October Musing - Schools and Guns

Oct 02, 2018

I know many of you will simply say "Times have changed", but I have to shake my head and wonder why people have such an issue with guns in schools!  I realize that the world in some ways is a much different place than it may have been when I was in school, but we had a small arsenal and no issues, no accidents and no tragedies, let me elaborate.
I went to a private mixed (Boys and girls) boarding school in the UK, at that time it was called Grenville College and was at Stoke by Clare near Sudbury in Suffolk. You can find it on Google but the name has now been changed to Stoke College. The building is very old and had once been a monastery in mediaeval times, then a stately home.. The main building had the girls dormitories on the top floors, then class rooms and at ground level, the main entrance hall,(complete with African trophy heads, including a Cape Buffalo) assemble hall, kitchen, dinning room and junior class rooms. There were walled in gardens, a large vegetable garden, fruit trees, a grape vine, grass tennis courts and a grass cricket pitch. Also stables, where some pupils stabled their horses, an art studio, wood working shop and science laboratory. Some of the old walls were very thick, at least one was over six feet, it was hollow, it contained the school magazine.
The school had a cadet corps, Suffolk, ACF (Army Cadet Force) strictly boys only, run by the MOD (Ministry of Defence). Our uniforms and webbing was all WWII, we were taught drills, and basic infantry tactics at a platoon level. So naturally we had to have some equipment, this included the following: Fifty five Lee Enfield No 4 .303 rifles and eight No 8 caliber .22 LR rifles, these were all live and working. We also had a DP (Drill purpose) Bren and two MKII Sten guns. I remember when the two Stens arrived, our Cadet Officer, also our house master, sent for me during a lunch break, I reported and was told I had volunteered to unwrap and clean these two new additions, I used this as an excuse to skip all classes for the rest of the afternoon. I quickly taught myself how a STEN worked and how simple she was to field strip.
I shot my Lee Enfield rifle competitively up to a county level at every opportunity. I would collect the keys for the magazine, locate my rifle, draw her from the magazine, sign her out to myself, clean her and then sling her over my shoulder stroll down the driveway and wait by the road side  for TA (Territorial Army) officer to collect me and drive to a local MOD range where on the firing line I would be handed my live ammo, one rd at a time. As cadets we only shot out to a maximum of 300 yds and I think our targets were bigger than standard and I had no trouble of keeping all my rds in the bull when I did my part.
At school one evening a week we would have a Cadet evening, we would practice drill or train in field craft and section tactics. This would give us a reason to all have our rifles issued, we took turns to carry the Bren and Stens. We now had the excuse to climb the outside fire escape on the main school building and race over the roof tops, “raiding” the senior girls dormitories at every opportunity. We also had canoes in the river, this flowed through the bottom of the school grounds, so sometimes, against all the rules we would take our rifles in the canoes, when on exercise. This came to an abrupt halt after I capsized a canoe and I was reported for loosing the Bren, this was all lies as I had recovered the Bren before the end of the exercise.
Anyway the point of all this is to show that having guns in schools does not have to equate to tragedy. Having guns in the school I attended equated to many lessons learned, those of which included the meaning of respect, honour and loyalty. All values that I carry with me today.
I enjoyed school, I concentrated on what I thought was important. How to "scrounge" butter from the school pantry without getting caught, so I needed to pick locks or make skeleton keys in shop classes, how to build canoes in wood working classes, how to skip French classes so I could hone my skills at poaching trout from the river, I would gut and cook these for the senior boys in the evening. How to shoot a .303 rifle, how to strip and clean a BREN and STEN blindfolded, these were what I considered really important life skills. Sadly the rest of the world (especially my parents) did not share the same opinion.
The end result of my school life was that I failed to graduate, hardly surprising when I look back at where I devoted my energies. Later I did manage to scrape into an Agricultural College where for the first time in my life I enjoyed classes, I graduated from that with no problem despite being handicapped with poor spelling and Maths. Much later in Canada when I applied to join the Reserves I was granted an education waiver, I later learned that these are seldom applied for and rarely granted, but the gods must of been smiling as I was able to earn my Commission in the CF.
Looking back, I now realise I was the exception, never destined for University but even I was able to learn some lifelong lessons and values right along side those who were. Some of which were a direct result of working along side this arsenal we had in our school, an arsenal that never resulted in any sort of tragedy or violence.
My conclusion is that guns in schools do not automatically equate to increased violence, there is a lot more to that story and something else required to happen before anything ever reaches that point. If we could focus on finding a solution to that part of the story and not just on the guns, then we would really be making some progress.
What do I have to show for this, I still have my shoulder flashes, my recommendation for Lance Corporal was never approved! And despite failing my finals I do remember the important things… my Lee Enfield .303 Rifle was serial # PF 1994880


Keep your powder dry,
Mr Wolverine

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