School Cadets, the Polliack Silver Bugle and Polliacks.

I know nothing regarding when school cadets were introduced at High Schools in Natal, so someone who would be some years older than I, perhaps could enlighten me. Perhaps it was a legacy of the South African War 1899-1902 but this is just a guess.  I do recall though that when I was in Standard 7  (1957) at St Henry’s, all the Senior boys partook in Cadets. Cadets were on a Wednesday and one had to don a khaki uniform – khaki shirt, khaki shorts, long school socks, school shoes –  topped with a peaked cap (not the officer type) on the front of which was a large badge of a striding Springbok and a flash underneath which read School Cadets / Skoolkadette.

One must never underestimate the power of Google. I needed a picture of the School Cadet Cap Badge… Voila!

cadet capbadgeAt St Henry’s, the principal at the time was Brother Ezekiel (1957-1958).  He was the master of Cadets and actually was an officer! He used to wear an Officer’s Uniform on Wednesdays complete with Sam Brown and the pips on the shoulder. I think he was a Captain. Being a rather small senior school in numbers, our Cadet Corp was relatively small but out of the numbers we managed to put together a reasonable School Cadet Bugle Band. I do not have a photo but if I recall there were about 12 buglers, two side drummers, a bass drummer, two cymbalists and about 6 (snare?) drummers who lead the band. The drum major was always a senior in Matric. The band wore boots with toe caps, and white puttees along with epaulettes, and lanyards. I must say they did look smart. Our bass drummer, Ray Ambrosini even got to wear some kind of animal skin.  On the school grounds, the military had erected a small storeroom which had a UDF number. This was known as the Armoury and within was stored all the band kit, instruments, uniforms etc.

Wednesdays, before classes started, one would see the band get together on the top field, the buglers one side, tooting away and the drummers and the rest doing their own thing in a circle. Cadets I vaguely recall was after first break and lasted about an hour or so. The cadets were divided into platoons, marshalled by lance corporals and corporals. Basically all we did was march up and down the field, and learn the fundamental commands Form Up, Right Dress, Salute, Halt, About Turn, Right Wheel. To end the Cadet session we would all march behind the band with Captain Brother Ezekiel taking the salute.

Cadets, by the majority, were generally seen as a diversion from the class room and apart from having to wear the uniform once a week, some boys hated it, it went down as no big deal. For the band members though, they had to be more dedicated because come September there was an inter school band competition which was held at the Old Kingsmead ground. The competition as far as I  know  included all Natal boys’ high schools of the time and was under the auspices of the UDF (Union Defence Force). Not being in the school band all I remember was that the trophies competed for were the Polliack Silver Bugle for the best bugler, the Polliack Mace (?) for the best drum major and I stand to be corrected but was there not a Polliack Shield for the best band? Someone can correct me about this. I never attended any of these band competitions but do recall there was great rivalry between DHS and Glenwood in my time.

To come back to my question of how long cadets were part of the school scene, I have in my possession a rather unique badge which belonged to my late father in law, Archie Black. It is the cap badge worn by the band members but this one is inscribed ” DHS 1929 Winners Polliack Silver Bugle”. With it is a plain badge of the same design, so my take is that the plain badge on his cap was replaced by the inscribed badge. Whether the inscribed badges were handed out to individual band members is unknown but more than likely. Things were done properly in those days! As far as the Silver Bugle is concerned I have never seen it nor pictures of it.  Furthermore, whether schools had Cadets as far back as 1929 I cannot say,  but obviously the school’s had “cadet bands” so one would think they did have cadets. I seem to recall that some senior schools even had shooting ranges. For pellet guns I presume. St Henry’s never had this facility.  A  point to remember is that in 1929 there was only one boys high school in Durban,  DHS, so the competition more than likely was Maritzburg College.

The plain DHS Cadet Band Badge.
The plain DHS Cadet Band Badge.


Mr Black's Inscribed badge "Winners 1929"
Mr Black’s Inscribed badge “Winners 1929”

Click on pictures to enlarge.

