Discussion of the children's schools in the UK.


Postby Matthew- » Sat Feb 14, 2004 6:09 pm


AGED 8 - 11 (1975 -78)

Memories of my first school were very happy and free. There was space to
play. Teachers were friendly. I had many friends. I was always top of the
class, and one of the best readers. There was a good balance of sport and
academic work.

My parents informed me when I was in the second year of junior school that I
would be leaving. Although it happened nearly thirty years ago, I remember
it as if it were yesterday. I had to stick my hand up in class when asked
who would be leaving. Everyone was sad and shocked, including me.

I was eight years old when I arrived on my first day at St. Vedast. My first
impression of the school was that it was cold and unwelcoming. I was one of
fifty boys at the start of the new school. We were the guinea pigs in an
experiment of untried and untested ideas. The majority of teachers had
little experience and no qualifications to teach young children.

One early memory related to circuit-training, commencing at 7.30am. We
were taken out by Mr. Barber and Mr. Southwell to a gravelled area, and
made to do press-ups on our bare fists until they bled, and then we had to
continue doing them on the base of the palms until they too bled. These
sadistic "sports-masters" would devise ways of "toughening us up". We would
see them in their macho stance devising the next form of torture, and it was
obvious to us that this was a source of some peculiar pleasure to them. They
made us take off our shoes and socks so they could see who had arched feet
and who had flat feet. The "flat-footers", of whom I was one, were ridiculed
and made to feel inferior.

We were given five minutes to break sweat when doing squat thrusts. Those
unfortunates who did not sweat easily were given a stroke with the heavy
climbing rope on the bare buttocks and, after 10 minutes, another and after
15 minutes another. I was fortunate, I broke sweat relatively easily. My
brother was not so lucky, and he finished up with three heavy weals on his

We had cadet weekends away at one of the school country houses. In
mid-winter we rose at 5am. It was pitch dark outside and freezing cold. Mr.
Barber and Mr. Southwell were warm and snug in their tracksuits. We wore
thin little T-shirts and shorts and we were instructed to do a cross-country
run. I happen to suffer from Nyctolopia (night-blindness). I kept running
into trees and goal posts, at full tilt. I tried to tell them, but was told
to shut-up, stop being a weakling (one of their favourite words), and get on
with it. I fell into puddles and got completely drenched. On occasions it
was so cold some of us suffered with chilblains. It was a terrifying
experience. It was in every way like being in the army, the difference being
we weren?t grown men who have chosen that way of life and have had medical
approval. That same winter I contracted an ear infection but was forbidden
from wearing a balaclava to keep the ear warm. This resulted in the
infection spreading into the right side of my face where I developed Bels
Palsy, and partial nerve damage.

The next day we were put in pairs and given a compass and an ordinance
survey map. We were taken to a point several miles away and left there to
find our own way back. There had been torrential rain over the previous days
and the fields were like huge lakes. We did reasonably well for about an
hour but then realised we did not know where we were. We were at the edge of
a field that was completely flooded. It was evident that the only way back
was to traverse this field. We stepped tentatively into it. At first it was
quite shallow but it got deeper, and before long the water was up to our
waists. The only way to the other side was to cling to the just visible
barbed wire fence and try to pull ourselves along it. The wind picked up and
the barbed wire began to sway backwards and forwards under our weight.
Meanwhile the water had become a current and was flowing strongly. I was
terrified that I would be swept away. I fell in a few times but just managed
to cling to the barbed wire. 1 don't know how long it look us to traverse
that field in freezing cold water, high winds and rain. Eventually we
reached the other side and we waded out onto a small country road, soaked to
the skin, shivering and blue with cold. Fortunately a local man in a pick-up
truck found us and brought us safely back to Waterperry. The teacher asked
us nothing of our experience. They just told us to go and change and come
back to start the next activity, and that was that.

