1939 Herbert Loebl


I was a member of the 1st Cadet Company C.P. (F.) R.E.

(Big Drummer in the Band.) from December 1938 – July 1939


I was sent to Dover County School for Boys, my sister to the equivalent girls’ establishment. We travelled the 10 miles between Deal and Dover by train. the boys and girls in separate compartments. But we managed to communicate with the girls out of the windows, a rather dangerous practice.

Both schools were grammar school institutions. My school was housed in a magnificent, recently building completed in 1931 on a height overlooking Dover.

Although I did not yet understand much English, I enjoyed the lessons. The older pupils and some of the younger staff were politically rather left-wing-inclined and therefore very supportive of refugees from the Nazis. In fact, they told me stories about what went on in Germany which I could hardly believe.

All the masters were very friendly and the atmosphere in the classroom was much more relaxed than in my German Gymnasium. I well recall an occasion when a fellow pupil – I even remember that his name was Brabham – got up during an English class and reminded the master Mr. Thomas that the lesson should have ended ten minutes earlier. I wondered what would happen to the brazen boy, but to my amazement the master looked at his watch. thanked Brabham, apologized and left.

I joined the orchestra with my violin and enjoyed the practices and our performances, also joined the school’s cadet carps, commanded by our Physics master Mr. Pearce. Because I was in the school orchestra, I was invited to join the band. And because I was rather tall for my age. I was asked to take on the big drum, which led the band on parades. Musically, this was no problem, but physically, it was rather hard. Our uniforms were heavy, of First World War Army vintage and rather “scratchy”. Our legs were swathed in puttees of the same age. As the big drummer. I had to wear a lion skin with red felt lining and two large leather gauntlets. And there was the rather heavy drum carried on my chest. Practices apart, I can only recall a few occasions when I was called upon to play. At the end of my time at the school in the summer of 1939 I participated in the cadet camp near Sandwich in Kent. Together with a bugler, I had to beat retreat in the evenings and reveille in the mornings, as well as precede the troop and the buglers for church parade on Sundays. This was an uncomfortable task in full gear on a hot summer’s day. Unhappily, I have no photo of myself as the big drummer.

Picture kindly supplied by Dr. Herbert Loebl OBE BSc, MPhil, Phd, Hon.DSc, C Eng. (13 May 2004)

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