Tag Archives: Dunsmore School Great Hymn Book Robbery

Scrap Book Project – School Assembly and a Theft

School Assembly, 1966.

In the years 1960 to 1972 going to school was a rather simple and uncomplicated process.  Every day at junior school I would walk to the Hillmorton County Junior and Infants and after we had larked about in the playground we would line up and go to the classroom for register and that completed would line up again and march off to the school hall for Morning Assembly.

Morning Assembly was a daily part of school life and everyone was obliged to attend.  This was easy to enforce, we lived in a village and in theory everyone was Christian so there were no multi-faith issues to concern the teaching staff and no exemptions on moral or religious grounds.

Going to a Christian Assembly was, and still is, the law.  The duty on schools to provide a daily act of Christian worship dates back to 1944 but was strengthened as recently as 1988 in the Education Act of that year and today the Department of Education requires that all maintained schools in England must provide a daily act of collective worship which reflects the traditions of this country.

I used to like Assembly. I liked Bible Stories and Sunday School.  The Headmaster Mr Hicks used to stand up and tell us a story and then we would sing a hymn and say some prayers and then all file out again back to the classroom.  Once a week on a Friday the Reverend Keane from the Hillmorton Chapel would come along and I liked that even more.  I thought Reverend Keane was a really nice man.

Dunsmore school

In 1966 I left the Hillmorton school and went to Dunsmore School for Boys which had exactly the same morning procedure of morning assembly and where the Headmaster Frank Hodgson used to front up the daily gathering.

A couple of years later I fell in with the school mischief pack and we came up with a prank that we thought would be really good fun.   This is what happened: every morning the school had the assembly and as we trooped in to the main hall we would collect a hymn book from a cardboard box and on the way out we were supposed to put it back again. By this time I had lost interest in Assembly and apart from the members of the school Christian Society no one really liked going and some of us hatched a plan to close it down.

The plan was brilliant and simple, if the three of us (me, Michael Cowell  and Simon Howells) didn’t actually return our hymn books each day then eventually there wouldn’t be any to hand out in the first place and that would put an end to Assembly!

Hymn Books

Actually I have now revisited the plot and the thinking behind it and I have to say that it wasn’t that brilliant after all and it was most unlikely to have ever been successful, not least because there must have been something like a thousand hymn books and at the rate of one each per day for the three conspirators this would have taken two complete school years to achieve and during this time someone would have been sure to notice.

Actually they noticed a lot sooner than we gave them credit for and after a week or two, maybe a month, our stash of books was discovered in our desks and we were called to see the headmaster to explain ourselves.  Someone, one of the teachers I expect, must have been snooping in our desks and I am certain that would now be seen as an invasion of privacy and an infringement of our human rights but this was 1968 so none of that liberal tosh applied back then.

He really made a terrible fuss about it and I remember thinking at the time that in my opinion he seemed to be unnecessarily over reacting to what was after all only a silly prank. For a while it was touch and go, mum and dad were called in as well and expulsion seemed on the cards but I put up a decent defence and my punishment was commuted to no worse than six of the best from Frank Hodgson’s garden cane and the sentence was carried out the following day, which gave me time to take the appropriate steps to lessen the pain by wearing triple underpants and thick trousers that morning.

It turned out that at the same time as our hymn book heist quite a lot of other school property was going missing as well and turning up in second hand shops all over the town and the headmaster suspected me of being the criminal mastermind behind the thefts. Most of the school orchestra’s musical instruments went missing and eventually the finger of suspicion turned towards the Welsh music teacher, a nasty aggressive bully called Mick Self, and soon after he was caught and charged he spent some time sewing mailbags at her Majesty’s pleasure at Parkhurst prison on the Isle of Wight.

Great Hymn Book Robbery

Scrap Book Project – The Dunsmore School Great Hymn Book Robbery

1968 – The great Dunsmore School Hymn Book Robbery.

At school it must have come as something of a relief to my parents that there was a little bit of improvement and a glimmer of hope.  Although I finished the third form in July 1968 still rooted in the fourth stream when I returned in August for the fourth year I unexpectedly found myself promoted to the third stream.

This surely was a sign that I wasn’t a complete no hoper after all and significantly it meant that I might be allowed to take a few GCE ‘o’ levels in a couple of years time.