One day one of my teachers, Mr Howell, during a morning break, accused me of
mixing the brown sugar with the white sugar. He spotted me near the scene of
the crime, and must have thought I was looking mischievous. He said "Come
here *****, and ushered me into a small room off one of the corridors. He
interrogated me as to why I had done this. I, of course, denied that I was
guilty because I was not. After ten minutes of insistence that I admit my
guilt, he tried to beat a confession out of me. He hit me with his open
hand, around the face and the head, about 10 or 15 times. I started to cry
out with pain, terror and a deep sense of injustice, but I would not admit
to something I had not done. My memory of this man is of a large,
overpowering and terrifying ogre.

This beating was sustained only a month after I had recovered from
concussion received as a result of a fall. It was a school that had few
recreational facilities and no grounds. During our short breaks between
classes or moving through the building we would often slide down the
banisters. On one occasion I must have leaned over too far. I lost my
balance and grip on the banister and fell down the stairwell two flights
onto the hard concrete base. I was severely bruised and carried unconscious
to the sick area. My mother was called to take me home. I was quite relieved
that this meant several days away.

There were regular almost ritualistic beatings for petty misdemeanours with
either the cane or plimsol in front of the whole class. To witness my
friends and classmates being beaten was certainly disturbing and perhaps
subtly instilled voyeuristic tendencies. For the recipient it was a
degrading and humiliating experience. On one occasion the teacher beat me in
front of the class, he had caught me throwing a paper aeroplane across the
classroom. He ordered me to the front of the class and took a training shoe
out of the cupboard. He told me to bend over to receive six of the best. He
delivered the blows with all his might. The pain was extreme. I could see no
relationship between the punishment and the crime. I remember another one of
my classmates, D.L. being hit so hard around the head that his eardrum was
broken. Whilst another received regular humiliation at morning assemblies by
the singing teacher, Mr. Russell, in front of the entire school. D.S
unfortunately happened to be tone deaf, but Mr. Russell of course would not
accept this. He forced him to repeatedly try to sing certain notes in tune
even though it was painfully obvious to everyone else that D.S was simply
incapable of obliging. Another one of his punishments for "insubordination"
was being put naked into an ice-cold bath, and being made to scrub himself
in front of the teacher with a large floor-brush.

Teachers were never role models to us. We could not admire or respect them,
instead just live in constant trepidation of them. I later discovered that
none of them were actually formally qualified to teach anything other than
their brainwashed Vedic and Gurdjieff philosophies. The curriculum contained
subjects such as Sanskrit, Ancient Greek, Calligraphy and The Vedic
Scriptures, which were all tied into their larger cult-like S.E.S
organisation. In art classes we were always made to draw by Mr.Barber, as
photographically as possible. Any attempt at individual style or creativity
was immediately stamped out. Indeed, any of us with a more individual or
artistic streak would naturally rebel against such a regime, so those
children were clamped down on even harder. Accordingly those 'good pupils'
more naturally inclined to conforming and towing the line, came through it
all relatively less damaged. It was as if they were trying to produce clones
of well-programmed robots just like they had done with their parents and
other adults.

It was not until years after I had escaped that I came to realise this
organization bore all the relevant hallmarks of a religious cult. For
example, we were forced to attend weekly evening 'philosophy' lectures after
school with all the adult members of the cult. They made us sit in the
lecture room in the front row. One's day had already lasted from 7.30am to
5.30pm, and during the period before the evening class we did our prep and
had something to eat, which was never a hot meal. (In fact there was never a
hot meal in my entire 3 years spent there). By this time I was very tired,
then for the next two and a half hours, with a short break, we were forced
to sit still with our backs up straight, and listen to a lecture on ancient
Vedic scriptures (which is not how these courses were and I think still are
advertised on the London Underground and in newspapers). The chairs were
designed for adults, not children. Our feet were left to dangle in mid-air.
As a result, over the course of the lecture, it became excruciatingly
uncomfortable because when one's feet are not supported it affects the blood
circulation. The combination of this plus total fatigue from the arduous
day, and the fact that we had no comprehension of the subject matter (the
lectures being geared to adults), resulted in boredom and discomfort beyond
belief. Naturally we would begin to nod off. This was always followed by a
short sharp dig in the ribs by one the adults. It was a tortuous evening,
the prospect of which I dreaded every week.

