A look at the early years of the exchange between the Peter-Dorfler Gymnasium and Lord Williams’s School.
Arrangements were first made to link school in Oxfordshire to those in continental Europe in 1964. It was called the European Study and Travel Scheme. By arranging exchanges of pupils and staff, it sought to, in a small but fundamental way, establish common ground between traditionally suspicious neighbours not least because of the UK’s exclusion from the Common Market. Initially, it only extended to schools in France and Germany.
In March 1964, Gerard Gould undertook an exploratory mission to the province of Schwaben in South Germany on behalf of the Oxfordshire Education Committee. He wanted to find out at first-hand the nature of the schools and their pupils and he did this by offering himself as a visiting lecturer to the senior forms and giving talks on modern literature, drama and education in Britain. By the end of his trip he had given sixteen lectures to about 2,000 pupils.
His first lecture was at Ulm and as he entered, he heard a pupil say ‘Und nun fur den grossen Schlaf’ (now for a good long sleep.) Fortunately, this proved to be untrue and all his talks proved lively affairs. Not least, he returned to the UK reporting how much the Nazi past was still a burning issue in the student’s minds. But he was sad to find that old myths about the Jews still persisted with some. In one discussion a girl had remarked ‘After all the Jews used to hold all the key positions in Germany.’
In Lindau, he found the schools more relaxed, though most students because of the texts they were reading had an impression of the UK as it was in the late 1940s, and they were reading Oscar Wilde and Somerset Maughan as contemporary literature. But he also found that there was resentment of British attitudes towards Germany; they were concerned about the economic crisis that was gripping Britain; and hadn’t the British invented the concentration camp during the Boer War? And why hadn’t the Queen visited Germany earlier? On the other hand, he found that the students here were looking at very relevant issues in their own German literature lessons including one lesson where they were discussing Zuckmayer’s controversial play ‘The Devil’s General’ and the extent to which the German people themselves resisted Hitler.
However Gerard Gould noted that he was unhappy about the way that German pupils were didactically faced with their past. He was unhappy, for example, with the general policy of taking classes to see the Berlin Wall and being told that Berlin was still the real capital of Germany.
Overall, he was impressed by the way that the modified state education system had taken some of the best ideas from the public school system in Britain, without going overboard and taking all the bad features as well.
One of his last stops was at the one-year-old Peter-Dorfler Gymnasium at Marktoberdorf. He wrote ‘Another break with tradition is the move towards comprehensiveness. This was exemplified by the large mixed boarding-school at Marktoberdorf, which started out as as a Gymnasium – that is a school specialising in the arts (in this case music). Now there is going to be a science-specialised school next to it, and the result will be a comprehensive grammar school.’
In conclusion, Gerard Gould hoped that exchange schemes would do something to remove European and British prejudices about one another.
In 1965, exchanges between the Gymnasium in Marktoberdorf and Lord Williams’s began. A pupil described Marktobedorf as a small country town of just 10,000 inhabitants lying in an unexciting landscape that owed its origins to the rich farmlands, and its current prosperity to the Fendt Brothers who manufactured tractors. He found much modern housing ‘bold in colour’ and he noted that the Germans took much more care of their houses than the British did. It was because Marktobedorf was a similar size and had a rural background like Thame – and also because of the School’s focus on the arts – that it was chosen to be Lord Williams’s exchange school. Bernhard Jall and Johannes Offerman came to LWGS for three months in the Autumn term of 1965. Not only did they attend lessons but they joined in many visits to the theatre, to concerts and to rugby games. They stayed in the Boarding House but at half-term and on ‘Out-Sundays’ stayed with familes. They said that ‘ the exchange will certainly be useful for us in later life as it brought us a much wider outlook. We would not have the opportunity to experience so much in so short a time at our own school.’ They also found ‘the prefect system in the Boarding House very sensible. ‘The younger pupils, we think, are, by this means, given strength of character much more easily.’
