|10 Nov 2020|
"One of the most memorable events of the year was the visit to the School by Lord Alexander who inspected the C.C.F. in June. His detailed and rigorous inspection fully rewarded the very great efforts which the Cadets had made." So said the Head Master on Speech Day 1957.
Clearly it was highly memorable, as over 60 years on two OLs wrote to us about it.
Field Marshal Earl Alexander was a senior British Army officer who served in both World Wars. It was perhaps his connection as an Old Harrovian which brought him to John Lyon to inspect the CCF.
Having carried out what appears to have been a fairly terrifying inspection (to judge by the boys' faces in the photo gallery linked to this article), the Field marshal made the following speech.
Extract from The Lyonian September 1957
“It is the custom on these occasions for the Inspecting Officer to address a few words to the Cadets.
“This I think is a good custom provided what is said will be of use to you in your future careers, and only you can be the judges of that. Therefore I shall not attempt to do more than to give you a few thoughts which have come to me after a fairly full life of long experience, and they are these:-
"To my mind the rising generation of our young British people is as fine as any in the world. Generally speaking the young man of today is a better physical specimen than his father, he is better educated and he probably has a happier home background than his parents enjoyed.
"Now all this is a very valuable starting point in life. And today life offers great opportunity and wonderful prospects to those who are wise and energetic enough to take advantage of it. The ball is at your feet, what you have to do is to kick it in the right direction.
"To do this you must have a spark of the adventurous in your make-up - something of the pioneer spirit which inspired our ancestors to seek out the world and to build an Empire. This is the spirit which founded the Great Dominions such as Canada. Australia and New Zealand and the other great territories which make up the British Commonwealth of Nations.
"And make no mistake about it, if it had not been for the guts and enterprise of our forefathers, you and I would not be in a position to enjoy the good things of life we have today.
"We have been left a rich heritage - it is up to us to see that we not only maintain it but pass it on to our children, even richer and better than what we have received.
"But we shall never be able to do this if we think that we can sit down and live on the fat which is ours.
"The thing which alarms me is the growing desire for the unadventurous life. The desire for nothing more than security and an easy existence.
"I have no use for the young men of 20 whose first thought on entering a job is: 'What about the pension plan.' Thinking about retirement from work before work has even begun. Such people will get nowhere.
"Prudent thought about the future is admirable, but it is a dangerous thing when youth is only concerned with thoughts of a safe old age -which in effect only means that they condemn themselves to becoming smaller and meaner through shrinking from the duties and responsibilities of living. This feeling amongst the young undoubtedly exists today, but I trust and hope it is not widespread otherwise there will be no security for anyone.
"And after seeing you young people on parade I don't for a moment believe that what I have said can apply to you.
"I feel sure that this fine old school has taught you that the field of opportunity is as wide open to you as ever it was to our ancestors - in fact probably more so thanks to the great development and expansion of modern science.
"If you want to succeed in life you must have the ambition to do things. The desire to lead and not be led. Brains are a wonderful asset, but brains alone are not the key to success. Knowledge of one's subject is essential and this can be learned by study and hard work.
"But the great asset of successful men is character. Faith in your mission whatever it may be - determination to overcome all obstacles and surmount all difficulties - the will to win.
"These are the qualities which make a man a real man who everyone will admire and respect - and one who will enjoy the position of a leader, in whatever profession he may choose - for therein lies the road to success.
"All I ask of you today is just to ponder over what I have said.
“Good luck and best wishes.”
Were you there at that speech in 1957? If so, let us know your thoughts below!
Geoffrey Lancashire (OL 1935-1940) sadly passed away last month. Having lost many classmates during WW2, Remembrance at… More...