At about the age of eleven, after three years of what seemed like a nightmare existence, I managed to draw on hidden reserves of courage and decided, almost overnight, that I had had enough. Both my parents had also been indoctrinated into the S.E.S. This meant that I was so scared of telling my father of my decision to his face that I had to write him a letter, saying that I refused to go back to that place again and that the only way to make me was to literally drag me there, and if I was to stay there he would have to tie me to the chairs to prevent me from running away. My parents were rarely at home due to all their various SES commitments, therefore all five children were virtually raised by a succession of ever-changing young and often inexperienced aupairs, naturally resulting in even further feelings of instability and insecurity.

There were times when it seemed that there was simply no escape from this nightmare and I started to feel quite suicidal. My mind began to completely blank out or shut down whenever I was in a stressful situation as a kind of self-protection process, and so as not to endure further fearful situations. Aged 12 I suffered a nervous breakdown, this was followed by a marked personality transformation. Once an extroverted, confident, boisterous, popular child, I gradually withdrew into myself, lost all my confidence and became shy, introverted and isolated. Strong feelings of insecurity developed into a full-blown anxiety disorder (of which I am still battling to deal with twenty-five years down the line). Eventually, by the age of sixteen it got to the stage that I could no longer study. For the next six months I tried a change from the public school I was then attending, to a college of further education, but it was becoming increasingly apparent that too much damage had already been done and so my education had to be abandoned.

These are just a few unexaggerated examples of the experiences that were daily occurrences for me and my peers at St. Vedast. From an adult perspective I can now see that it was not just myself that was degraded and stripped of my dignity but also the adults who inflicted the abuse. Perhaps the development of OCD & PTSD was my subconscious mind's way of taking back control over my thoughts and actions, which had been hijacked by these perverted child-abusers. This evil and corrupt sect violated the basic human rights of individual freedom, an environment to develop one's own dignity and self-respect, and the God-given right to a happy and joyous childhood.


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Joined: Mon Feb 16, 2004 4:39 pm

Postby dan » Mon Feb 16, 2004 4:52 pm

In response to Matthew, I also attended St Vedast (now St James school) for 5 years and suffered physical and mental abuse from most of the teaching staff who were brainwashed SES (School of Economic Science) cult members. Unfortunately as my parents were also members, there was no escape from the madness of cult influence at home or school.

I would warn anyone who is thinking of joining/attending School of Economic Science lectures or sending a child to St James School to think again. Cults need members to survive. Generally, only lonely and friendless people need cults. No one has any good answers to life's big questions, in my opinion. Think for yourself, celebrate your individuality and don't be compromised by this manipulative organisation - The School of Economic Science.



Postby Guest » Tue Feb 17, 2004 10:18 pm


Many thanks to Mike Gormez for this forum and for publishing the truth about the SES cult!

I read Matthew?s moving account of his experiences at St Vedast with especial interest because I was also there and recognise many of the people he refers to. I imagine many people reading his account will think it exaggerated or even fictitious. I would urge such people to think again!

Here is a slightly edited version of an account of my own St Vedast experiences which I recently posted on the ?Friends Reunited? site:

Although I was only there for about two years in the late seventies (before my parents simultaneously ran out of money and finally started to see the light about the sick, parasitic SES cult that ran the school) and didn't receive as much abuse as some of my more unfortunate fellow pupils, it wouldn?t be an exaggeration to say that I have spent much of my adult life trying to come to terms with some of the things that happened to me at the school. I still carry a certain amount of resentment and negative emotion. While some of what went on there was so bizarre as to seem quite funny now, a lot of very nasty physical and mental cruelty took place.

