Friday 7 September 2007

Commander Staveley

Commander Peter Staveley was an ex-naval man who taught French in the 6th form, although I had the impression that he would rather have been doing something else.

Despite that, and despite the fact that he wasn't French, he seemed to teach the language well enough (I still remember a little of it).

I have one isolated memory of a French class in the 6th form. We were reading a French Canadian story of a past century, called Les Compagnons de l'Arc en Ciel, in which there was a Red Indian woman called Wahiah. One day two boys arrived late for the class. They burst through the door into the room, and one of them announced, "Wahiah!"

Jonathan Marler remembers that the Commander was “a consummate gentleman and very interested in the welfare and education of the boys. He taught me how to row and he awarded me my rowing badge. I remember his speaking of his submarine days and teaching me the Valsalva manoeuvre, among other things.”


Jeremy Blatchford said...

I remember Cmdr Stavely from 1961 when I joined the school in May. He ran the scouts. I have vivid memories of a hot afternoon walking across to Owlpen Manor and meeting a charming old lay who lived there and showed us the priest hole for hiding itinerant Catholic priests. The place is open to the public but you have to pay to go in and I bet the tea was nothing like we had on the lawn, utterly spoiled.
Stavely was a former submarine commander in WW2 who had quite a tally of ships to his credit I seem to remember. I am not sure why he left the navy but all of a sudden in 1961 he went back, presumably some crisis or other.

Jonathan said...

Thanks, Jeremy. Well, if he was a submarine commander in WW2 I suppose he must have been at least in his forties by the time he was teaching us French in 1966-67. Not quite as young as I thought.

If he had a dashing heroic war career, no wonder it seemed a comedown to be teaching French to reluctant boys who saw little point in it.

Anonymous said...

Cmdr Peter (Stife) Staveley is one of the reasons I'm writing from Spain. He made French so easy and enjoyable that I went on to major in languages at Stowe and Bristol University.
I hadn't realised that he was a submariner - I know his brother wrote o book entitled one of our submarines.
I have "inherited" from Staveley his nervous "tick" of rapping the wall with his knuckles as he walked along a corridor.
A very tender man to whom I have always felt I owe a lot.

Anonymous said...

I remember someone had a book about submarine warfare, which had a photo in it which we thought was Commander Stavely looking into a periscope. We showed it to him, and he admitted with apparent embarassment that it was indeed him.

He was a kind, polite man, in contrast to Inky, for example. I would echo the view that he would have rather been somewhere else, but he was a reasonable French teacher, and seemed to take an interest in us.

Jeremy Blatchford said...

In 1942 then Lieutenant Staveley took command of the Proteus and in 1944 the new submarine Votary. I remember well that he knew Ben Bryant the commander of Safari, probably the most successful British submarine in the Mediterranean and Teddy Young the author of 'One of our Submarines' and commander of Storm.
He was a very young and junior officer to command a submarine so would not have had another command until much later. For some reason I think he commanded a 'T-Boat' in the later 40s early 50s. I do know that in 1956 he was a staff officer in Malta when the RN sank an Egyptian frigate.

Odd the things you discover and remember.