Dr Robert Allen (OWL '60)
An inspirational, personal account of Dr Robert Allen's time at Windlesham and his career that followed
My time at Windlesham and beyond as told by Robert Allen.....
I was not very happy about coming to Windlesham (WHS) in January 1959, because it was a very cold winter, I was the only American, and difficulties with parental actions after their divorce had darkened my outlook on life and people in general. I mention this only to emphasize that my eventual happy evolution at WHS was due primarily to the qualities of the school and its people, rather than outside influences.
Although I was teased a lot in the beginning about being a "Yank," the boys that Mr. Charles Frean mentioned in a previous Hoot issue eventually accepted me. In particular, I remember Stephen Wegerif and Jeremy Pagliero as "nice guys."
-- Being an older (12 year old) boy helped, as did my newly discovered skills in football and rugby. I showed a knack for history and geography as well, which won some more respect later as I helped younger boys with those subjects. It is fortunate that my status did not depend on my meagre skills in cricket or mathematics!
At the beginning of 1960, I got a surprise "promotion" to Captain of Drake House. Added to my activities above was the expectation of being a good example, a cheerleader at sports, and a help to younger boys, as needed. These skills were very useful during Air Scout activities, as well.
-- I must admit that my new physical fitness and land navigation skills were also used for one or two discreet expeditions to the sweet shop in Washington/Findon. The latter violation of school rules was discovered (our disguises were not very good), so we received minor punishment. I expected to be "sacked" from my position as Captain of Drake House and also the shooting team; surprisingly, neither happened.
A bigger surprise happened the next term; I was made a Monitor, one of the senior boys who had very limited authority over younger boys! Although we got no British Army-style swagger sticks, the welcome perks included wearing long grey trousers (instead of the corduroy shorts worn by most) and the privilege of eating with the Headmaster (Mr. Charles). At this table, the porridge was even warm sometimes and there was enough marmalade for all. Combined with the leadership positions above, I was challenged with responsibilities and opportunities to excel or fail that I had never had before, and would not see again for several years. Read on....
Here is a commentary concerning my Windlesham days and beyond:
Focusing on connections with WHS, I will fast forward through Stowe School (more of the same academic subjects) and American high school (did well in soccer and academics, in spite of discovering girls).
My U.S. Air Force active duty career produced many opportunities to use and build on the skills that I first learned at Windlesham. If you have lasted this long in reading my comments, you may be tired of a paragraph format, so I will be more concise below by using a tabular style.
Academics: I encountered several subjects for the first time at WHS: international geography and history, Latin, French.
-- The first two continued to be guiding interests, leading me to be an aircraft navigator (worldwide flights) and a historian (Ph.D, University of London).
-- Latin seems to have formed a basis for language rules and structure (my wife often asked me how to spell words, before Google arrived).
-- French was invaluable in my Ph. D research, as well as helpful during some memorable visits to France and Belgium.
Leadership: Listen first, be fair, be consistent; all of these beginning skills from WHS evolved as I advanced in rank and responsibility in the Air Force and beyond, in the air and on the ground.
-- Perhaps the best Windlesham lesson was that with authority comes responsibility; Mr. Charles mad sure that monitors did not get too full of themselves.
Self-confidence: I had had few challenges outside the classroom before arriving at WHS; I graduated knowing that I had been successful in overcoming challenges, and so I carried skills and interests for the future.
Overall: I am still a strong Anglophile, was stationed in the UK twice, and visited Windlesham with my family in the 1990s.
I hope that my words above will give you a greater appreciation of your own Windlesham experience. You have seen a glimpse of the value of the past; best of luck in the future!
Dr Robert Allen (OWL 1960)