The atmosphere was one of almost constant fear. Nearly every activity was carried out in silence. Casual beatings with training shoes and rulers were administered by sadistic teachers for such 'offences' as talking in class or producing unsatisfactory work. Official canings were frequently meted out by the thuggish headmaster (who, sadly, is still beating children at a school in Twickenham) for things like 'lying', 'laziness', repeated lateness, too many 'black marks' on the merit table and other 'offences' against the highly complicated and probably secret school rules. Strenuous exercise and communal cold showers were a feature of the school day and these were also used as punishments. I was once late for early-morning circuit training and was required to stay after school to perform press-ups and sit-ups to near exhaustion (cutting my back on the hard floor in the process) before a prolonged cold shower observed by the sports teacher. Apart from the routine beatings mentioned above, I also witnessed several physical assaults by teachers: one pupil was thrown against a wall, another was threatened with an iron bar!

More bizarre features of school life included lengthy 'chanting' sessions in Sanskrit, compulsory boxing, an army cadet corps and stays at an SES mansion in Oxfordshire where we had to get up before dawn to exercise in shorts and singlets in the freezing cold before spending much of the day doing hard (and often dangerous) labour in the grounds.

As you might expect, I'm pretty angry about what happened at the school. It seems amazing to me now that this could have gone on in Britain as recently as the late 1970s. I have a feeling that it may not be much better in SES schools now, which is partly why I am interested in comparing notes with former and current pupils.

I?m now living in North London and happily employed teaching English to refugees and immigrants.

Tom Grubb
Posts: 380
Joined: Tue Feb 17, 2004 10:23 pm
Location: London

Identifying myself

Postby Tom Grubb » Tue Feb 17, 2004 10:33 pm

Just to say that the above post (my response to Mathew's account, and my own experiences at St Vedast) was mine! It appeared anonymously because I posted it before I registered.


Posts: 271
Joined: Wed Feb 18, 2004 11:23 am
Location: London

It would have been nice to learn something useful

Postby Alban » Wed Feb 18, 2004 12:21 pm

Yep, experiences like that stay with you for the rest of your life. I was there for 6 years (age 9 to 15) and I hated every minute of it. I won't go into all the details as they have been adequately catalogued already, but I am happy to talk about the effect it had on me.

I recently had a massive row with my parents after I told them I had had an unhappy childhood.....this, they could not comprehend and took it as the ultimate criticism of them as parents. While they must shoulder some of the blame, the SES / St Vedast Regime was largely responsible for my general lack of mirth throughout those years.

I think the experience had both positive and negative effects on me. My reaction to the constant barrage of abuse was to fight against it. I ran away at 13 and slept rough for 4 days before being shopped by my ex-next door neighbour. I let one of John Matthews tyres down and was pissing myself laughing from a bush on Hampstead heath as he drove off and the tyre was flapping away. I even hit him back once on a school holiday (got away with it too). So the positive is a certain amount of self reliance and inner strength.

The negative side is that I still have a lot of anger at the world and have always rebelled against authority gained from position (rather than respect). I can't listen to classical music, as I associate it with the whole Mozart / Vivaldi thing that was going on. I am aggressively carnivore, anti-religion and I hate conforming in any way.

We are all shaped by our childhood experiences, so I don't feel emotionally scared, but I will be seeking out schooling for my children that is as diametrically opposite to St Vedast as possible. To put it into perspective, there are many who have had childhoods with much greater challenges to face (starvation, disease, poverty etc), so I don't feel hard-done-by, but I am glad to be free of all that shit!

BTW, Matthew, our daughter came out jaundiced when she was born, but she still wasn't half as yellow as you were after you'd fallen over those banisters!

And Tom, I remember you well - do you still play the clarinet? As you can imagine, I dropped the violin ASAP, but I still play the guitar. I bet you've still got that very dry sense of humour too.


Postby Guest » Wed Feb 18, 2004 1:41 pm

Thanks to Dan, Tom and Alban for your postings, and also to Mike for hosting this forum and giving us this opportunity.
You're right Tom, for a subject as obviously emotive as this one I tried to be as matter of fact as possible with my story and just tell it like it really happened.
Alban, I remember you and Kier well. I recollect 2 other cases of pupils running away and sleeping rough for several days. Problems with authority in later life is another common trait I've come across when talking to ex-members, and like you I still have a block with a lot of classical music especially Mozart.
And yes, I do have a vague recollection of you being around as I fell over those bannisters!


