Forest to Front Line
Geoffrey Wellum is 96 years old and attended Forest School over 80 years ago. Geoffrey lives in Mullion, a village in Cornwall.
As Jago’s grandparents live in the same village as Geoffrey, we were lucky enough to meet him whilst he was enjoying his lunchtime pint.
Geoffrey enjoyed telling us about what Forest was like when he was there, and we made many comparisons, one of which was that Forest had always been a community. We also showed him a photo of the dining hall and he couldn’t believe that it looked exactly the same. Geoffrey was one of approximately 300 boarders at the school. Once a week a selection of well-behaved pupils would have the opportunity to go into Wanstead. Geoffrey remembers fondly buying as many as six crumpets from the tuck shop, so he could skip lunch because he thought that the food wasn’t very good. The food has definitely changed for the better!
Geoffrey reminisced on how he was very good when it came to sport, being the captain of cricket and vice-captain of both football and Fives, but thought that he was ‘academically thick’. He was the 4th monitor which nowadays is the equivalent to a prefect. He left Forest at the age of 18. Just two weeks later, the country was at war. He went on to join the Air Force, after having enjoyed the schools CCF in which he excelled. Ten months later he was flying Spitfires. During training to become a pilot Geoffrey lost one of his close friends – Nick. This brought home the reality of how dangerous flying really was. After having showed his natural skill he was appointed as Squadron Leader in the Battle of Britain. This battle was later described as the “turning point in the war”. After completing this mission Geoffrey became not only the youngest Spitfire pilot in the Battle of Britain, but the youngest Spitfire pilot to command a squadron, ever. After leaving the RAF, Geoffrey worked in the City of London. At the age of eighty, well into his retirement, he decided to write a book about his accomplishments, entitled “First Light: The True Story of the Boy Who Became a Man in the War-torn Skies above Britain”. He now lives in Mullion Cornwall and is thinking about visiting Forest in the future.
By Jago Biddick and Samuel Allam.