Gathering to celebrate the launch of A Noble Company

7th May 2024

Major Malcolm Robertson OBE MC, known by all as the Bobber, taught at Winchester College between 1905 and 1946, and was Housemaster of Hopper’s from 1920 to 1943.  He was profoundly affected by his experience of trench warfare in the First Great War.  In his commission with the 9th (Service) Battalion, The Duke of Wellington’s Regiment, he served with four of his OW pupils, all of whom were killed.   

The picture below shows the 40 Hopperite boys under his charge in 1938. As Housemaster, he knew that war was coming again and, as each set of boys left the school, he tried to follow their fortunes and to support them and their families as best he could. The resulting correspondence between the Bobber and former pupils in every theatre of war, as well as to and from their parents and siblings, forms a precious and unique record of the impact of the Second World War on the Winchester College community.  

Malcolm Robertson and his House in 1938

In a magnificent book, written by Shaun Hullis, a former Classics don, these sources, and others, reveal the boys’ doubts, successes, boredom, captures, narrow escapes, loves, lifechanging wounds, and – in the case of exactly one in four of them – their deaths.

The launch of this book took place on Saturday 27 April. It was attended by relatives and representatives of almost all the boys in the 1938 photograph as well as by other guests, totalling over 220 people. After a Chapel Service of Commemoration and Thanksgiving for the lives of Wykehamists in the Second World War, there was a reception in New Hall followed by a short ceremony in the newly refurbished War Cloister, remembering those who died. The day before, Hopper’s was filled with almost seventy of the boys’ family members enjoying the archived photographs, the War Memorial and the names etched into the walls of Mugging Hall.

The remarkable and moving book is available from Winchester College Society, 73 Kingsgate Street, Winchester SO23 9PE, at a price of £50. To purchase a copy of A Noble Company to be delivered, at £54.95 (including UK p&p), please email using the subject heading 'A Noble Company' (no further information required), or telephone 0117 9636699.

765 pages. Sunnyside Publications Ltd.

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