Postby Matthew » Wed Feb 18, 2004 1:46 pm

The above posting was from Matthew - I havent got round to registering yet!


Postby Guest » Wed Feb 18, 2004 11:42 pm


Great to hear from you again! You were my first and best friend at the school and I remember you well. The last time I saw you was when we met up in a pub somewhere in London (after I'd left St Vedast and started at a very liberal comprehensive school - talk about culture shock!) and we sank a large amount of beer. I've often wondered what you've been up to since then.

Yes, I'm glad to say that the dry sense of humour is still very much intact. Despite their best efforts to extinguish what little personality I had at the time, that's something the bastards couldn't destroy.

I'm afraid I haven't touched the clarinet in years but I did study music (and Italian) at university and I still enjoy many kinds of music. To this day, though, I'm hugely self-conscious about my voice and still feel embarrassed if asked to sing anything - a legacy of Mr R's terrifying singing lessons, perhaps? (By the way, Matthew, I remember DS and his humiliations! I think I remember you, too, although you must have left quite soon after I started. Did you have ginger/reddish hair?)

Although reading your, Matthew's and Dan's accounts has been quite an emotional experience, it's also somewhat reassuring to know that I'm not the only person to be so negatively affected by the place. Are your parents still in the cult, Alban? I've also found it impossible to discuss my childhood (which was quite abusive even before I went to the school), St vedast or the SES with my mother. Although she (and my father, who's no longer alive) left the SES many years ago, she still seems influenced by their irrational teachings and is also into certain types of New-Agey silliness. On the few occasions when I have tried to broach the matter, she just says something like "I did what I thought was best for you" and swiftly changes the subject.

I share your antipathy towards religion and unmerited authority, too, although I don't consider that in any way a bad thing! By the way, well done for getting your own back on Mr M! I used to fantasise about confronting Mr D, the thuggish headmaster during the school's Queen's Gate incarnation. Come to think about it, I still fantasise about confronting him and some of the more sadistic teachers. Perhaps I should. I also used to fantasise about burning the school to the ground, but I'd better not go into that....

For a long time after leaving St Vedast (well over a decade) I suffered from what, had I ever sought professional help, would probably have been diagnosed as depression and anxiety. Despite being a teacher and college lecturer, I still struggle with shyness. As a teenager and young adult I rarely discussed my St Vedast experiences with anyone, both because it was so painful for me to do so and because when I did, I always sensed they didn't really believe me. Not that I blame them for that. Compared to the normal school experiences of someone of my generation, mine must have seemed pretty incredible, which is why I made that comment about Matthew's account!

It was when I chanced upon 'Secret Cult' (which really brought it all flooding back!) in a second-hand bookshop some time in my twenties that I realised how much I'd been repressing and finally started to try to come to terms with what had happened to me at St Vedast. Coming across Mike's page about the SES on the Internet, where he kindly allowed me to post a request for contacts, was very helpful. And now, of course, there's this excellent forum!

Through my message on Mike's page I've been contacted by several people over the last few years including a survivor of one of the SES's girls' schools, people in the SES in various countries who were having doubts about the organisation and, most recently, an American journalist preparing a critical article about the School of Philosophy's (as the SES is known in the States) attempts to expand its influence in New York.

Well, that's more than enough for now. I'll certainly be keeping an eye on this forum!

Tom Grubb
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Location: London

Postby Tom Grubb » Wed Feb 18, 2004 11:46 pm

Er, that was my post again. I'm sure I logged in but for some reason my name didn't come up.