I was pleased with this because it meant that I didn’t have to do the manual stuff like woodwork and metalwork and Engineering Drawing.  These were lessons for the boys who weren’t going to be taking exams and were going to be working in factories quite soon.  I was completely hopeless at this manual stuff (I still am)because the only things I ever completed were a wonky wooden tray with loose dovetail joints and a bent metal fire poker that was completely useless for its intended purpose unless you wanted to poke the fire from around corners.

It wasn’t all plain sailing however, I was still a ‘back of the class’ sort of kid who liked getting into mischief and enjoyed larking about and in 1968 I nearly went just that little bit too far and put my new soaring academic status at risk.

This is what happened: every morning the school had an assembly and as we trooped in to the main hall we would collect a hymn book from a cardboard box and on the way out we were supposed to put it back again.  Apart from the members of the school Christian Society no one really liked going to morning assembly and some of us hatched a plan to close it down.

The plan we thought was brilliant and simple, if the three of us (me, Michael Kowel and Simon Howells) didn’t actually return our hymn books each day then eventually there wouldn’t be any to hand out in the first place and that would put an end to assembly!

Actually I have now revisited the plot and the thinking behind it and I have to say that it was most unlikely to have ever been successful, not least because there must have been something like a thousand hymn books and at the rate of one each per day for the three conspirators this would have taken two complete school years to achieve and during this time someone would have been sure to notice the slowly dwindling stock of books.

Actually they noticed a lot sooner than we gave them credit for and after a week or two, maybe a month, our stash of books (maybe fifty or so) was discovered in our desks at the back of the class and we were immediately called to see the headmaster to explain ourselves.  Someone, one of the teachers I expect, must have been snooping in our desks and I am certain that would now be seen as an invasion of privacy and an infringement of  human rights but this was 1968 so none of that liberal tosh applied back then.

He really made a terrible fuss about it and I remember thinking at the time that in my opinion he seemed to be unnecessarily over reacting to what was after all only a silly prank.

For a while it was touch and go, mum and dad were called in as well and expulsion seemed on the cards but I put up a fairly decent defence and my punishment was commuted to no worse than six of the best from Frank Hodgson’s garden cane and the sentence was carried out the following day, which gave me time to take the appropriate steps to lessen the pain by wearing triple underpants and thick trousers that morning.

It turned out that at the same time as our hymn book heist quite a lot of other school property was going missing as well and turning up in second hand shops all over the town and the headmaster suspected me of being the criminal mastermind behind the thefts.

Most of the school orchestra’s musical instruments went missing and eventually the finger of suspicion turned towards the Welsh music teacher, a nasty aggressive bully called Mick Self.   Soon after he was caught for this and other things (apparently his organ fetish spread to teenage boys) and he was charged, convicted and spent some time sewing mailbags at her Majesty’s pleasure at Parkhurst prison on the Isle of Wight.  I believe he is dead now – good riddance!

The face of a Master Criminal – Baby Face Petcher…

The Great School Hymn Book Robbery

The Securitas depot robbery was the largest cash robbery to date in British history and took place on the evening of 21st February 2006 from until the early hours of 22nd February. Several men abducted and threatened the family of the manager, tied up fourteen staff members and stole £53,116,760 in bank notes from a Securitas Cash Management depot in Tonbridge, Kent.

This reminded me of another famous robbery that took place in 1968 – The great Dunsmore School Hymn Book Robbery.

At school it must have come as something of a relief to my parents that there was a little bit of improvement and a glimmer of hope because although I finished the third form in July 1968 still rooted in the fourth stream when I returned in August for the fourth year I unexpectedly found myself promoted to the third stream. This surely meant that I wasn’t a complete no hoper after all and significantly it meant that I might be allowed to take a few GCE ‘o’ levels in a couple of years time and I was pleased with this because it meant that I didn’t have to do the manual stuff like woodwork and metalwork, which were lessons for the boys who were going to be working in factories quite soon and at which I was completely hopeless because the only things I ever completed were a wonky wooden tray with loose dovetail joints and a bent metal fire poker that was completely useless for its intended purpose.

It wasn’t all plain sailing however, I was still a ‘back of the class’ sort of kid who liked getting into mischief and enjoyed larking about and in 1968 I nearly went just that little bit too far and put my new soaring academic status at risk.

