Professor L. Hunter, University College of Leicester
I BELIEVE it is fairly generally agreed that whilst at school boys take their schools very much for granted, and that it is only after leaving that tangible impressions emerge. It is my experience that these impressions have become stronger the farther my school days have receded, and although I have a great many impressions, I mention only three.
I was taught French by the late John L. Weir, and although he was too erratic to be a really good teacher he had many excellent qualities which I came to appreciate long after I left school. Since that time I have lived for long periods in France, and I can now appreciate the immense trouble he took to give us a really good accent. It is no easy task to persuade a class of young Cockneys to speak good French, and I am now firmly of the opinion that if French is to be taught by an Englishman it is best done by a north countryman, as Mr. Weir was.
As one who has become a professor of chemistry I cannot fail to appreciate the excellence of the teaching in chemistry at East Ham in my time. When he found time to take the trouble, A. E. Dunstan was without parallel as an inspired teacher. He later became chief chemist and a director of the Anglo-lranian Oil Co., and I was in the VIth form at a time (1916-17) when he and F. B. Thole were becoming interested in oil. I was greatly privileged to see some of the experimental work which Thole was doing at that time. But little did I realise that these were some of the original experiment on the "cracking" of petroleum, a process which is now the basis not only of the petroleum industry, but also of the petro-chemicals industry, on the products of which so much of modem civilisation depends. History was being made on the very benches at which we sixth-formers were doing our simple titrations!
In 1915 the War Office sanctioned the formation of a Cadet Corps at the School, and H. Barton, the senior mathematics master was created O.C. with the rank of major. The corps was of company strength, and together with companies from neighbouring schools formed a cadet battalion affiliated to a local territorial infantry unit. What puzzled me (and still does?) was the amazing difference between Mr. Barton and Major Barton. As a teacher of mathematics his classes were pandemonium, each boy vying with his neighbour in throwing chalk and paper darts; but on parade his whole personality changed to one of strict command and rigid discipline, that the same boys who baited him in class obeyed without question his slightest command, and quailed beneath his displeasure. I for one was proud to serve under him as corporal, sergeant and, finally, as Company Q.M.S.