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Postby Matthew » Thu Feb 19, 2004 1:16 pm

Thats's right Tom, I left around the time you joined so unfortunately I hardly remember you, but yes, that was me with the ginger hair.
If your American contact is still looking for material for his article, do tell him that he's welcome to use some or all of my record.
Alban, whilst I fully take on board what you say about putting things in perspective, is one necessarily worse than the other? I don't know. You could argue that when born into tragic external circumstances such as starvation, disease, poverty etc, where, however tremendous the suffering is, there is always the hope or possibility through either fortune or endeavour to escape from such a situation. As for the the abuse of children by adults, this physical situation can also be escaped from eventually, but in some cases, never mentally or psychologically. Still, it's a talking point I guess!
BTW is anyone aware of the Yahoo Anti-SES site? :-
It seems to have been dormant since October 2003. Perhaps it needs re-awakening.
My recent research into all this has also led me to these SES related pages:-
http://www.andypryke.com/university/cul ... ience.html
http://www.friendsreunited.co.uk/Friend ... _year=1977
http://www.stelling.nl/simpos/school_of ... cience.htm[/color]

So it seems that there's finally a lot out in the public domain, which I guess has to be a good thing, after all those years of secrecy and cover-ups.

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Postby Matthew » Thu Feb 19, 2004 1:27 pm

That final link from above entry should have read:-
http://www.stelling.nl/simpos/school_of ... cience.htm

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Joined: Mon Feb 16, 2004 4:39 pm

Postby dan » Sun Feb 22, 2004 12:15 am

Responding to Tom, Alban & Matt:-
I found it really interesting reading your pieces about your lives since St V. I remember you all, especially Tom - we used to hang out a bit in West Hampstead!
Like all of you, I would say that I also have had problems with authority and still do - it's white middle aged men in suites who are aggressive - that particularly get to me ( luckily I work in the state education system where few people wear suites).
I also feel irrationally angry from time to time when I think about experiences at St Vedast. My memories 25 years later are still 'highly charged'. In hindsight, what we went through was probably illegal and definitely unprofessional.
I thought you might be interested to know that I have spoken to a couple of ST V teachers since I left. 10 years ago I met Mr Hipshon (a teacher who beat me regularly) at a party and I told him (calmly) how angry I was about the past and how much I resented being struck as a child - I thought he was going to hit me! - he went into a sort of sulk and said 'I am sorry you feel that way' he then was unable to continue a conversation with me. This was a shame I would love to know why it was so necessary to be violent towards children in his care.

I also met Mr Debenham a year ago and was fairly amiable with him as I did not want to spoil the social gathering. While telling him about working in a comprehensive school, I mentioned how unnecessary I thought it ever was to use violence towards children in schools . He seemed not to hear me and simply continued talking about other things. I did not persist as I think he is probably in denial and simply has no decent answers.

I suggest we compose a multiple-letter outlining how childhood fear and violence at St Vedast have affected our later lives. We should send it to all the teachers who beat, slapped, kicked, slippered etc. us. I would be interested to know if administering so much violence affected them as well (as Matt mentioned).

As I work with children I know something of bad behaviour. How easy it would be (if allowed) to silence a child by striking them. Of course I would never do so, even if I legally could. Violence is such a basic response to a problem, it is so unimaginative and abhorrent. I cannot understand how educated adults even in the 1970s felt they could do it.

I wish you all well

Dan S

Chris de Vere

Queensgate and Hampstead

Postby Chris de Vere » Sun Feb 22, 2004 3:05 pm

I only just found St Vedast on friends reunited and this forum!

Well what can I say! I joined St Vedast in 1979. I had previously been to a local state school which i hated and got expelled from. My mother had always told me how fun school was, I never found this and hated it. When i went to my first public school I thought everything would change. My Great Aunt had offered to pay for me to go to Eaton but my mother had not wanted this and decided on St James. I was 9 years old, I had been told by Mr Debenham that I would be joinig St James and the uniform was shirt tie and shorts. On my first day he took me next door to St Vedast and told me he had change3d his mind and that I was going to jump straight in to the senior school. Every one else in the class was about 12 yrs old and quite ahead of me academicaly! It was summer and the class was full of wasps, one landed on my leg I shewed it, I was told by Mr F to keep still, it landed again. I shewed it again. I experienced Mr F's gym shoe several times i seem to remember with my pants lowered. I went back sat down did not move and was stung several times by the wasp when it returned. With the embarrasment of being the only one in shorts this made for a great first day!