Paul Lloyd was teaching at LWGS, and was part of the team which instigated this link. He shares his memories with the OTA.
‘Shortly after I joined LWGS in the Autumn Term 1963, the Head, Jon Nelson, received an invitation to a meeting at County Hall in Oxford called by the Director of Education. I think his name was Chorlton. I was asked along too. The meeting was to launch an initiative to link Oxfordshire with the Allgau and to introduce the man who would coordinate efforts to link individual schools. If my memory serves me his name was Wyn Owain. I had some useful discussions with Wyn about what sort of school we would be looking for and there the matter rested for a little while. In the following summer the Wenman School had a visit from the Realschule in Kaufbeuren. I laid on a short course in basic conversational German after school for pupils at the Wenman in which the new Head of Lord Williams’s, Geoffrey Goodall, also took part. I believe it got some publicity in the local press. My wife and I put up the leader of the German group, Herr Weise and this led to his inviting us to stay with him the following year.
By the summer of 1965 we had our link school, the Peter Dorfler Schule in Marktoberdorf and I decided to take up Herr Weise’s offer in order both to have a family holiday and to meet my opposite number, Roland Muller. We had a lovely trip and were made very welcome by everyone. The result of our discussions was that we set up two initiatives. Firstly we arranged for two pupils from Lord Williams’s, Horne and Quarterman, to spend the Spring Term 1966 at the Peter Dorfler and secondly for a party from LWGS to travel to Germany at the Easter. In this we were helped by Wyn Owain who arranged for us to borrow a County Minibus. On this first trip my co-driver was Henry Blythe who taught Latin.
We received a party from Marktoberdorf in the summer of 1966, I believe, when the county made another minibus available to take our guests on trips. I remember going to Stratford and Warwick, for instance. The pattern was repeated in 1967 when Smith and another pupil whose face I can see but whose name escapes me spent three months in Germany and I made another minibus trip, this time with Norman Good as my co-driver at the Easter.
My memory is vague about German pupils spending time at LWGS, but I’m sure such visits did take place.
Colleagues in Germany whom I remember well, apart from Roland, include Dr. Schmauch and Gerd Rockl. I also have fond memories of a lovely lady who worked in the kitchens and looked after us very well, Frau Schmidt.I think that covers most of the points I can remember, It was certainly a most stimulating and rewarding time. I am delighted to hear that the link continued to flourish after I moved on to teach in Essex.’
P Quaterman and R Horne were the first two exchange students from LWGS, going in February 1966. A desciption of the visit went thus: the day began with breakfast at 7.30am and lessons at 8.00am with the morning session not ending until 1.00pm, which was fatiguing. One trick though was to eat sandwiches under the desk to kill hunger pains. The first part of the afternoon was free but then prep started at 3.30pm and would continue until 6.10pm when the bell sounded and the evening meal began. Having said that, there were those who had perfected the art of avoiding prep and going into town. Work would then continue until 7.30pm and then the first pyjama-clad youngsters were shepherded to their rooms by a usually harrassed duty master. We found that pupils tended to be preached at in lessons rather than being given something to discuss, though we found Dr Schmauch in his lucid and forceful lessons on 17th century European History and Catholic dogma to be an ardent and quite entertaining lecturer. Overall, the atmosphere was less familar and easy-going than at Lord Williams. Here, pupils were taught in larger groups and there was less of a close relationship between teacher and boy. For most in Form 12C Abitur – the school leaving exam – loomed a year distant. Durchfallen expressed admirably the bitter anti-climax of failure and the need to resit. Many students are 20 or 21 when they leave. Drinking coffee in town during the afternoon was a favourite past-time and we found our German friends had high stamina – often burning the midnight oil to do prep if they’d been out. They could also drink much more alcohol than we, and the Faschings Ball, where everyone including the Masters dressed up in fancy costume, saw many dancing and drinking until after 5 in the morning.