This is what happened: every morning the school had an assembly and as we trooped in to the main hall we would collect a hymn book from a cardboard box and on the way out we were supposed to put it back again. Apart from the members of the school Christian Society no one liked going to assembly and some of us hatched a plan to close it down. The plan was brilliant and simple, if the three of us didn’t actually return our hymn books each day then eventually there wouldn’t be any to hand out in the first place and that would put an end to assembly!

Actually I have now revisited the plot and the thinking behind it and I have to say that it was most unlikely to have ever been successful, not least because there must have been something like a thousand hymn books and at the rate of one each per day for the three conspirators this would have taken two complete school years to achieve and during this time someone would have been sure to notice.

Actually they noticed a lot sooner than we gave them credit for and after a week or two, maybe a month, our stash of books was discovered in our desks and we were called to see the headmaster to explain ourselves.  Someone, one of the teachers I expect, must have been snooping in our desks and I am certain that would now be seen as an invasion of privacy and an infringement of our human rights but this was 1968 so none of that liberal tosh applied back then.

He really made a terrible fuss about it and I remember thinking at the time that in my opinion he seemed to be unnecessarily over reacting to what was after all only a silly prank. For a while it was touch and go, mum and dad were called in as well and expulsion seemed on the cards but I put up a decent defence and my punishment was commuted to no worse than six of the best from Frank Hodgson’s garden cane and the sentence was carried out the following day, which gave me time to take the appropriate steps to lessen the pain by wearing triple underpants and thick trousers that morning.

It turned out that at the same time as our hymn book heist quite a lot of other school property was going missing as well and turning up in second hand shops all over the town and the headmaster suspected me of being the criminal mastermind behind the thefts. Most of the school orchestra’s musical instruments went missing and eventually the finger of suspicion turned towards the Welsh music teacher, a nasty aggressive bully called Mick Self, and soon after he was caught and charged he spent some time sewing mailbags at her Majesty’s pleasure at Parkhurst prison on the Isle of Wight.

The face of a Master Criminal – Baby Face Petcher:

Master Criminals and a Famous Robbery

The Securitas depot robbery was the largest cash robbery to date in British history and took place on the evening of 21st February 2006 from until the early hours of 22nd February. Several men abducted and threatened the family of the manager, tied up fourteen staff members and stole £53,116,760 in bank notes from a Securitas Cash Management depot in Tonbridge, Kent.

This reminded me of another famous robbery that took place in 1968 – The great Dunsmore School Hymn Book Robbery.

At school it must have come as something of a relief to my parents that there was a little bit of improvement and a glimmer of hope because although I finished the third form in July 1968 still rooted in the fourth stream when I returned in August for the fourth year I unexpectedly found myself promoted to the third stream. This surely meant that I wasn’t a complete no hoper after all and significantly it meant that I might be allowed to take a few GCE ‘o’ levels in a couple of years time and I was pleased with this because it meant that I didn’t have to do the manual stuff like woodwork and metalwork, which were lessons for the boys who were going to be working in factories quite soon and at which I was completely hopeless because the only things I ever completed were a wonky wooden tray with loose dovetail joints and a bent metal fire poker that was completely useless for its intended purpose.

It wasn’t all plain sailing however, I was still a ‘back of the class’ sort of kid who liked getting into mischief and enjoyed larking about and in 1968 I nearly went just that little bit too far and put my new soaring academic status at risk.

This is what happened: every morning the school had an assembly and as we trooped in to the main hall we would collect a hymn book from a cardboard box and on the way out we were supposed to put it back again. Apart from the members of the school Christian Society no one liked going to assembly and some of us hatched a plan to close it down. The plan was brilliant and simple, if the three of us didn’t actually return our hymn books each day then eventually there wouldn’t be any to hand out in the first place and that would put an end to assembly! Actually I have now revisited the plot and the thinking behind it and I have to say that it was most unlikely to have ever been successful, not least because there must have been something like a thousand hymn books and at the rate of one each per day for the three conspirators this would have taken two complete school years to achieve and during this time someone would have been sure to notice.