Beating became a regular thing for me, if you were a minute late the slipper cme out of Mr F's cupboard. Up to 5 strokes would follow, my mother still does not belive me to this day that was as bad as i say! I remember talking to his son once who was of the oppinion that his father was a sadist and really did take pleasure in this.Mr B and Mr S used to delight in delivering punishment during Gym classes. Quite often these would be administered to the whole form. I can remember on one occasion a cane shattering it was used so much, I think it was Robert Khoi who took the whole force of it!

Circuit training first thing cold showers Mr M usually coming in to watch everyone changing, Lunch in the basment with vile food that would not sustain a mouse let alone a young man on such a tough regime!

Philosophy and falling asleep then getting a swift jab to wake you up!

Whilst not all that opposed to discipline and even corporal punishment. (I probably needed it ocassionaly as i had been a troublesome little shit). I had been brought up with a great sense of honesty and fair play, and a belief that you should only be punished if you had done something wrong.

When Mr D first caned me, I forget what it was for. he went to great lengths to investigate the matter, at the end of about a 2 hour intergation, he decided that I was innocent of what I had been sent to him for. however he pointed out that i had contradicted myself during the 2 hour interegation and for that and that I would probably break the rules at some point in the future he was going to beat me for good measure. He took great pride in selecting his cane and telling me about them. i had the choice of lowering my trousers and underpants and receiving one stroke or keeping them on and receiving more. I chose the latter. My father when I got home ribbed me and told me he had been caned many times at Lancing as a boy and that it was uncomfortable and you put upo with it. When he saw the marks and the fact that sitting down caused considerale pain and had a look at the welts it had left he was shocked beyond belief and furious. He had thought taht i had received a punishment similar to what he received in his days ( a firm smack with a Cane) When he saw the substantial bruising, to the point that the skin had started to break and bleed. I think some firm words were said to Mr d after that that punishin me was acceptable but that he had gone over the top and should it ever happen again he would have alot of explaining to do!

Another time I remember Mr S as we were finishing playing Cricket and walking back to the coach, throwing a Cricket ball as hard as he could at the back of my head. As it hit the back of my head i remeber hearing the words "de Vere catch" When I eventually picked myself up he was chuckling. I was in considerable pain when I asked who had thrown it he said he had to keep me on my toes and see how good my reactions were!

When we movd to Hampstead there was a bit more freedom as the building had a few places where you could briefly escape teachers!

Mr Kappa took over as head who was slightly fairer than Mr Debenham.
Beating continued and basically I hated it, the teachers could not teach had very little time for you if you did not learn at once and I liked very little as a result. The exceptions were Mr Hipshon, that despite being a Phsyco was I think a good history teacher! and Dr Deavin who taught Biology quite well, although I was terrible at Maths Mr. Howell was a favourite teacher and a very decent man i always found. I hated the week ends at Waterperry and could not see the point, short of it being Slave labour on the SES estate, and even tougher than a normal school day! I too remember press ups on gravel sit ups in puddles
Kicking from teachers if you did not run fast enough etc etc!

I can remember a teacher saying that they had based it all on Spartan society! Organised brutality towards children! I wonder if any Old Boys have become serial killers as a result! I know a few got in to hard drugs and died as a result!

Firm but fair fine, Brutality for the sake of brutality, sick! On the whole it was tough but I do have some good memories too. You got to know who the strict teachers were, who the nice teachers were, and which were the ones that took some kind of perverse pleasure in brutalising youn children.

Happy memories actually included the cadet unit. although I was allowed to stay on after the school was shut Mr Debenham did not really want old St Vedast boys there, and although it was a good conduit to stay in touch with mates that gone on to St James. Mr Debenham eventually decreed that I should leave.