Coming back to Polliacks, it was a firm in Durban that sold musical instruments and most things associated with music. In the early 50s I recall it was situated on street level of a building known as Polliack’s Building in West Street, next door to Payne Brothers Building. I have checked the address and it was 408 West Street. It would appear that prior to Polliacks, a musical firm by the name of Mackay Bros and McMahon operated out of the same premises also selling music instruments and  sheet music. Polliacks then took over and that is how I remember them in West Street. Later the same premises were taken over by a firm called Bothners who also traded in musical instruments but extended their wares to include kitchen appliances, sewing machines, hi fi equipment and even photographic equipment.

I have since found out that Payne Bros. in fact were the owners of the Polliack Building, this probably roundabout the early 50s and they leased out the ground floor store. In early 1954, Paynes planned a major extension of their department store which included incorporating Polliacks Building into the main building. This was completed by 1957 and Paynes Building emerged as the tall central tower with the adjacent large wing on the left. The store had been completely remodelled to include the next door building and the building remains in that format today. In 1969 Payne Brothers celebrated their 100 years of service to the people of Durban. Just prior to the Centenary,  the whole store was refurbished, a central new escalator was installed and the decor throughout beautifully designed. I recall it called itself “the most beautiful store in Africa” and adopted a very modern stylized light blue ” P ” as its brand.

Polliacks continued trading in musical goods but  moved to premises at 28 Stanger Street. They also moved over to being wholesalers. They virtually dropped the music side of the business and  concentrated on household appliances. I looked them up in the latest Durban phone directory but notice there is not a single Polliack listed. Bothners as well went more into large and small household appliances and they too have disappeared.

Sadly in later years, the disintegration and migration of the CBD to the various new malls, La Lucia, Westville, Pinetown, Pavilion, Umhlanga, et al, saw the CBD lose it distinctive character and appeal. Paynes became a GAME outlet and the beauty that once was Paynes was gutted out and consigned to history.

Back to the original topic!  One wonders what happened to the Polliack Silver Bugle etc. Perhaps someone who participated in the band competition in later years can indicate the date which will give a timeline. Where are these trophies today?  As far as Cadets at St Henry’s is concerned, they ended as far as I remember round about 1958.  This may have been a decision taken by the Brothers, the school being privately owned but I have a feeling that it was a Natal Education decision to put an end to Cadets at all schools for it disappeared altogether.

The interior
The interior
The exterior of the armoury.
The exterior of the armoury.

The above two pictures will only relate to old St Henry’s boys.  If they wonder whatever happened to the Armoury here are recent pictures of the building showing what it is used for today. In my time the lean to was not attached.

I understand these days one well known senior boys high school has an “armoury” of its own where “weapons” are handed in for safe keeping prior to proceeding to the classrooms.  Need I say how times have changed!

PS. I contacted a school friend and class mate,  Derek Wilkes and he kindly sent me a picture of the St Henry’s School Cadet Band taken probably 1957.  The photo was taken at Old Kingsmead during the Band Competition for that year.  I cannot remember all the names but at athe back, the Sergeant buglers are David Hayden, Johnny Jerome and the late Rob Archibald. The bass drummer is Ray Ambrosini  with buglers the late Norman Taylor and late Rob Taylor . I suspect the bugler with glasses could be Dunstan Browne (later known as Dunny and the Showmen). Sergeant Derek Wilkes is the drummer on the left. Anyone fill in any other names?

Marist (St. Henry's) School Cadet Band
Marist (St. Henry’s) School Cadet Band

Click on picture to enlarge.

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26 Responses

  1. John Taylor
    | Reply

    At DHS (1962 – 65) the cadets were issued with rifles from the armoury for drill purposes.which had to be returned immediately after the parade. The mechanisms worked, but I guess that they had no firing pins. My interest in firearms at the time was not great, but they had relatively short barrels making them carbines, and they appeared to be single shot breech loaders. I wonder what their origin and manufacturer was. The Boer war? Perhaps even earlier than this. I also remember going to Old Kingsmead to watch the Cadet Band competition in which DHS was always a top contender.

