"The Alan Killen(2)" Letter

From: Alan Killen (1949-54)
Date: 7 April 2014
Subject: Collegiate memories

Hi Webby,

First of all... Might I be so forward as to make a suggestion regarding the “Letters” page? I feel that in all cases the identity of the sender should be shown rather than the subject matter ! Reason? If the name shown is not immediately recognisable by a reader as being one of his “era”, it is highly unlikely that it will be read. In my case, my letter went under the“notable” old boy T.P.GLEAVE (G/C, CBE) ; but had it been credited to ALAN KILLEN, a recent response from a certain JOHN COLLIGHAN might well have prompted a different response from him. His reaction to the name T.P.GLEAVE would not have been the same as would seeing my name …. for back in 1949, I started in the the same form (3A) as Jack (of 9 Sedley St, Anfield ; if memory serves me correctly) with Mr C.R “Woody” WOODWARD as form master.

[Remember Alan, THIS WEBSITE BELONGS TO THE MEMBERS.  We are always prepared to listen to opinions of any COBs.]

I spent some time with Jack (or “Jackie”) as we were both cyclists and it was he who introduced me to Speedway Racing at the Stanley Track … the days of Reg Duval and Brian Craven of “The Chads” (“Wot? No …..?).


(I preferred "Fred Wills - Webmaster)

He may well remember “Woody” (who taught us “English Language”) being asked by us if he could compose a poem/rhyme incorporating the surname of all the class members … and almost immediately he came up with five names : Dave Jordan; Pete Shaw; ? Reid, ? Grace ; Mick Delea

“On JORDAN's SHAW, the REIDs grow thick
… in GRACE without DELEA (pronounced DELAY) …

Of me, he came up with :

A willing young villain is young Alan Killen, who holds all the sacks that the coalman is fillin'

In a recent copy of the COB magazine I saw that first name, DAVE JORDAN, responding from the USA (Texas, I think) …. and I'm sure he'd remember me offering him a “swap” of my Sturmey Archer rear wheel for his “fixed wheel” …. a rather unfair trade in his father's opinion who thought something “dodgy” was going on when he came upon us carrying out the said operation in the backyard … but Sturmey Archer gears were “infra dig” for “proper” cyclists and you rode either “fixed” or “derailleur” depending on whether you were a “Union” (NCU) or “Leaguie” (BLRC) man! …. the latter being my preference. As for the CTC …. well, let's not mention them !!

And so, in 1952 & 1953, I set off for School Camp on the Isle of Man; my “Frejus” “velo” now equipped with “Simplex” gears and a “double clanger” with handle-bar control. Pity the rider did not come up to the standard of his mount! However, not for us cyclists the train journey from Douglas to Glen Wyllin (Kirkmichael); no indeed. On yer bike AK! Great days … great memories.

As for “Woody” (and “Charlie Boy” - his punishment slipper) … Jack may well remember end-of-term “boxing” that CRW instigated when all the desks were moved around to form a “ring” and we all sat on them with our bare knees providing “the ropes” while the gloved opponents did their stuff for the “entertainment” of the others! Some of those “others” that I recall of 3A ? … Andrew (“Jock”) BRYCE, John APPLETON, Barry (“Byff”) BYFIELD, Arthur DEAN, Tom JONES and Tom BARTON (both of Venice St, Anfield), Dave LIVESLEY, Michael PAPPINI …. et al !

Like Jack, I too was in the Air Training Corps (ATC ) whose officers were “Woody” and “Wildey” (W/Cdr CH WILDE - a Maths teacher) and in 1953 went to Summer Camp at RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire which at the time was operating the new CANBERRA bomber. What a 'plane that was …. it was so good that the Yanks made it under licence for themselves! Highlight was being taken up, complete with parachute, for a “flip” in an ancient Airspeed Oxford …. but how I wish it had been the former !

Jack mentioned his visit to RAF Detling near Maidstone, Kent (not Surrey, Jack) not too distant from that most famous of all Battle of Britain airfields, Biggin Hill…. Perhaps he might be interested to know a bit more about the airfield .....


The first George Cross ever awarded to a WAAF was awarded to Corporal (later Section Officer) Daphne Pearson who served in the medical section at Detling. Pearson entered a crashed burning Anson in May 1940, still fully loaded with 120 lbs bombs, and freed an unconscious pilot and dragged him to safety before the Anson exploded.

Ansons from Detling played their part in the evacuation from Dunkirk in May 1940. To assist operations, Detling played host to a number of Lysanders, Fairey Swordfish and Fairey Albacores. The primary tasks of all three planes were reconnaissance and attacking German submarines and E-boats found in the English Channel. It also hosted Blenheim bombers whose task was to bomb German troop positions as they advanced on Dunkirk.

