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   Ray Birch


Raymond (Ray) Birch

House: Hawke/Grigg
Years: 1942-1946
I was in Hawke 1942-4 (then living in Kampala) and Grigg 1945-6 (my parents had moved to Nairobi)

Memories that linger on:
Initiation ceremonies which included the dreaded slide, pushing a coin along the railway line with one's nose, the pill made up of unmentionable ingredients and swallowed by newcomers, duckings, disembarking from the train from Uganda which stopped outside the school to disgorge pupils from Uganda and points en route, greasing said railway lines, waiting for steam engines heading upcountry from Nairobi to lose traction on the gradient and wheels spin uncontrolably (this was a caning offence I think but great fun), putting 10 cent coins (they had a hole in the center) and retrieving the flattened object after it had been run over by the train. At the time, the Kenya/Uganda railway line passed through Nairobi via the DC's office and up past the school. It was later of course re-routed to its present location.

Smoking was an offence punishable by six of the best administered either by a school prefect or the headmaster - it was the offenders choice! Inevitably, the offender opted for the former but I an not sure why. The rear of the bicycle shed was a favourite, if obvious, haunt of smokers and I well remember being caught, being caned and getting my own back by being the catcher and administering the cane when elevated to the the rank of school captain and Head of Grigg (comprised solely of day scholars better known as " stinkers").

These are just a few of many memories that come flooding back as I type this message. Discipline was harsh at the School and could not possibly survive today. I don't think it did me any harm though and I had no reservations about sending my own children to boarding school albeit not the PoW. I realise now, Percy Fletcher was an inspired Headmaster and I attribute to him much of what I achieved in adulthood.

On leaving school
Joined East African Airways in Nairobi as a humble (and badly paid) traffic trainee which involved working shifts at the old Eastleigh Airport. Whilst with EAAC, obtained my Private Pilots licence. EAAC transferred me to Dar es Salaam during the Mau Mau days (to avoid me being conscripted into the Kenya Police Air Wing at which time they would lose my services but still have to pay my salary !!). In Dar, I met my wife to be - now my late wife - and remained with them until 1950 when I joined the E.A. Oxygen Co. as their office manager. Worked with them in Dar and Nairobi until 1954 when I joined Caltex Petroleum Corporation in Nairobi.

'Caltex' became my career and I remained with them until I retired in 1988. With Caltex I was stationed in Dar es Salaam, Morogoro, Mwanza, Nairobi, Mbale, Kampala, Lusaka, New York, Cape Town and latterly Dallas, Texas to where the Caltex HQ relocated when their lease ran out in Manhattan.

I presently live in Exeter, Devon, England.

(Registered 16th July 2005)

If anyone wishes to contact Ray, please Click Here to e-mail him