Gabriele Mair has written with this comment: The reason why some of us were older than the British pupils was not only “Durchfallen”: The “Peter-Doerfler Gymnasium” had a branch that supported older, but gifted children, who otherwise would not have had a chance to enjoy higher education. We did the syllabus in 7, not in 9 years. Latin was our first foreign language, English the second one. Apart from the academics like maths, science and languages the emphasis was put on music and the arts. I was 14 years old when I came to Marktoberdorf for my first year at Grammar School and took my finals when I was almost 21.
At Easter, a party of ten boys along with Henry Blyth and Mr C P Lloyd stayed for ten days – after two days of travel on a mini-bus with some of the journey through what was still war-scarred Alsace-Lorraine. On their first day, they enjoyed a visit to the Baroque church, walked round the town and went to a pub. During the rest of the visit they took in the surrounding district including Kaufbeuren, Neugablonz, Memmingham, Ottobeuren, Lindau, Meersburg, eighteen churches, lots of castles, drank much coffee, enjoyed the cake and even more the beer.
In July 1966 a group came over from Peter Dorfler – ten boys and two Masters Herr Muller and Herr Rockel. The boys stayed – as far as it was possible – at the homes of the boys who had visited Marktobedrof in Easter. They sat in on lessons, saw the swimming sports but then visited places such as Bledlow, Chinnor, Gosford Hill, Littlehampton, and Pressed Steel. A day was spent in Oxford. One hightlight was the football game they played against the School, and then later the group made excursions to London, Stratford, Warwick and Coventry, and Blenheim and Churchill’s grave at Bladon. Everyone agreed that this first year of exchanges had gone well.
Also in July 1966, Hamlet toured Germany. Peter Douch wrote that when they stayed with their host familes in Bavaria, ‘the standard of living was usually fabulously high, and we all agreed that the Bavarians are infinitely more skilled than Britons in the art of living luxuriously. Life with host familes didn’t take very long to get used to; they invariably made every effort to give us an enjoyable time….Beds have no sheets and blankets…Bavarian food is heavy but always rich and tasty…Prices are a formidable deterrent.’ Autumn ’66 saw J Beller and B Lehmann stay in the boarding house Greenacres and spend the whole term with the School. In October, they were joined by a larger party of fourteen musicians, over for a concert tour of Oxfordshire and staying in the homes of boys, masters and governors. Dr Schmauch, the deputy headmaster, Herr Huber an English teacher and Herr Gross Director of Music were also in the group. The latter had composed, to English words, a special madrigal as a gift to the School that was given its first performance in the concert that followed the World Premiere of Noel Coward’s Post Mortem on 24th October 1966. The choir and orchestra also participated at Founder’s Day when the Festival Te Deum by Vaughan Williams was performed. Afterwards, there was much praise for carrying on this tradition and in turn LWGS noted that ‘the presence of our German friends among us on this perhaps the most important occasion of the School’s year, was especially touching as a symbolic act of reconciliation.’
Cameron Naish was another early exchange student, and in 2005 he wrote, ‘I was especially interested to read Colonel Binko’s memories of the exchange that we used to have with the Peter Dörfler Gymnasium in Marktoberdorf. In 1965-66, there were only two of us studying A level German, so when the opportunity arose, both Chris Smith and I found ourselves as boarders at Marktoberdorf. That was from January to March 1966. It was a very interesting couple of months. If Klaus thought his experience of Lord Bill’s was different, imagine what is what like for me as 15 year old moving from School House (single sex boarding house) to a co-ed school that, during Fasching (Carnival), had parties running into the early hours. At these, the teachers ran a bar selling beer and wine! Smoking was restricted to senior pupils and only in the confines of your classroom by day and the senior common room in the boarding house by night – i.e. not as an example to the juniors. The school was located near to the foothills of the Bavarian Alps. It was Winter and looked nothing like the photo on their web site today –http://www.internat-marktoberdorf.de/ueber_uns.shtml . It was amazing to be immersed in the German language for an extended period. Our only problem was that the German pupils would try to practice their English on us at all opportunities. Peter Dörfler Schule excelled in music. Most boarders played a couple of instruments and the school had one of the finest youth choirs in Southern Germany; a rich environment. On the day we left a large band just seemed to come together spontaneously. They accompanied us to the station, set up on the platform and played us out with a medley that included “God Save the Queen”.’
