Browsing through the writings on various social media and to judge also by the various reunions and tributes to former teacher and boys, most WHS Old Boys have a deep and enduring affection for their old school. Such an affection is not unique, but I subjectively assess it to be stronger than average, not least of course enhanced by the fact that we actually lived there.
How to account for this? It seems to me that there are several key factors:
• The setting and facilities were stunning - save perhaps for the lack of a swimming-pool until the later years. There is no doubt at all that one’s surroundings affect one; why else would Kings, Emperors and the rich in general build themselves beautiful places to live in. We had both old and new buildings, magnificent playing fields, a decent gym for the time - that unmatchable view down to the river, the wonderful rolling meadow over the balustrade, the sailing facilities, the church - the pigsty and our closeness to Nature in general!
• They did an excellent job of fitting out the labs; the assembly hall was well thought-out and the scene of many a beautiful production; the wood and metalwork shops were perfect for the job they had to do, as were the music and practice rooms.
• There were it seems to me (and this probably by judgement more than luck) a quite exceptional bunch of teachers for most of the school’s existence: four gifted and dedicated Headmasters backed up by admirable Deputies. In the early years there were numerous masters who had served in the war; no Beatles-era flowers-in-the-hair stuff there! Rigour, discipline and a love of learning were the order of the day. And the early staff set the tone and traditions for the school which were taken up by those who followed. Crucially, I believe, there was very low staff turnover - no doubt because WHS was a pleasant and inspiring school to teach in - as it was for us to study at.
• Again subjectively, my impression is that the first years of intake included a number of quite exceptional boys, many of whom went on to study at Oxbridge and/or had amazing careers. They were role models for we who followed.
• And almost last but not least, the music, drama, English and other departments included highly-creative and motivated teachers whose collective efforts over many years produced an extraordinary series of musical and dramatic productions which it is hard to imagine being emulated anywhere else. On a personal note, when I left WHS I told myself that I would never be in such an artistically-creative environment again in my life - and so it turned out. Others who went into artistic professions may feel differently, but I became a mere secondary school teacher! The places I worked in put on notable productions, but there was nothing like the WHS ambiance. Again, being a boarding school was probably crucial in this, but it would not have happened without those amazing teachers.
• On a general note, we did of course live in exceptional times. The early post-war years was a period of dynamism, energy and hope for the future. Though few of us had personal memories of the war, our parents and grandparents certainly had, and somehow the feeling of wishing to recover from the wartime traumas and tragedies, to rebuild from the bombing and create a better society permeated down to us - even if unconsciously.