    • Moira Badstubner (nee Williams)

      I would never miss this competition held at Albert Park. My cousin Errol Jay Glenwood High School) played the bugle (I think) Once I took my four children to share this event in our Beachbuggy but forgot to take the key out of the ignition….the car was still there when we wanted to go home!!!

    • Roger Jones

      Hello John,

      I too was at DHS from 1961 to 1964.

      There were old Lee-Enfield rifles which were heavy from all the metal added to them to render them non-operational.

      I made a beeline for the armoury on Fridays to get hold of the lighter Martini-Henry cavalry carbine, they may even dated
      back to around 1878.

      The DHS Cadet Band was right at the top in those days, year after year.

      Those were days to remember, while we still can.

      Roger J

  2. Gerald Buttigieg
    | Reply

    Hi John,
    That surprises me that Cadets were still ongoing as late as 1965. I have asked my school contemporaries and 1958 seems to be the year Cadets ended at St Henry’s. Sorry cannot help with the firearm ID.

    • Mark Billingham

      Hi Gerald,

      Cadets were back at St. Henrys by the time I started there in 1967 and the band was going very well for a small school. Only the band had uniforms. St Henrys also had a small firing range with brick tunnels (next to the brothers house on the east side if my memory is correct) but it was only active while I was in junior school. They had 22 rifles. Cadets were still going when I reached High school (early 1970s) but I only took part a couple of times and definitely didn’t learn to drill properly that had to wait until I reached the army.

    • Gerald Buttigieg

      Hi Mark
      That is very interesting regarding St Henry’s Cadets. They must have resurrected them because asking classmates 59/60/61 they agree Cadets had dropped out. Also the fact that a shooting range was built at the School. I lost touch with the school per se but was on the Old Boys Association Committee in 1966/67 at the time that the Marist Brothers were about to celebrate their Centenary of Marist Schools in South Africa.
      Must think of doing a write up of St Henry’s in Durban for FAD. If I am not mistaken the School is 85 years old this year.

  3. Allan Jackson
    | Reply

    I don’t know when school cadets ended but I can confirm that they were still on the go at Glenwood when I left in Standard Nine in 1975. I was never an enthusiastic participant and would have dodged it if I could. Only the band wore uniforms at that stage and the annual band competition was very much alive. We pupils were often pressed into service to sell band competition tickets from door to door in our neighbourhoods.

    Glenwood still had a thriving musketry squad who used single-shot .22 rifles with falling block actions similar to Martini Henrys. The shottists lay down in parallel brick tunnels which made it impossible to turn round with a loaded weapon while on the firing line.

    I did once try out for the squad and realised I needed glasses when I was unable to see the six tiny bullseyes printed on each target. Needless to say, my score on the occasion was not enough to even earn me a second attempt. I remember Patrick Bergstedt being a stalwart of the squad and, from what I can remember, he was also in the band as well.

    The shooting range at Glenwood was in a small fenced area near the swimming pool and I know that DHS had an identical setup directly across St Thomas’ Road from the main school entrance. I don’t know if Glenwood had inactivated rifles for drill purposes but we didn’t use them.

    P.S. The bugle is a very common symbol and can be found in the the badges of lots of infantry regiments.

  4. John Taylor
    | Reply

    Hi Allan,
    The DHS shooting range (or butts) were across the road from the school in St. Thomas Road, and is now part of a basketball court.
    Talking about Martini Henry rifles, I’ve looked at some photographs and the carbine version looks like what was used by the cadets. I guess if they could speak some interesting stories would emerge.

  5. Gerald Buttigieg
    | Reply

    Allan Hannah has submitted two photos of the Cadet Officers at DHS. He gives no date but knowing Allan I would say these are circa 1959 / 1960 or thereabout. He also gives no names except I recognise him in the small photo, Allan being on the left. Looking at the background of the group photo, one can see the old High School buildings which were demolished as well as the Memorial Tower which if I recall was moved when the new buildings were erected. The officers were obviously into serious “boning” of boots ….. an art I picked up in my basic Army training days.

