|18 May 2020|
We are saddened to hear of the passing of OJ, John Arthur Whittle - Obituary by his brother, Colin Whittle
I wish to inform the school that my brother, John, died, aged 91, on February 24, 2020.
John, as the oldest, was the first of the three Whittle boys to attend Judd, followed by Bertram, two years later (head boy in the late 1940s, as confirmed on the School Hall honours board, but who, unfortunately, died in 1951) and finally, myself, to occupy a desk during the 1950s.
The family story has it that John obtained his Judd place in 1939 through a bursary or scholarship awarded by our Marden Parish Council, but I have no way of confirming whether this was the case. Along with his contemporaries, John's years at the school were no doubt disrupted by the WWII hostilities and he did recount the times utilising the air raid shelters under the banks, which, although long demolished, will be remembered for a variety of reasons by those of us who came after. A favourite hobby during these war years was for young teenagers, John and brother Bert, to cycle frantically to the sites of downed aircraft, in the hope of beating the military security and finding souvenirs. John later related to his young sibling that on one such sortie, live 20mm shells were found. On returning home, it was thought a good idea to remove the lead bullet section, stand the shell casing on top of a post and, from a "safe" distance, shoot at the firing cap with their trusty old Diana air rifle. John was always the better shot and so it came as little surprise when the shell exploded, sending parts of the casing past the boys, to ricochet through the neighbouring orchard. Momentarily delighted with their success, John then detected a warm drip falling from the crown of his scalp - he had been clipped by passing shrapnel and was incredibly lucky it had not been an inch lower. Another family anecdote to impress a young brother? Possibly but, as his Royal Navy photo will confirm, he did for many years sport a centre parting in his hair!
His academic and other school achievements were shown under Valete - Alpha House in the July 1945 edition of The Juddian and the rugby and cricket photographs of the period will show that John featured in the school teams of both. His Valete entry read, “J.A. WHITTLE: Prefect; General School & Matriculation 1944; School 1st XI Cricket 1944 (Half Colours); School 1st XV Rugby 1943-44-45 (Full Colours); House Senior XI Cricket 1942-43-44; House Senior XV Rugby 1943-44; House Junior Relay Team 1943; House Boxing Team 1942”.
Under “Criticisms of the 1st XV” was noted, “J.A. WHITTLE (Full Back) – He played many excellent games & provided a sound line of defence. Fielding & kicking very good. A valuable place-kick.”
However, it was the round leather ball game that he favoured and, following military service with the Royal Navy, in the early 1950s he played soccer at fullback for Maidstone United. As a small boy, I was taken to watch one of his games but, unfortunately, each time he cleared a ball from defence, it veered off into touch, prompting a nearby Maidstone supporter to mutter, "he spent too much time playing rugby!". Also at that time he was invited for trials at football league club, Charlton Athletic and possibly one other but, since these were the days of fixed very low wages for professional footballers, John decided it would be better to find an alternative career.
John's lifelong sporting love was road cycling and, living in Rochester, he remained a member of Medway Velos throughout his adult life. Members of that club were able to attend his funeral. Indeed, John enjoyed participating in a wide range of sporting activities, including golf and long distance hiking but, surprisingly for a Royal Navy conscript, not swimming.
Before his marriage, John, living at our Marden home, would everyday cycle the 16 miles round trip to his first employment at the Kent Education Department in Maidstone's Springfield HQ. Indeed, some years later, when he needed to travel further afield, he discovered that the driving licence he had obtained during the war years, without sitting a test, authorised him to drive all vehicle groups, even though he had never operated the controls in any powered vehicle. Consequently, I assume with many others of a similar age, he took a course of driving lessons without the requirement to then take the test.
Top of his many cycling adventures was when, during the 1980s, John with his wife, Yvonne, flew to New Zealand to visit our sister; hired a tandem in Auckland and cycled the entire length of the north island; boarded a ferry and continued their ride to their destination in Christchurch. As tandems were an unusual and curious sight in the country, John and Yvonne made many intrigued new friends, some of whom have kept in contact until the present day. On a later 6 week holiday trip to Christchurch, John and Yvonne took on the South Island's Greenstone Track, where they camped overnight in cabins located along its 40 mile route.
John's career remained in local government for his entire working life. Initially, as mentioned, with Kent Education and then later, with Kent County Supplies, eventually at their Kings Hill Centre.
Following retirement, an unusual event launched John and Yvonne on detailed research of the Whittle family history. Our father had always claimed to be a distant cousin of jet engine designer, Sir Frank Whittle - something the family had not taken too seriously. However, when Sir Frank's death was announced in 1996, the photograph of him shown on TV, taken in his later life, bore an uncanny resemblance to that of our late father. John immediately decided to look into the ancestry of both Whittle families, with the result that he had numerous conversations and communications with Sir Frank's son, Ian. Indeed, on one occasion, John was able to demonstrate to Ian that a persistent attendee at his lectures, was not, as claimed, a member of his distinguished family. Some years later, John answered his phone to be greeted with a "Happy Birthday" comment. Not recognising the voice, he was informed it was Ian Whittle who had spotted John's birth date on a family tree sent to him. Ian subsequently sent John a signed copy of a book he had published describing his father's life. It must be noted that although both families' ancestry can be traced back to an area around the village of Brindle in Greater Manchester, no direct link has so far been established. Photo album below:
Submitted by Colin Whittle, Judd 1953 - 1959
If you would like to tell us about a former pupil or member of staff who has passed away (doesn't even need to be recently) please do email us as it's a wonderful lasting tribute to the member of the OJ Community to have an obituary posted or just a mention: firstname.lastname@example.org It can be as long or short as you like, we just ask for at least one photo of the person to be included. Many thanks, Lucy Tipler, Alumni & Development Officer
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