Guy and I overlapped for one year, 1935, at Durban Preparatory High School, but the gulf between Standard One and Standard Six was unbridgeable. I felt honoured when allowed to join the company of the big boys: Guy was always a big boy to me, my big brother whom I admired and loved, but we moved in different circles. One of the few memories I have of Guy in those days is of Guy and his friends playing ‘tinty’, a game which involves holding five peach stones on the back of one’s hand, tossing them in the air and trying to catch as many as possible in the palm of the hand. For some arcane reason, it was the only Standard Six boys who were allowed to play this weird game. I was very proud of my big brother when Guy emerged, as he often did, as the champion. (One of the players at this game was Frank Dickens, whom Paul and I later re-met in 1940, when he was a sergeant in our dispatch riders unit in the South African Signals Corps in World War II.)
At some stage in Guy’s schooling – I am not certain of the precise year – Guy went to King’s School, a private boys’ boarding school in Nottingham Road, about sixty miles inland from Durban. When I asked Lizzie, she said that Guy was delicate and needed a change of care.
I would not have thought that the Midlands of Natal, with all the mists and chills, was an appropriate location for a boy with a supposedly weak chest. Guy looked very grown-up in his smart new school uniform, with long trousers, going off on his own by train. He had his own suitcase and all his clothes had his name tag – G.W. BROKENSHA – carefully sewn on by Lizzie. I also remember my delight when he came home for the holidays. He did not stay long at King’s School, which I visited a few years ago: in contrast to the 1930s the school is now open to girls as well as boys and of course to Africans and Indians instead of only to white boys. I was pleased to see that it is still flourishing.
All Guy’s secondary education was at Durban High School, which at that time had an eccentric headmaster, Mr Langley, who was passionate about the Napoleonic campaigns. Guy held us entranced as he related how all three hundred and fifty boys had been called out, arranged in their different forms, to re-enact the Battle of Waterloo – to their delight, and to the dismay of the other teachers, whose lessons were summarily interrupted. Mr Langley stood on
the high bank overlooking the playing fields, deploying his troops and trying to work out what exactly happened to the troops of the Duke of Wellington and of Von Blücher on that fateful day: ‘You boys, move to your right, your right; come on boys!’ Imagine what would happen to a contemporary headmaster who tried to play soldiers, using his pupils as his toys …