    Another picture that Allan Hannah has submitted showing the Blackmores Prefects. Blackmores is the name of the boarding establishment at DHS. Allan Dates this at 1958/59.

  6. John Taylor
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    I recognise headmaster “Wrinkles” McIver and cadet commandant Charlie Crewe. Wrinkles became headmaster in about 1960, so this would date the photograph.

  7. Gerald Buttigieg
    | Reply

    Hi John
    Quite right about Mr A.W. McIver. He was somehow involved in Schoolboy hockey and I think was one of the selectors who chose the Durban Schools Side that played against a touring English Schoolboy Team called the Swifts in 1961. The Durban Schools side chosen was : McIver DHS, his son, Forbes, Swan, Stead, Kerr, Callaway , Potter and Moore all Glenwood, Kenton from Grosvenor, McLachlan and myself from Marist (St Henry’s.)

  8. John Taylor
    | Reply

    Hi Gerald,
    What I find intriguing about this site are the threads that emanate from it e.g. we’re talking about cadets and it ends up in hockey memories!
    I remember McIver’s son from both DPHS and DHS. It must have been difficult for him having his Dad in that position, especially as Wrinkles could be described as seriously old fashioned and non progressive; I always thought of him as an old man frozen in time, sporting a hairstyle and suit of at least a previous decade.

    • Gerald Buttigieg

      Hi John
      Yes I have noticed that myself and that is why I love photos especially of groups or particular places. They trigger memories. I also find that I have been blessed with a good memory and for a nondescript “uitlander” growing up in Durban, I have managed to “go round the block” a bit if you get my drift. Yes I have to agree with you, Mr McIver did seem locked in a very staid time warp. By the way and not being a DHS scholar, I cannot name any in the group photo bar in the middle row, second from the left that looks like a youngish Lee Irvine. Allan Hannah I think is same row but fourth from the left. The memorial tower was moved wasn’t it?

  9. John Taylor
    | Reply

    Hi Gerald,
    The caps make it difficult to easily identify people.
    I started at DHS in 1962, and my guess is that this is the 1960 group, because I don’t see anyone that I remember.

    • Allan Hannah

      Hi John / Gerald
      I do remember the names of nearly all the guys in the photo and to identify them would not be difficult, but rather tedious for other users of this site!
      Alex Welsh is the head prefect in this photograph and is seated between McIver and Crewe. This will help to identify the year!

    • Allan Hannah

      Hi Gerald /John
      Had a senior moment!
      The head prefect’s name is Jack Welch – and I apologize if I spelt his surname incorrectly!

  10. John Sessions
    | Reply

    Hi Gerald, I have just discovered this school cadets site which certainly does bring back memories of the 50’s & 60’s. I left St. Henry’s at the end of 1959, and as far as I can recollect cadets ceased at the school in 1958. However the band still continued in 1959 when I was a bugler whilst in Std.7, although for some unknown reason it never participated that year in the Durban & District Band Competition. Also of note, we did not wear the normal cadet cap but a light blue beret with the leaping springbok badge. The photos of the armoury are not familiar to me, as my memory of the armoury is a small windowless stand alone brick building immediately behind the Brothers House kitchen. In 1960 I transfered to Glenwood so I am unable to comment onwhat took place at St. Henry’s thereafter. I continued as a bugler in the Glenwood band for 4 years, and you are quite correct in your comment about the rivalry between DHS and Glenwood; not to forget however that Port Natal was also a top contender. Glenwood won the Durban & District competition in 1960+61+62, and for these successes was presented with the winners mace. It was my misfortune to be placed second in the bugle competion for 3 consecutive years, being beaten on each occassion by Peter Misselbrook of DHS! The winning Drum Major in the D & D competition was awarded a silver cup , whilst the Administrators Shield was awarded to the winner of the Natal Provincial Band Competition held at the Royal Showgrounds in Pietermaritzburg at which the 1st and 2nd placed bands from the Durban competition competed. Glenwood cadets wore the traditional peak cap with the leaping springbok badge, whilst band members wore the black beret with the NMR badge, signifying the school affiliation to the Natal Mounted Rifles Regiment. I cannot recollect the headgear of the DHS band members, but if my memory serves me correctly their badge was that of the RDLI to whom they are affiliated.


