Charlie Broadbridge (1953-2016)

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John Saunders
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Charlie Broadbridge (1953-2016)

Postby John Saunders » Sun Oct 23, 2016 2:35 pm

I have just seen the sad news that Charlie Broadbridge (RGS 1964-68) died last month (September 2016). My condolences to his family and friends.

His obituary appears on the Wycombe Wanderers Trust website: ... idge-r-i-p - Charlie was a loyal Wycombe Wanderers supporter.

I didn't know Charlie when he was at the RGS, though we overlapped and were only a few days apart in age. Charlie was in the 1964 intake, starting in form 2C while I arrived at the school a year earlier. He was the son of a former RGS master, Derek Broadbridge, who taught English at the school from 1957 to 1959.

About three years ago, Charlie emailed me out of the blue to say how much he enjoyed my RGS website. This developed into an email conversation during which he passed on some memories of his four years at the school. At the time he gave me permission to use any of this on the website, editing as I thought appropriate. Having learnt of his sad passing, I've just re-read what he wrote and it reads as a poignant, heartfelt memoir of someone who looked back on his school career with regret, but without rancour. My own regret lies in not publishing this while Charlie was still alive as, despite his self-deprecatory style, it is clear that he inherited some of his father's insight and gifts as a communicator.

Here is an edited transcript of Charlie's email to me of 27 March 2013 (with a couple of insertions from other emails to me):

Charlie Broadbridge (RGS 1964-68) wrote:As to my time at the school I remember so well my pride in passing my 11 plus and joining RGS. Unfortunately, I have to be honest, I was pretty unhappy there. I don't think my being in the 'Y' stream helped as I struggled to keep up every year. Also, I am afraid I lived in fear of certain of the masters (not conducive to learning) and couldn't wait to be clear of what I considered to be a Draconian way of life even then.

Also, the outside world of the sixties beckoned and I wanted to join!! Having received the cane twice, on one occasion from Malcolm Smith and the other from Sam [Morgan](what a golf swing he had), I think I was only further put off. As you will be aware, prefects had their meeting where they could slipper you (this was abandoned in my first or second year) and could also set essays for misdemeanours committed. Caps had to be worn when in uniform outside school. Oh, what joy, and very different from today. Add to this, a short term memory of facts, which meant I found it difficult to retain knowledge for exams, etc, and this has been the case throughout my life!

Anyway, my father was fairly radical for his time and, as I understand it, refused to sign a form declaring I would stay on at least until I took my GCEs. This may be a myth on my part. Having joined the 'Y' stream, I singularly failed and my father, though supportive, did warn me that if I did not make more effort he would take me away from the school!

I left the school grounds when we broke up in the fourth year for summer, presented my father with my report (bottom of class yet again) and he said words to the effect 'you are wasting your time, your teachers' time and the tax payers' money - go and find a job'. I am ashamed to say he was right.

That was it: an undistinguished but steady career working for the gas and water utilities ensued. It must have been so disappointing for my father, and embarrassing as quite a few of the masters he worked with were still there.

Personally, I was greatly relieved, though have held regrets that I let both my father and myself down. I still admire him, though, for standing by his principles, however difficult it must have been.

I did return to the school the following term to say thank you to a few of the masters I had respected. I knocked on the staff room door and, somewhat to my consternation, it was answered by Sam [Morgan]. He quickly dismissed me from the grounds and I was never able to say goodbye or thank you to anyone. When I told my father what had happened, he was furious and wrote to Sam. This elicited no response, which I think only re-enforced his view that I was better off out of it!

One of the head boys when I was at the RGS was David Snodin. My parents were for some years his guardians, while his parents lived in Nigeria. David Snodin did very well at the BBC, producing some very good programmes. When my parents were his guardians and he was a boarder, he spent many weekends at home with us. He regularly put on puppet shows, perhaps the beginnings of his later career. The last time I saw him was many years ago when I accompanied my mother to his first wedding.

Despite how my own time ended at the RGS, I still remain proud to have been there and interested in its history and connections and small but important traditions such as fives, etc. Also, of course, notable alumni and its outstanding academic success throughout the years. To be honest, given my poor performance, I am a little embarrassed to go on-site as I do not quite know what I could say. However, if you think there is anything of interest in the foregoing or anything else I have written to you I would not in the least mind your pasting and copying all or part as some form of memoir anywhere on the site. You have my full consent to do so, though I doubt if you will feel it would be of much interest to anybody. Still, I suppose it does reflect a slightly different side to some aspects of the school, albeit a little biased from my point of view.

Unfortunately, following an accident in 2007, I woke up seven weeks later on a life support machine having badly damaged my lungs and been placed in an induced coma. I fell off a trampoline (no fool like an old fool). I eventually resumed work, but deteriorated until I was given early retirement on ill health grounds in 2012. I am now largely housebound on oxygen 24/7, although I can get out for short periods on portable oxygen for short periods.

I suppose the real irony is that my flat Is situated in Priory Road, close to the junction with Amersham Hill. The very hill I used to stride up and down each day to school. If only I could do that now!!

Please accept my apologies for this verbose message, but it has given me real pleasure in looking back all those years and reciting my own experience. If you think others may learn anything about the old place and today's pupils might learn a lesson from my own poor efforts, maybe some good will come out of it.

Charlie was proud of his father Derek and mentioned in one email that he was referred to in Roger Scruton's England: An Elegy (2000), pages 35-37. Broadbridge senior was also referred to in Scruton's autobiographical Gentle Regrets (2005). In both works Scruton mentions how he was indirectly influenced by Derek Broadbridge's Leavisite take on English Literature, despite the fact that he himself was never taught by Broadbridge at the RGS, nor even met him.

RIP, Charlie.
John Saunders
RGS 1963-70 (personal website

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Re: Charlie Broadbridge (1953-2016)

Postby Henrybecket » Wed Feb 22, 2017 9:23 pm

Well, it is much to my surprise that I find myself writing this. A couple of evenings ago, I was flicking through a CAMRA leaflet like you do (habits acquired in The Black Boy tend to linger), when I recalled that one of my brothers, I think, told me that Charlie Broadbridge was active in the organisation. I know, I thought, I'll Google him. And within moments I'd stumbled on a link to this of his death...and saw the sad little piece he'd written.

I had barely thought of Charlie in decades, though we were in the same form for some years, and with a surname also beginning with a B was frequently sat near him. What an excellent rogue he was - even at 13! And in a period of our lives when we were at our most troublesome - and in an era which more than many inclined to anarchy - he excelled. A lot of us were rather in awe of early developer if ever there was one in one sense of the word...

It was in the Lower Fifth - typically, I suspect - that it all went a bit haywire, culminating in his (talked about in hushed tones) enforced disappearance. What a scandal, we surmised. I recollect that it was triggered by an "unfortunate incident" involving the equally unfortunately-named matron, Mrs T Cocksedge, and a body part aptly named very similarly. But before then, one of the two lady teachers had witnessed something else highly amusing - we thought - involving other somewhat adjacent body parts...a biro... and the then highly-current name Diana Rigg. I've dined out on these anecdotes for decades and maintain the hope that Charlie had too.

Teenaged boys can be stupid, unaware, naive, thoughtless...but my recollection is if of little malice. I don't mean to be disrespectful, but in the late Sixties (and with a regime at the RGS that seemed to us very much at odds with the overall direction of travel...not, I hasten to add, in respect of the excellent education) to many of us, much of the time, Charlie had the status of a thoroughly likeable anti-hero with a great turn of phrase. I'm sorry he's gone.

Henry Becket