Harold James Hague 1919 – 2005

John Maulden (G 45-50), former College Master and a colleague of Jim, writes:

“Jim was born on December 29th. 1919 in Sutton Coldfield, where his father was a metallurgist and his mother made excellent rabbit and pigeon pies and ginger beer from nettles. He always remembered with affection his happy times as a lad helping on his grandfather’s farm in Warwickshire, an idyll interrupted at the age of seven when he was sent to the Lindly Lodge Preparatory School near Nuneaton. Here he was allowed either butter or jam on his bread but not both, and found ‘Ma Trop’, the very fat French teacher, ‘very difficult’. Nonetheless it was at Lindly Lodge that he developed his love of nature, pride in his country and a lifelong interest in History, though looking back later he considered that seven was too early for a youngster to board.

In 1933 Jim entered Dryden House at Oundle School, whose accommodation was condemned as unfit for human habitation and about to be converted into masters’ flats. He survived the new boys’ rowing test by swimming 100 yards in the River Nene but was thrown out of morning prayers for whistling during the psalms. At a time when the country was passing through a pacifist antiwar phase Jim worked hard at his studies, and was able to turn down an offer of an Exhibition from Queen’s College Cambridge and accept an Open Scholarship at St. John’s College Oxford. He spent the summer of 1938 in Paris studying French Literature and History, commending the lectures but developing a healthy aversion for ’Les Frogs’.

The late thirties was a time of two million unemployed, there were no jobs and Jim was compelled to rely on his parents for his keep during the Oxford vacations. He played squash and tennis for his college and Rugby Fives for the university, at the same time becoming smitten by the beauty of the ladies’ hockey captain, alas to no avail ! Jim’s verdict : “Oxford is not interested in class, only in quality”.

War came, and Jim was commissioned into the Royal Engineers. He saw action in the defence of Dunkirk, blowing up bridges in the attempt to stem the German advance. He was finally taken off the beach by a French destroyer, which escaped across the Channel with all guns blazing against the strafing Luftwaffe. “The Frogs did their stuff this time”, conceded the ever grateful Jim.

Arriving in the Middle East via the Cape Town route, Jim next saw action in the North Africa Campaign. At El Alamein his unit was part of the 10th. Armoured Division and responsible for clearing gaps in Rommel’s minefields through which the tanks were to advance under cover of darkness. As Jim put it, “the tanks were late as usual, and consequently were starkly silhouetted against the lightening eastern sky, sitting targets for the German gunners. The gaps were strewn with burning tanks”. Hence Jim’s motto : “Never be late for an engagement”. He received a leg wound requiring an operation and blood transfusion, and insisted he owed his life to the devoted New Zealand medics who tended him.

At Monte Cassino Jim fought with the 2nd. Polish Corps, for whom he had the highest admiration. He ended the war in Northern Italy, and flew back to England in a Lancaster bomber, his luggage in the bomb bay. Armed with a demob suit and a ration book Jim returned to Oxford, to the very rooms he had vacated in 1939.

He did not linger long. No fewer than five of his close Oxford friends had been killed in the war, and in April 1946, after being awarded a War Degree in History, he took up a post in Matthews House at Clifton Preparatory School as the Headmaster’s Resident Tutor, teaching French and History and coaching cricket, soccer and rugby. Jim regarded his time at Clifton, which included waiting on dinner guests, as good training, a time which held for him an extra meaning because the Headmaster’s son had died at Monte Cassino. In 1949 Jim moved briefly to Liverpool College, a change he regretted since the school was sadly run down after the war.

Later the same year, after declining offers from both the Sudan and Colonial Civil Services, Jim came to Framlingham at the invitation of Headmaster Reggie Kirkman, a Yorkshireman who dropped his aitches, — ‘ ‘ere ‘ague, I park on the Front, you park round the back.’ He quickly immersed himself in College life, becoming a CCF officer and coaching hockey and rugby. A delighted Headmaster gave a special dinner for his 1951 Colts XV for winning all eight of their matches. As Master I/C Tennis he took teams to Wimbledon to compete for the Schools Youll Cup. He admired Kirkman, who described lazy boys as ‘not much oil in their cans’. ‘There was more laughter in those days’, said Jim, ‘Good clean fun’.

In addition to his teaching role as Head of History, Jim was Housemaster both of Garrett (1953 — 62) and Stradbroke (1964 — 7), after which he lived in Netherby, (below Dixon’s), fearful that the leaning chimney would fall in on his bedroom, and indulging his passion for gardening which earned him the affectionate title of ’Dibber’. In 1973 Jim was elected an Honorary OF.

In later years, when times had changed, Jim disapproved of both the excessive influx of staff from the north, resulting in less laughter, and the modern rapid staff turnover. ’Some continuity is a good thing’, he declared.

Jim retired in 1983, taking lodgings on the Market Hill within fifty yards of his bar stool in the Crown Hotel, where he and his El Alamein friend John Melsom had regularly had a pint together at precisely 9.40 pm on October 23 rd each year, the exact time the opening barrage of the battle began in 1942. He cultivated his allotment, where he claimed more sense was talked than in the House of Commons. He loved walking and visiting Southwold, Oxford and Cambridge. Above all, he enjoyed his trout fishing holidays in Somerset, based in his favourite hotel, the ’Carnarvon Arms’ at Dulverton. His final years were spent quietly in Allonsfield House at Campsea Ashe, and he died peacefully in Ipswich Hospital on August 19th 2005, aged 85.

Jim Hague was 34 years at Framlingham, where he served three Headmasters and earned the deep respect of staff and pupils alike.”

JJM – August 2005


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