Florey, Frank

Florey, Frank

“Well done, that man” – this well-used expression of Frank’s certainly applies to Frank’s service to Hurst. That service that spanned 35 years might so easily have been spent in other scenes. If the war had not started as Frank came down from Oxford – If he had not been badly wounded in 1944 – If he had not lived in the village of Northmoor – it is highly likely that his teaching would have led to different schools and he would have gone on to be a first class headmaster at whichever school had been fortunate enough to select him.

Frank was born in November 1916 at Rectory Farm, Northtmoor, where his father was a tenant farmer – the farm being owned by St.John’s College, Oxford. He attended New College School, Oxford, followed by Bloxham School, where he was reported to be the best cricketer they ever had. In 1935 he won an Exhibition to Pembroke College, Oxford, where he read History and was elected a member of the Authentic Cricket and Occasional Hockey Clubs. An appendix operation in his fourth year ended any hopes of a hockey ‘blue’.

In the sunnier of 1939 he taught at Mostyn House, Parkgate, in Cheshire, and probably at this time decided that boarding school teaching was the right place for him.
When war was declared in 1939 Frank volunteered for the Army and like many graduate volunteers, he was sent to do an Officer Training Course at Sandhurst. He was commissioned into the Oxford and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry and posted to the “43rd Light Infantry”. Being an officer in a “regular battalion” for the next five years made a very big impression on Frank and it influenced his attitude to the Army and his Regiment for the rest of his life. He served as Carrier Officer and Transport Officer before being appointed O.C…. *B’ Company as a Major, to train his company for Normandy. The Battalion landed in Normandy on 23 June 1944 and on the night of 16 July, Frank’s right hand was shattered in the battle for Cahier, west of Caen. The official report of the battle reports:- “The Battalion was called on to make the attack without artillery or tank support – these had been concentrated for the breakout east of Caen. ‘B’ Company captured its objective but every officer was killed or wounded.” During the attack Frank picked up a rifle, belonging to a casualty, and he was carrying this when an enemy grenade exploded against his right hand. If he had not been carrying the rifle, which took the full impact of the explosion, he might have been killed. Frank was flown to England and then sent to a hospital in Wales where the medics did their best to save part of his hand; but in the end it had to be amputated.

He went to Roehampton Hospital and when he first came to Hurst he wore an artificial arm. Early in 1945 Miss Perkins, then secretary to the Headmaster of Hurstpierpoint College, lived in Northmoor and she had heard that a trained teacher had recently teen invalided out of the Army and was living in the village. As a result of this information, Frank was appointed Senior English Master at the College in September 1945. The average officer who had experienced the responsibility of commanding an Infantry Company in battle found it very difficult to readjust to civilian life after the war. It was not surprising that most of them were longing for something quiet and stable that they could call their own. To sit in their own armchair, beside their own fireside with their loved ones and do a normal job. How much harder was all this for someone in Frank’s position. He had no experience of married life in peacetime, he now had a daughter of 18 months and above all, he had lost his right hand and now he was about to teach 13-18 year olds in the Public School for the first time. It would not have been surprising if it had taken him the next 35 years to adjust to this situation. Frank, Peggy and baby Margaret moved to Springcroft, on Wickham Hill, in September 1945. Frank rode his bicycle the length of College Lane to and from College each day. In November 1945 George Lambert came home on leave from Germany and visited the College to meet Frank for the first time. When he was demobilised in January 1946 he and his family were asked to share Springcroft with the Florey family. A most unlikely start for a lifelong friendship!

Frank threw himself wholeheartedly into the life of the school and he showed great determination in overcoming any difficulties. In the early days it was all rather a strain; but Frank learnt to cope with everything and he never shirked any task. With the help of Peggy, the ideal partner in these circumstances, he gradually became less strained and it was very pleasing to see him becoming more and more relaxed. Frank soon proved himself a first class teacher of English; although in the early days, owing to a shortage of classrooms, he had to do all his sixth form teaching in Shield day- rooms. He became an Officer in the Cadet Corps, which he later commanded for several years, his war experience being invaluable in training cadets. He was master-in-charge of grounds and had the difficult task of restoring the playing fields after neglect during the war years. He took a very active part in coaching games – the 1st XV rugby, and the colts in cricket and hockey.
Frank became the Housemaster of Chevron, a position he held for 19 years, and many generations of Chevron boys have expressed their gratitude for the example and wise guidance he gave them. Frank really knew his boys and his boys knew and greatly respected ‘Old Frank’. In the interval between giving up the House and becoming Second Master, Frank organised a College Appeal. Although an “amateur he handled it in a very professional way and made contact with a tremendous number of OJs and ex-parents.

Frank was highly respected by his colleagues, was a very good organiser and paid great attention to detail. These qualities were used to the full when he proved an excellent Second Master in his final four years at Hurst. Peggy proved an ideal supporter in every way.

On retiring from Hurst in 1980, Frank returned to live in Northmoor, where he continued his pastoral work. A wise and sympathetic listener, his advice was sought by people of all. ages. Mr. David Goldsmith, who taught at Hurst and Radley before becoming Headmaster of Cokethorpe, enticed Frank to teach A level English in his school. Frank soon became very much at home in a new Common Room. He became an active member of the local Royal British Legion and, as Chairman, was able to help and advise ex-service people in getting their correct pensions.

The Rector of Northmoor is also responsible for three other parishes and consequently the church at Northmoor does not have a morning service every Sunday. Frank, with the Rector’s blessing, introduced a Young People’s Service to fill this gap. He designed and directed this service and he and Peggy took the trouble to encourage the young people to attend. Frank’s addresses always gave a clear and straight-forward message. He was also a member of the Parochial Church Council and the Deanery Synod.

Contributed by George Lambert

A Service of Thanksgiving for the life of Frank was held in the College Chapel on Sunday 13 October
1991. The Rev. Dr. Gerald Buss conducted the service and gave the address. The prayers were led by Mr. Roger Griffiths, former Headmaster, and the lesson was read by Mr. David Hughes, House Captain of Chevron 1958/59. The choir sang the anthem ‘Greater Love hath no man’ by John Ireland.

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