School: 1949 - 1968

Lived: 13 March 1923 - 16 June 2021

Born in Hastings 13th March 1923. Although christened Arthur Raymond. he was nicknamed “Bob” because, as a baby, he bobbed his head a lot. This name stayed with him from then on.

Both Bob and his wife Vera went to the same school in Clive Vale and they remained in Hastings for the rest of their lives. They attended the same Junior School and Church. Bob then went on to Hastings Grammar School before gaining a scholarship to Exeter University in 1939 to study Modern Languages. After completing his first year, war broke out and he joined up for active service, being assigned to the Fleet Air Arm.

Flying from aircraft carriers including HMS ILLUSTRIOUS and HMS IMPLACABLE on Barracudas and Sea Hurricanes, he was initially based at Scapa Flow in the Orkneys and engaged in bombing runs over Norway. It was while there that “Wizzie” had his first brush with death, ditching in the Arctic waters off the Lofoten Islands and being saved by a rating from HMS IMPLACABLE while the rest of his crew mates perished.

As the war progressed, Bob was relocated to the Pacific where the task was to bomb the Japanese airfields to stop their planes taking off and intercepting the dropping of the first “H” bomb. It was while his crew were carrying out these duties and after bombing Tokushima runway that they were hit by ack ack fire. Knowing that they wouldn’t make it back to ILLUSTRIOUS, Bob was asked by his pilot to navigate them to the nearest course and coordinates for the three waiting rescue vessels. He chose an American submarine positioned offshore in the Pacific. The pilot ditched right by the sub where Bob was rescued but sadly both his pilot and bomber didn’t make it.

After the war “Wizzie” continued his course at Exeter and gained a BA first before a further year in Paris to secure an MA in Modern Languages. This led to his first teaching position in 1949 at Eastbourne Grammar School, understudying French with Mr Bonfield (“FLOM”). Those taught by him remember a quietly spoken who commanded respect, but always with a good sense of humour. He was also patient – not least in successfully helping those who had previously struggled with other teachers of French through to good GCE results – as our former Hon Secretary Fred Reeve recalls.

Bob was not just a good teacher, he was also an excellent footballer playing centre half for the Old Gramms in the local Eastbourne League in front of the goalkeeper – who was none other than  EOGA Vice President Brian York. He also starred in the annual Staff v Boys Cricket match on the Saffrons and was for many years a stalwart of Hastings Ramblers Cricket XI. “Wizzie” will also be remembered for instigating the 10th Eastbourne Scouts and, along first with George Henshall and then with George Dixon, leading school trips abroad, giving many Grammarians their first experience of visiting Europe.

Becoming Senior French Master after “Flom” retired in 1958, he remained at Eastbourne Grammar School until 1968 when he was head-hunted by George Henshall, then Headmaster of Hastings Grammar School, to become Head of Modern Languages. He stayed there until he retired, living in the house that George had persuaded him to buy upon his appointment – which had happened to be next door to the Henshalls.

In retirement, Bob developed remarkably different hobbies: playing Scrabble daily right up to his death; devoting time to wine-making, walking, photography; reading from his large collection of classical literature (both English and French); and using his photos to paint beautiful scenes in water colour. He also had a remarkable knowledge of Poetry and Art, together with a love of Classical Music.

Sadly, Bob died after a fall just two months before what would have been his and Vera’s 70th Wedding Anniversary. Vera (94) also died a few weeks later.

Bob was a much loved and respected teacher of the “old school” who regularly attended the EOGA Annual Lunch; he will be sorely missed.

Brian York