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Conference Papers Year : 2022

Writing World War Two in Public Schools' Magazines


A long-established public school tradition, school magazines continued to be published between 1939 and 1945 despite the disruptions brought about by the war, including paper shortage. Edited by schoolboys experiencing war at the rear while enjoying privileged connections with the political and military milieus of the time, the magazines provide a unique insight into public schools’ very own war. They indeed continued to report extensively on sport fixtures and school news – pointing to relatively sheltered lives – but also featured articles about enemy bombings and eulogies of old boys killed in action. As Harrow boys had predicted in the 1939 poem “Song for an Exceptional Term”: ““This term is most exceptional” they told us the first day. / [...] “You must learn to black out, so you do not show a spark, / [...] Perhaps we’ll all be writing propaganda; learning ARP." Beyond the simple chronicling of the war, school magazines sometimes adopted a resolutely corporate tone as boys reported on the visits of war leaders their schools had often trained and still were in close contact with. Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s and Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery’s regular visits were for example enthusiastically discussed in the magazines of their old schools, respectively Harrow and St Paul’s. Finally, boys used the space provided by school magazines to elaborate some patriotic pieces such as the “War Alphabet” published in one of Rugby’s magazines – “B is for Britannia, still ruling the waves, / Or waiving the rules, as her seamen she saves. / [...] G is for Goebbels and Goering. The air / Is thick with their lies and their bombers. Some pair!” – as well as The Harrovian’s “Fifth Column” series supposedly written by a German agent under cover at Harrow which used both form and content to ridicule Nazi Germany.
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Dates and versions

hal-03768270 , version 1 (02-09-2022)


  • HAL Id : hal-03768270 , version 1


Clémence Pillot. Writing World War Two in Public Schools' Magazines. Writing the World Wars Conference, Aug 2022, Cork, Ireland. ⟨hal-03768270⟩
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