  11. Gerald Buttigieg
    | Reply

    Hi John,
    When I saw the name “John Sessions” had posted on FAD about School Cadets etc., it immediately came to mind that there was a John Sessions at St Henry’s in my time. And here you are. I vaguely remember you as being tall and wiry and though a couple or so years my junior somehow recall you did leave the school. That was many years ago now. I visited the school one Saturday morning this year to have a look at the old stamping ground and took photos of the armoury amongst others. It still stands as it did behind the Brother’s House but the big lean to canopy has changed its isolated look. I attach some pictures to revive your memories.
    The house is a historic Durban building known as Don’s House who was a leading Durban figure in the early 1900s. He bequeathed his library to the City of Durban and that is where the name the Don Collection in the City Library comes from. The whole school property was originally known as The Maze and was bought by the Brothers round about 1927/28. The school opened in 1929 and classes were originally held in the Brother’s House until the classrooms and building opposite were built and opened circa 1932. The foundation stone was laid by Bishop de Lalle in 1931.

    The Brothers’ residence formerly Don’s House.

    The school buildings built circa 1931/32 with the main portico housing the Principal’s office. The foundation stone was laid by Bishop de Lalle in 1931. The wing on the right was opened in 1947 by Bishop Denis Hurley.

  12. David Walker (Matric 1962)
    | Reply

    Hi Gerald,
    I was at St Henry’s from 1954-1962. Yes I remember you!
    My recollection was that the cadets ceased in the late 1950’s sometime. What I do know is that in 1959 when the riots occurred all weapons were removed from the armory -about the same time as two armoured cars showed up in the playground and a searchlight regiment set up on the main field. Great fun for us as teenagers, however reality dawned two years later when we registered for National Service!

    • Capt Nigel Lewis-Walker

      I am a member of the Natal Mounted Rifles and one of my “Volunteer” tasks is that of Regimental Historian / Museum Curator. I came across this site about School Cadets whilst researching the formation date of the South African Armoured Corps.
      I have found the info re the School Cadets most interesting and would like to add that the School Cadets, definitely in KZN were shut down around 1994 under pressure by the Dept of Education and poss the new SA Govt as they said that scholars were to attend school to learn and not be soldiers … a decision now they are regretting as Cadets also pushed discipline and espirit de corps within schools. Healthy competition is always good. The NMR has been connected with Glenwood Boys High since its affiliation on the 17th Feb 1936, and is possibly one of the only still functioning and active inter school / Regimental affiliations in SA. At the time of writing to you we are busy hosting our annual Glenwood Grade 8 “Boot Camp’, here at our NMR HQ… and despite being literally washed out in the storm last night.. all survived and back to work on the activity bases with our HQ looking a bit like a Chinese Laundry with all the wet kit lying out to dry.
      I also have a photo of Glenwood School Cadet Band when it took part in our NMR 140th Birthday in March 1994, and they were dressed in Nutria Brown shorts, shirt, school shoes, black socks and black Armour beret with NMR Regt Badge. So must have shut down as cadets later that year or shortly after, but pleased to say the Glenwood School band is still strong and currently active… but unfortunatly not in NMR kit.
      Hope my info is of interest to you. Cheers from the NMR, “Rough But Ready”.
      P.S. The two Armoured Cars ( MkIV Marmon Herringtons ) which arrived at St Henry’s during the riots… as well as the troops, were from NMR… Our Base Sgt Maj, WOI Neville Alexander was one of the cars drivers and is still with the Regt, although retired. Likes to tell us his stories of the old days.