Actually they noticed a lot sooner than we gave them credit for and after a week or two, maybe a month, our stash of books was discovered in our desks and we were called to see the headmaster to explain ourselves. He really made a terrible fuss about it and I remember thinking at the time that in my opinion he seemed to be unnecessarily over reacting to what was after all only a silly prank. For a while it was touch and go, mum and dad were called in as well and expulsion seemed on the cards but I put up a decent defence and my punishment was commuted to no worse than six of the best from Frank Hodgson’s garden cane and the sentence was carried out the following day, which gave me time to take the appropriate steps to lessen the pain by wearing triple underpants and thick trousers that morning.

It turned out that at the same time as our hymn book heist quite a lot of other school property was going missing as well and turning up in second hand shops all over the town and the headmaster suspected me of being the criminal mastermind behind the thefts. Most of the school orchestra’s musical instruments went missing and eventually the finger of suspicion turned towards the Welsh music teacher, a nasty aggressive bully called Mick Self, and soon after he was caught and charged he spent some time sewing mailbags at her Majesty’s pleasure at Parkhurst prison on the Isle of Wight.

The face of a Master Criminal – Baby Face Petcher:

A Life in a Year – 22nd February, Master Criminals and a Famous Robbery

The Securitas depot robbery was the largest cash robbery in British history and took place on the evening of 21st February 2006 from until the early hours of 22nd February.  Several men abducted and threatened the family of the manager, tied up fourteen staff members and stole £53,116,760 in bank notes from a Securitas Cash Management Ltd depot in Vale Road, Tonbridge, Kent.

This reminded me of another famous robbery that took place in 1968 – The great Dunsmore School Hymn Book Robbery.  At school it must have come as something of a relief to my parents that there was a little bit of improvement and a glimmer of hope because although I finished the third form in July still rooted in the fourth stream when I returned in August for the fourth year I unexpectedly found myself promoted to the third stream.  This surely meant that I wasn’t a complete no hoper after all and significantly it meant that I might be allowed to take a few GCE ‘o’ levels in a couple of years time and I was pleased with this because it meant that I didn’t have to do the manual stuff like woodwork and metalwork, which were lessons for the boys who were going to be working in factories quite soon and at which I was completely hopeless because the only things I ever completed were a wonky wooden tray and a bent metal fire poker..

It wasn’t all plain sailing however, I was still a ‘back of the class’ sort of kid who liked getting into mischief and larking about and in 1968 I nearly went just that little bit too far and put my new academic status at risk. 

This is what happened:  every morning the school had an assembly and as we trooped in to the main hall we would collect a hymn book from a cardboard box and on the way out we were supposed to put it back again.  No one liked going to assembly and some of us hatched a plan to close it down.  The plan was brilliant and simple, if the three of us didn’t actually return our hymn books each day then eventually there wouldn’t be any to hand out in the first place and that would put an end to assembly.  Actually I have now revisited the plot and the thinking behind it and I have to say that it was most unlikely to have ever been successful, not least because there must have been something like a thousand hymn books and at the rate of one each per day for the three conspirators this would have taken two complete school years to achieve and during this time someone would have been sure to notice.

Actually they noticed a lot sooner than we gave them credit for and after a week or two, maybe a month, our stash of books was discovered in our desks and we were called to see the headmaster to explain ourselves.  He really made a terrible fuss about it and I remember thinking at the time that in my opinion he seemed to be unnecessarily over reacting to what was after all only a silly prank.  For a while it was touch and go, mum and dad were called in as well and expulsion seemed on the cards but I put up a decent defence and my punishment was commuted to no worse than six of the best from Frank Hodgson’s garden cane and the sentence was carried out the following day, which gave me time to take the appropriate steps to lessen the pain by wearing double underpants that morning.

It turned out that at the same time as our hymn book heist quite a lot of other school property was going missing as well and turning up in second hand shops all over the town and the headmaster suspected me of being the criminal mastermind behind the thefts.  Most of the school orchestra’s musical instruments went missing and eventually the finger of suspicion turned towards the Welsh music teacher, a nasty aggressive bully called Mick Self, and soon after he was caught and charged he spent some time sewing mailbags at her Majesty’s pleasure at Parkhurst prison on the Isle of Wight.

The face of a Master Criminal – Baby Face Petcher:

The Dunsmore School Great Hymn Book Robbery

Next week, over forty years after the event, I will be revealing the truth about the 1968  Dunsmore School Great Hymn Book Robbery!