"MENS SANA IN CORPORE SANO"
THE essential part played by physical Education in preparing young men and women, by the education of body, mind and spirit, to take their place in society has not always been recognised and it was a "Cinderella" subject in many schools. The "old School" gymnasium, built several years after the School opened, was ill-equipped by modern standards, having a block-floor and limited apparatus. Organised games were limited to one field, initially Beckton and later Rectory Field, so that games periods were fortnightly. This naturally limited the range of activities and general standard, but the representative team,, especially in athletics, more than held their own. The enthusiasm of Staff and boys, irrespective of facilities, was and still is the vital factor upon which the success of any programme depends. Details of the era prior to 1945 have been dealt with in article, by Mr. Payton, our V.O.B., and others.
After the World War II, following the evacuation, a programme of activities was established with as large a range a possible and a policy adopted to make the House Championship more representative. The Rectory Field, scene of inter-school soccer and cricket fixtures, Flanders Field, Barking Recreation Ground and Gooseley's Field were made available and the School has every reason to he grateful to the groundsmen concerned, who were so co-operative. Minor improvements were made in the "gym" which was new also used for assembly and general activities, to accommodate the increasing population of the School. The conditions did not encourage enthusiasm, but the vision of the "Promised Land" at Langdon Crescent was a great incentive, and the foundations were slowly but surely laid to prepare for that momentous occasion.
The Houses had been renamed since the previous nomenclature became unsuitable as the School population increased, but the rivalry was soon as strong as ever. The number of soccer and cricket teams increased, the tennis tournament, swimming gala, cross-country run, athletic sports and chess tournament became annual features. Standards were introduced in swimming, cross-country, athletics, and a junior and senior cross-country, encouraged team-work in the Championship. The introduction of further field events in the sports increased the spread of events and added to the interest of the final reckoning. Use of cricket squares on the various fields helped to raise the standard and style of the cricket played, and Wanstead Park provided suitable courses of 1.25 miles and 3.25 miles for the two cross-country races. The athletic sports were held initially on the 440 yds. track at Flanders Field and later switched to Rectory Field. All these venues have provided scenes of great excitement as the contests provided needle-matches an many occasions, and no doubt each boy will have his own particular occasion to remember. The climax to the annual series of contests was normally the swimming gala, when very often the House Championship was decided. Boxing, Verse Speaking and Debating were part of the House Championship for short periods, but now the programme is much the same as pre-war, except that cross-country has taken the place of rifle shooting and the scale of activities has been greatly increased. Such a formidable programme could not have been organised so successfully without the full co-operation of the Staff, especially the Housemasters, the House Officials and ground staffs of the fields already mentioned.
The additional organised game, facilities and the extended House programme gradually helped to raise the standard of performance of the representative teams so that once again East Ham Grammar School became a force to be reckoned with. The Swimming Club organised by Mr. S. Forrester and Mr. Ingram, not only produced a strong relay team, but also regular Life Saving Awards for a large number of boys. The interest and high standard of play in tennis was attended to by Mr. R. T. Forrester, who also assisted Mr. Mott and Mr. Mills with the soccer. The latter activity, always a strong point in the School, produced boys of the Harris, Bradley calibre, who not only gained representative honours, but were typical of the type of player whose numbers would be increased under the scheme of activities planned. The Cricket Section flourished under the guidance of Mr. Witter, Mr. Marsh and Mr. Marder, and was blessed by the special attention of Dr. Whiteley and Mr. "Les" West. The standard reached made an Essex Club and Ground fixture a possibility, and aided by the wickets of Mr, James, this has become an annual feature. Mr. Wallis, who started the Rugby Club in 1948 with no "home" ground, helped by Mr. Marsh, was rewarded with great enthusiasm and improvement in play to produce gain a team quite capable of giving a performance worthy of any school. In athletics Mr. Mills, assisted by Mr. Fisher for a time, and again by the increased activity in organised games and House activities, raised the standard of athletics, so that the School as a school of its size should be, was represented amongst the leading schools. In the "Burns Cup", "Champion Russell Cup", "Bickersteth Competition", "Campbell Trophy" and other inter-Grammar School activities, the doldrums of failure following the post-war period were left behind and a tradition of success was established. Many more boys gained county representative honours - Wells (Rugby), Jones, Maynard, (Soccer) and several boys in Athletics. The outstanding achievement in athletics was attained by D. J. N. Johnson, who not only represented Essex in the National Schools Sports, but set a standard of attainment which it is doubtful will ever be superseded.
