat challenged when it came to the gray matter)

    I confess a bias towards my own background, but the reality was still there to see!
    Fred Williams

    Top Set Classes
    by Gordo » Tue Apr 26, 2005 7:59 am
    Out of the 24 names that I remember from my class (1A 1968/9):
    18 were officers or equivalent,
    4 were other ranks,
    2 that I don’t know but both American.

    (BTW I am not aware that any of them joined the armed forces, but then we didn’t have the CCF when I was there !)

    I remember fewer names from the next set (1B 1968/9) but it is still indicative that there were at least 14 other ranks in that class.

    I believe that the choice of class was based on academic achievement at 11+ irrespective of officer/OR status.

  6. I was one of those forces kids who failed the 11 plus exam largely because I was educated in Forces schools in the 1950’s. By the time I reached the age of 11, I was pretty thoroughly messed up and attending mainline English schools in the UK didn’t really do much to help. When this was later investigated, (psychologist) I was found to be rather good at English and potentially brilliant at Maths (but a bit dyslexic with figures which messed things up more than a little). No-one ever got to the bottom of this in my schooldays and it was a sign of the man’s innate intelligence that Mr Aspinal realized that I was not a complete idiot and let me into the Grammar stream.

    It was to be much later in life, after bringing up kids etc, that I finally went to University and proved him right…a little late for a normal career, but I’ve had an interesting life and only a few regrets. I am grateful to Queens School for the chance to be me…not just an English school construction.

  7. Not the only school to be ‘class’ conscious, Gloucester school in Hohne was just as bad, maybe worse, I hated every minute I spent there! dad was a Cpl at the time, and boy did I know it!

  8. My eldest Daughter went to Queens in the mid 70’s, I was a Cpl at the time. I will never forget being called in front of the head after my Daughters first Concert, she had to recite “Jack & Jill” Nursery rhyme (She was 6 years old) , oh my goodness she only recited the naughty one (in front of all the Parents) that I had taught her at home….it ended “Jack Must have been a Yankee”. Oh JHQ such happy memories.

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