As Detling was not a fighter base it did not consider itself important enough to concern the Luftwafffe. However, on August 13th1940, the base was attacked and severely damaged. The base commander, Group Captain Edward Davis, was killed and the operations room was completely destroyed by a direct hit. 22 aeroplanes were destroyed, as were fuel supplies. 67 station personnel were killed and 94 were injured. Later inspections of the base’s perimeter found many Army personnel among the dead; men who had manned AA and machine gun posts.

All survivors did what they could to repair the runway and Ansons were taking off again on Channel patrols the next day. Two WAAF’s (Corporal Josie Robins and Sergeant Youle) were awarded the Military Medal for courage shown during the attack. Despite a hit on the telephone exchange at the base, Youle remained at her post to keep communications open. German intelligence later reported that a major Fighter Command base had been destroyed.

During the Battle of Britain, Ansons from Detling continued with their patrol of the English Channel. However, they were also given a new night-time role – flying over London to ensure that blackout regulations were being kept. In March 1943, Detling was put under the control of Fighter Command and used as a training base for Hurricane fighters; the first true fighter plane to be based at Detling.


While Jack was a “Rugger” type, I was very much more a “Soccer” one. … although, for the first year I did play for the School XV (The Colts ?? The Bantams ??) on the Eaton Rd / Mill Lane pitches alongside West Derby Station (still in use at that time); pitches that are now called “The Bill Shankly Playing Fields”. That was before Mr “Rugby” White (who taught French) told me that while he would be glad to have me continue with him, he felt that my heart was with the other shaped ball and that I should contact Mr Ellis for a trial with “The Chicks”. (I'd believed the converse to be the norm … hence my initial “Rugger” affiliation). This I duly did and was chosen to play my first game against SFX on their ground in Melwood Drive, West Derby ….. on what is now LFC's world-famous “MELWOOD” ground.

Thereafter, I continued playing for the School XIs until a disastrous day on the 1st XI pitch at Holly Lodge in 1953 in a game against Liverpool Institute .. a knock-out cup competition, the final of which would be played at ANFIELD. How I so wanted to be in that final !. But it wasn't to be.

A brief report of the event was provided in the next edition of “Esmeduna” by Mr “Moggy” Morgan (the LCS soccer supremo) who wrote :


No one deserves more praise (and sympathy, unfortunately!) than Mr. Ashcroft, who had spent so much energy in creating what we had come to hope was an invincible Junior XI … a team that had earned for itself a famous reputation amongst our rival schools. In their second-round match of The Junior Shield Competition they met defeat by a good Liverpool Institute team, but only after having been deprived of their centre-forward who, breaking an arm while scoring an equalising goal, had the mortification, as he left for hospital, of hearing our opponents celebrating a last-minute winning goal. Sic transit ….


I was that centre-forward …..such was my only claim to fame at “The Collegiate” … and I wasn't even worthy of a mention by name for posterity ! I didn't actually see the ball hit the back of the net … only on its way towards the goal from just inside the penalty area. The goalkeeper and centre-half had come out to intercept me, had “sandwiched” me as I let fly, and put me “on the deck”. A horrible crack and a crunch …. and I came round to see my arm bending the opposite way to what it normally did. And that was me out of it. They carted me off to Alder Hey Hospital just down the road. That injury (a dislocated & fractured right elbow joint) kept me out of action for longer than I expected with my arm locked at right-angles for most of my remaining time at LCS. It also put paid to cricket … being right-handed, bowling was a no-go …. and batting pretty similar.

Jack may well remember that incident as he was one of the lads who were considerate enough to ride down from Anfield on their bikes to see me and find out how I was on the Monday following.

Like many others, I regret I did not make the most of the opportunities that “The Collegiate” offered and my scholastic achievements (or, in my case, under-achievements) were hardly memorable. How I wish I could have my time there over again.

Nevertheless, I'm proud to say that “I WAS THERE” …. when it was a grammar school of some repute - before the politicians and “political correctness” destroyed it!

Meantime, VIVAT HAEC SODALITAS … and “All The Best“ to anyone who might remember me.


Hi Alan

What a great letter!  What a stimulation of our memories!  Surely that list of names will produce replies from all your friends.  [Both of them? :) :).] We look forward to that. 

[As usual, to avoid possible Malware, if any COB wants to contact Alan, we are prepared to forward their mail to him so that he can reply personally.  Of course, if you want to have your letter(s) printed on the Site, please indicate in your reply.]

Cheers - Webmaster