Michael Pineger and Frizt Weber, and Nanda Roate and Alan Young were the 67/68 exchange. Easter and Summer ’68 party visits were made; at Easter, Messrs Goodall and Kerwood took ten boys, and the latter, in a combined concert given for invited guests, played solo flute in the Pergolesi Flute Concerto. On his return, one boy wrote: ‘the German home is a monument to the success of the father and the capability of the mother. German precision is everywhere in the home, and meals are an exceptionally good example of this, served on the dot with clock-work regularity. German people are warm and generous. Their inborn code of conduct and honour may seem cranky to us, with the hand-shaking and bowing, and the wholseome formal atmosphere, but to any Germans it is just good manners. As a whole, the German family is much more of a unit than the English family, and it is rare for a young German to leave home before the age of 21 but they seem to nejoy much the same amusements and enterainment as us.’
Over the summer of ’68, Julius Caesar was taken on tour where one of the eight performances was given at Peter Dorfler and the cast stayed in the Boarding House for four nights.
In Autumn 1968, Peter Kuhner and ‘Doddie’ Riegelbauer spent two months at LWGS and after Christmas Martin Drew spent the 1969 Spring term there, as did Gloria Smith from Holton Park School. At Easter, History Master Ben Kerwood attended a conference. Also during Easter ’69, Mr Adams and Mr Bradnack took ten boys over from the Fifth and Lower Sixth forms. Mr Bradnack returned saying: ‘that the trip was a disapointment in that too many of the party were not prepared to make a proper contribution to the success of the trip. Several seemed to do nothing but mock at everything and everyone and wanted to only to be released from certain restraints they found irksome in England.’ Just before Whitsun, the Peter Dorfler School choir came over with the Headmaster Dr Schmauch and the Music Master Herr Gross – a party of 27. They gave a series a concerts at Oxfordshire schools and churches. At both Dorchester Abbey and New College Chapel they played the Pergolesi Flute Concerto and from LWGS, David Moseley and Ben Kerwood played the solo respectively. The party’s stay finished with a Bavarian Evening performed at LWGS, at which, after singing amd music, slides and films, everyone ate open sandwhiches and drank coffee. It was written that ‘the party seemed to enjoy their stay, although they were exhausted by a very full programme.’ Dr Schmauch presented the School with a mammoth cow-bell that could be heard booming in the wind for many years thereafter.
In Spring 1970, Duncan Baxter and Chris Borsing exchanged with Dieter Hailer and Fritz Scholz and respective parties went/came at Easter and June. The UK group had these impressions: the Peter Dorfler school had the appearance of an army barracks from a distance but our fears were soon dispelled as the pupils and staff were friendly and the school modern and comfortable. Many could speak excellent English and the headmaster Herr Muller was very hospitable. We felt totally lost in the lessons we attended. The German meals were not everyone’s cup of tea and even some German’s admitted they disliked sauerkraut.
The German party that came over consisted of: Wilhelm Renner, Sigfried Mahlhofer, Alexander (Alex) Körber, Georg (Schorsch) Mahler, Heidi Klarwein, Klaus Binko, Roswitha Lederer, Miss Weber, Theresia (Resi) Schmölz, Angela Dornacher, Mr. Bauch (Math/Physics), and Mr.Roy ( Latin and Sports).