Many of the names on here and friends reunited are familiar Alban Howeld, Peter Evans, Gary Spencer, Michael Warham, Oligario, David Carter Ivan Leferve. Who else do i remember! Cyprne Edmunds, Guy Murray, Nils Mason, Julian Somervile, David Douglas, Allan Howell, Jonathan rottenberg, Anthony Ferrari, The Fennel brothers Peter David etc. Nick Green? Head of Wellington house? Guy Murray. Not really kept in touch with anyone, but i did see Anthony Ferrari around ocassionaly. I heard he died of a drugs overdose. If i am wrong and they are still alive then Gentlemen my aplogies. Used to see Guy Murray about a bit and he was going very bald! Still bump in to Jason Edwards now and then and Gaird Wray used to live near me. Still has a company round the corner from me but moved to Se London somewhere when he married. [Administrator note 22/1/2011: This paragraph edited at the request of the author.]

I seem to be on the mailing list for St James and St Vedast old boys! Does anyone ever go to these as I would really quite like to see some old faces!

So on the whole I did not come out too badly scarred, yes it was hard yes it was brutal. This bit probably has left me with some lasting mental scarring as it is the realisation with age that it was done for the teachers own warped gratification.

Getting the slipper from a teacher who used it rarely, when you had actually done something wrong (like being caught fiting) well fair cop guvnor I probably deserved it!

However I remeber some great guys at the school and some good friends. I never got a great education there but learnt enough to see me by in life. It probably made me more self reliant and by comparison life now is easy, even if something relativley bad happens! How many people can say that they went to the most brutal school in england as outed by the Evening Standard!

I have gone on to have a great social life, very good friends, most went to eaton! If only my mother had accepted my Great Aunts offer! A good career to date and hopefully many more years ahead!!! Managed to avoid marriage so far, no children i know of or acknowledge! So in all life is good!

Anyone who wants to get in touch and say hi feel free to mail me at chrisdevere@hotmail.com

It was a unique experience and we survived! So I raise my glass to all the old boys who went through the mill and hope where ever you are in the world today that life is good for you!

Christopher de Vere

Tom Grubb
Posts: 380
Joined: Tue Feb 17, 2004 10:23 pm
Location: London

Postby Tom Grubb » Sun Feb 22, 2004 3:31 pm

Hi Dan!

Good to hear from you! Your post brought back some of the very few happy memories I have of my time at St Vedast.

I'm very impressed that you managed to stay so calm when you met Hipshon and Debenham - I'm not sure I could have! I'm not at all surprised by their reactions, though. Denial and evasion seem to be standard practice in the SES despite their professed interest in the 'Truth'. I remember that you were one of the most persecuted pupils at the school, probably because (unlike me) you were also one of the most vocal rebels, something which I've always admired you for!

I'm not a lawyer but I expect that a lot of what went on at the school was very illegal. I certainly feel my human rights were breached on a regular basis! It would be interesting to see someone qualified in these matters investigate St Vedast: I would love to see the perpetrators of the abuse we suffered held to account. Meanwhile, I think your idea of writing a letter to those who abused us is an excellent one. I think it would be therapeutic for me and I'd also be fascinated to know if any of the teachers feel any remorse for what they did. I'd be more than happy to contribute to the letter. What do you think, Matt and Alban?

Like you, I work in education and some of my classes are with children and teenagers. I agree very much with your views!

All the best,


Tom Grubb
Posts: 380
Joined: Tue Feb 17, 2004 10:23 pm
Location: London

Postby Tom Grubb » Sun Feb 22, 2004 3:54 pm

Hi Christopher,

I've just read your post. I'm glad you're able to be so philosophical about your experiences!

I agree that Mr Howell was basically fairly decent. I always felt he didn't really belong in such a brutal establishment. One of the very few other teachers there with any decency about them was an American (or Canadian?) lady who taught science. She was pretty awful at teaching (like most of them!) but showed pupils some kindness, which meant a lot in an environment of general sadism. Anybody remember her name?

Best wishes,


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