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News > History & Politics > Former Dulwich Boy at Tonbridge during the Second World War

Former Dulwich Boy at Tonbridge during the Second World War

Professor Sir Bryan Thwaites

Professor Sir Bryan Thwaites on his term at Tonbridge during the Second World War

Over the summer, we were delighted to host former Dulwich boy, Bryan Thwaites, who was taught at Tonbridge School for one term in 1939.

Sir Bryan Thwaites met with Rebecca Watson, Alumni Relations Manager, to talk about his fond memories of Tonbridge School when he was evacuated here during the war. Headmaster, James Priory, was delighted to host Bryan and show him around the Chapel of St Augustine where we able to allow Bryan the chance to play on the Marcussen organ.
Bryan reflects on his term at Tonbridge in 1939

There was a great threat of war for so long that in September 1938, Bryan was evacuated to Gloucester to an area near the Forest of Dean. After the agreement between Chamberlain and Hitler was broken, and war broke out in September 1939, Bryan was again evacuated, this time to Tonbridge. Dulwich boys and masters were all billeted around the Tonbridge area, with Bryan taking accommodation in a Victorian house on Bordyke close to the school.

Bryan and his peers were not associated with any of the boys themselves and did not have the opportunity to get to know any of them in person – both schools co-existed in harmony. The whole school campus was shared equally between Dulwich and Tonbridge in what must have proven to be a logistical and timetabling challenge. Games were held on the grounds, alternating throughout the day.

They also attended chapel every day for prayers which proved to be a particular highlight to Bryan, as he was given the opportunity to play in chapel freely as a keen Organist. “I was the only Dulwich evacuee who played the organ so I played two voluntaries and the hymn for every day’s prayers”.

Bryan returned to Dulwich after only one term at Tonbridge. “It really could not have gone on” said Bryan of his time here, adding “It really was the most extraordinary arrangement which could not have lasted forever. Which party got fed up first I don’t know!”

After his return to Dulwich, he was soon enrolled at Winchester School closer to his parents. Bryan went on to study a Maths Tripos in two years at Cambridge before heading to the National Physical Laboratory to aid in researching fluid flow and aerodynamics – a decision made for him by those in government and determined by the needs of the war.

Bryan later continued in his career, teaching at Winchester College, Southampton University and Westfield College in London.

Bryan spoke about the School Mathematics Project (SMP) which he backed in 1961, to radically transform the course of secondary school mathematics to be taught in the UK. He kindly offered the school a copy of one of his published books The School Mathematics Project – 1961-1970, A Decade of Innovation and its Sequel, for which we are grateful.

In 1986 Bryan was knighted in the New Years’ Honours List in 1986 for his services to Education and Medicine.

Bryan Thwaites (Dulwich)

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