Gabriele Hoiss, formerly Gabriele Mair wrote this: I was a pupil at “Peter Doerfler Gymnasium” resp. Gesamtschule Marktoberdorf from 1965 to 1972. In May 1970 I visited LWGS together with 11 other pupils. Although this visit to Great Britain was one of the most important events in my school career and helped me to develop and to find my place in life – the headmaster, Mr. Goodall, and Mr. Bradnack will never be forgotten. My host family were the Goods – Valerie and Norman (chemistry teacher at LWGS) and their children Michael, Stephen and Sue. The long-lasting friendship with the Good family has been very precious to me, as it has to to my parents and, later, to my husband. After the exchange and especially during my time at university I was always welcome at their house when I spent some weeks travelling around England: even bringing friends was no problem. Their hospitality was incredible. The Goods have visited me quite often – also the children and their families. This August Norman stayed with my husband and me in Munich, where I live. I had not seen him for 22 years, but as we exchange Christmas letters regularly we felt there was only a short period of time between his last visit in 1983 and the one in 2005.
In 1971, Russell Kilmister and Ian Waite spent two months in Marktoberdorf. At Easter, Antony Ireson, Ian Lamborne, Nigel Soper, Stephen Merrow-Smith, Tim Drake, and Messrs Bradnack and Blyth made the trip.
A party arrived from Germany on 31st May. Graham Thomas wrote this at the time:
31st May: during the afternoon I had hitched over to Towersey from Oxford to wander round the famous fete. It had taken me over an hour to get a lift, I suppose because familes on holiday don’t want to take a stranger. Then at 5.30pm I walked from Towersey to Thame to meet my father and the arriving party from Marktoberdorf. We have two German boys staying with us for a two nights. The boys are very friendly but I beforehand I would have prefered two girls to stay but Mum wasn’t so keen. Fortunately, the girls who were in the party didn’t make an immediate impression so I didn’t feel jealous of the hosts who had snagged them. As soon as we got them home and unpacked we took them to the Trout pub at Godstow. They wanted to drink lager but we insisted they drink proper English beer.
1st June: in the morning I took the two boys to Goebell’s harpsichord factory just up the road from our house. Then we went to the Cowley Centre, the only example of a purpose built shopping mall in the area. From there, we went to Sandford Lock and had a drink in the pub. After lunch, we went on to Thame where we joined the rest of the party for a tour round the delights of the town. Back in Oxford, I took them for a stroll round Christ Church Meadows and then for a drink at The Turf Tavern – one of our oldest pubs.
2nd June: the start of School again and the two boys left us.
In the summer, Macbeth toured Bavaria – by all accounts the pinnacle of the School’s dramatic achievement. (SeeMacbeth)
In 1972, Anthony Ireson and Tim Drake returned for a two-month exchange whilst Annalies Heiland and Johann Karg came to Thame. At Easter, Messrs Bradnack and Bailey took Paul Horsell, John Mathews, Paul Sinfield, Keith Bambrough, Norman Colman, Hedley Crick, Greg Swanson, Graham Beard, Andy Arnold, Russ Sparrow and Simon Taylor. They followed the usual tour that took in the baroque church, the Olympic Stadium in Munich (though earlier parties had seen it being built), the Basque Monastery of Kloster Andechs, the Fendt Tractor Factory where they weren’t allowed to take photographs by a PR lady with ‘an annoying American accent’, a cattle auction in Buchloe and the factory of Paul R Walter (a company that later closed down in the mid-80s) Their farewell party was held at the Hotel Richter.
1973 saw Roy Hathaway and Helen Beazley swop with Johann Herzog and Centa Vogel and once again parties exchanged in the Easter and Summer. At Easter the group arrived in Marktobedorf to find snow on the ground and the most enjoyable day was the one at the P-D G’s ski hut including an international snowball fight. One of the teachers won the sledge competition and it was noted that Mr Bradnack though low in the rankings was to be commended for his persistence in retaining his ineffecient and uncomfortable stance on a point of principle. But then earlier he had been assaulted by a barrage of snowballs. A visit to Munich was much enjoyed and in particular the view from the top of the TV Tower. It was noted that the ration of churches was not as many as had been feared – though Mr Bradnack was very enthusiastic about Marktoberdorf’s Baroque example.