    • Gerald Buttigieg

      Hi Nigel,
      Thanks for that info. My late father in law Archie Black was NMR and saw service in Egypt and Italy. I have his war medals now and I recall a nifty metal NMR one amongst the lot. At 5 SAI Ladysmith 1962 we had the Marmon Herrington troop carriers (trucks?). They were pretty old then. The newest piece of equipment we had were a couple of Saracens with I think Rolls Royce engines. I had the opportunity to visit Ladysmith again after 53 years and made a trip up to the old camp. I was not allowed in but today it is completely transformed. Pity I have no photos of the dilapidated state it was in when our group arrived there in July 1962. Was Graeme Davidson (ex Byrne Valley) not NMR?

  13. Gerald Buttigieg
    | Reply

    Hi David,
    I am trying to place you as your name does ring a bell. Welcome to FAD. There is a full account of my going to the army on this site. It may bring back memories. I do recall the riots at Cato Manor and if you recall I think it was actually 1960 when the hordes came down Marist Road en route to Berea Road. Classes were still held during that period and on the day we were prohibited to look out of any windows which faced Marist Road. I remember as well the armoured cars stationed on the playground under the massive fig tree that used to stand there.
    The old school is very changed now ….

  14. John Dickason
    | Reply

    I’m a former Schollar and Cadet band member from Newcastle High School in Northern Natal. My question is directed more toward Capt Nigel Lewis-Walker. Are there any archives regarding the Natal Cadet competions including the outcomes of the National competions? Any reference will be great!

  15. John George Mulhatton
    | Reply

    John Mulhatton

    Hi to all of you. I was at Mansfield High from 1961 till 1964. A bugler turned Drum Major from 1962 till 1964. We were in the Intermediate Section of these annual Cadet Band competitions. Hence my interest in reading all these matters about our senior schools of the period. We came 2nd in this section in 1962, and won in 1963. Sadly because of delays with delivery of our trumpets for the upgrade to the senior section we did not partake in my final year. We assisted a lot with the annual St John’s Ambulance parades at Albert Park as well as parades through the streets of Durban. Many years ago but lovely memories of the fellowship we shared with all the other scholars from all schools. Malcolm Swanby was our SSO in 1964.

  16. Garth Coetzer
    | Reply

    Hello Gerald, I’m popping up again, this time in this most interesting arena of yours. I’m still waving the Mansfield High flag! My three short contributions this time are somewhat tangential to school matters.
    1)In the 1950’s when I was somewhere between 8 and 12 years old I found a Martini-Henry rifle on a scrap metal dump in a small dairy across from Sutton Park in Stamford Hill Road. Horror of horrors! The love of a father knows no bounds. My dad sawed part of the butt and the barrel off so that this little litey could fit it in his shoulder to play soldiers. It disappeared in due course but I’ll never forget it.
    2) Polliacks! Oh I could write a book. When I joined the Phil Morkel Music Division in 1971 Polliacks were the wholesale division in Stanger Street. I did some months induction training in Bothners in West Street, then a short while in Lincoln Brothers in Field Street, finally moving as manager to Tablers across the road. (later re-named Musiekland) Our products were largely the Yamaha range of pianos and organs. I finally ended up as manager of R.Muller in East London. By then Polliacks were housed in Churchill Road, Stamford Hill. Lots more to tell, but that’s for another day, except to say that the name of David Polliack (21 at the time, in the 40’s) was connected to the murder of a girl named Bubbles Schroeder in Birdhaven in Jo’burg.
    3) I refer to John Mulhatton’s article above. I was Mansfield High Cadet Band Drum Major in 1961. We came second as well in the cadet band competition. John, did you guys not make a 33.3 LP record, or was that later? Our SSO was Len Scrooby. David Daniel was our Bass Drummer and one of the side drummers was named Ash.

  17. Gerald
    | Reply

    Hi Garth,
    Welcome back. I am still puzzled whether I knew you through school rugby or the Army but Garth Coetzer rings a bell. There are other posts about Mansfield and the best way to find them is do a SEARCH. I am glad in reading the posts on the sites gets your memory cells going.

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