The facilities provided by the School at Langdon Crescent were both gratifying and disappointing. The gymnasium presented a very workmanlike atmosphere and was a "gym" in the true sense of the word. The playing fields adjacent to the School would undoubtedly avoid wastage of time and eradicate the problems of organisation which arose with a "spread" of facilities. Dressing and washing facilities were provided which, after adjustments, would he able to accommodate even the seven or eight hundred boys the School may hold in the future. In other words, the scheme of activities already operating could be continued with more time available on each activity to produce further improvement of performance for the whole School, not just the representative teams, who would not suffer in the process. However, this was not to be, for although the summer activities were not affected so much, the poor condition of the playing fields played havoc with the winter activities. Although the scheme to introduce rugby and soccer in organised games has gone ahead, cross-country practice around "Jenkin's Lane" has replaced normal activities on a number of occasions. Swimming has continued for junior forms throughout the year and tennis has really come into its own with eight courts available. The cricket squares are not quite up to Rectory Field standards, mainly due to the poor drainage, which puts them out of action so easily. However, we are hoping that the fault will be remedied so that the efforts put into the various activities will not he nullified. In athletics, extra opportunity for practice has increased the and interest, which will continue to rise no doubt for a number of years. With a "home" pitch at last, even though often out of action, with Mr. Jennings and Mr. Spavin to help Mr. Wallis, the Rugby Section has firmly established itself with a first and second fifteen worthy of mention, whilst the soccer turns out on occasions six elevens. Senior and Junior cross-country teams represent the School and our representative team in the Bickersteth (Field Events) is gradually strengthening.
Highlights of the first two and a half years at Langdon Crescent have been provided by D. J. N. Johnson's continued success with the England team in the European and Empire Championships; D. Wade's election for the England trial in Rugby, B. Knight's cap award for Essex Cricket Second Eleven; B. Spencer's selection as Captain of the County Grammar Schools' Eleven and a number of other honours gained in East Ham and County teams. Coupled with this is the undoubted improvement in performance throughout the School in general. This improvement has been offset by the unfortunate condition of the playing fields and also by the fact that we still get a number of boys who attend the School and show little interest in what the School is trying to achieve. It is hoped that time will provide the answer to both these problems, and this is indicated by recent developments.
The Physical Education Programme is dependent for its success upon the largest combined effort and all should share in the sense of progress and achievement felt on this occasion; the Authority, the Staff, boys and their parents, groundstaff, catering staff, local and County Sports Associations. It is only fitting that such "team-work", a keyword in Physical Education, should be exemplified in the provision for and participation in the programme developed. As a final reason for rejoicing at this time, one might mention the continued success of the Old Boys' Association, whose programme is not quite so varied, but whose achievements in soccer and cricket are a sound recommendation.
The outlook for the future is more than favourable, especially when the playing fields problem is solved, but all boys must realise that their enthusiasm and effort are necessary, which in turn will encourage the Staff concerned - Mr. Jennings and Mr, Moss in tennis; Mr. S. Forrester and Mr. Ingram in swimming; Mr. Heyes in chess; Mr. Wallis, Mr. Jennings, Mr. Spavin in rugby; Mr. Mott, Mr. Canning and Mr. Mills in soccer; Mr. Marder, Mr. Mace and Mr. Mott and Mr. Mills in athletics. Last but not least, all boys can give support to their various House activities.