Over the years, it was clear that generally, the exchanges and visits had been a great success. Minds were broadened and friendships made.
If you wish to make contact with the author of the above, please contact Graham Thomas.
Message from Klaus Binko
Liebe ehemalige Mitschüler des Peter-Dörfler-Gymnasiums, Marktoberdorf und der Lord Williams’s Grammar School, Thame!
Ja ich weiß, es muss jetzt Gymnasium Marktoberdorf heißen, die nüchterne Bezeichnung Gesamtschule Marktoberdorf hatten wir auch auszuhalten, aber zu meiner Zeit war es das Peter-Dörfler-Gymnasium und mir persönlich gefällt dieser Name auch heute noch am besten und daher möchte ich ihn im Weiteren auch verwenden. Der Name Lord Williams ist dagegen seit über 400 Jahren mit unserer ehemaligen Partnerschule in England verbunden.
Vor fast genau 40 Jahren wurde eine nahezu 10 Jahre währende Partnerschaft zwischen unseren Schulen gegründet, die vielen von uns unvergessene Eindrücke und Erfahrungen geschenkt hat.
Wir hatten Gelegenheit über den Zaun zu blicken, Freundschaften zu schließen und Vorurteile zu korrigieren und zwar zu einer Zeit als dies alles bei weitem noch nicht selbstverständlich war.
Vielleicht hat der eine oder andere so manches Mal noch an diese Zeit gedacht und dann festgestellt, das die Brücken die uns verbanden nicht mehr bestehen. Nun es gibt wieder eine Brücke über die wir gehen können! Die Alumni der Lord Williams Grammar School, Thame, die Old Tamensians, haben diese Partnerschaft auf einer Seite im Internet dokumentiert und damit uns Ehemaligen die Möglichkeit eröffnet alte Verbindungen und Erinnerungen wieder aufzufrischen. Beiträge aus deutscher Sicht wären nicht nur interessant sondern auch höchst willkommen! Nicht zuletzt ist diese Seite auch dem Andenken und der Anerkennung unserer ehemaligen Lehrer und Gasteltern gewidmet, die uns durch ihr persönliches Engagement diese Erlebnisse geschenkt haben. Die Engländer beißen nicht, also fasst euch ein Herz und schreibt wenn ihr wollt!
Mit herzlichen Grüßen
Klaus Binko Klasse 13a, 1973
Dear former schoolfellows of the Peter-Dörfler-Gymnasium, Marktoberdorf and Lord Williams’s Grammar School; Thame!
Yes I know it has to be called now Gymnasium Marktoberdorf, we also have had to endure the rather bald synonym Gesamtschule Marktoberdorf, but in my time it was the Peter-Dörfler-Gymnasium and I personally still do like best this name and therefore will use it subsequently. The name of Lord Williams on the other hand, for more than 400 years is connected with our former partner school in the United Kingdom.
Almost 40 years ago, a merely 10 years lasting partnership between our schools was founded, which has given many of us unforgettable impressions and experiences.
We had opportunities to look over the fence, make friends and amend prejudices and that at a time, when this was still not to be assumed would be the case.
Perhaps one or some of us have sometimes thought about those times and then realised that the bridges that had been connecting us, no longer exist.
Well there exists a bridge again. One we can walk over! The Alumni of Lord Williams’s Grammar School, Thame, the Old Tamensians, have documented this partnership on a page on the Internet and thus opened a possibility for us former pupils to refresh old connections and memories. Contributions from the German side would not only be from interest but also highly appreciated.
Not least, this page is also dedicated to the memory and acknowledgement of our former teachers and hosts who through their personal commitment have given us these experiences. The British guys do not bite, so take heart and write if you want to do so! Best Wishes
Klaus Binko Class 13a, 1973