Still in shape, thanks to our Bracondale School PT instructor

Derek James remembers Sergeant John H Rowell, the former PT instructor at the old Bracondale School.

You could blame a certain hard man by the name of John H Rowell for this lot looking so sprightly in 21st century Norwich.

Most people knew and respected him as Sergeant Rowell and he was the PT instructor at the old Bracondale School where these gentlemen were pupils during the Second World War.

'Despite being in our 70s and 80s we look a fairly fit bunch don't we,' said John Gibson, organiser of the reunion. 'This may be some part be due the efforts of Sgt Rowell who used to put us through the 'mill' twice a week in the gymnasium at Bracondale.'

It was way back in December of 1944 when the Evening News reported:

'Thousands of the city's past and present schoolboys will learn with regret of the death of John H Rowell.

He was well known across the city as a tough but fair physical training instructor and gymnast.

Most Read

For more than 40 years he instructed pupils at Norwich schools, including the King Edward VI Grammar School and Bracondale, as well as other schools and members of the Boys' Life Brigade.

For about 15 years he was the gymnastic instructor at the CEYMS, and the team he trained there was widely known for the brilliant displays they gave at sports gatherings.

Sgt Rowell, who had also served in the 8th Hussars, had been with Bracondale for almost 50 years and generations of boys respected him – and followed his instructions without question!

He died at his home, 94 Belvoir Street, Norwich, on December 15, 1944. A widower, he had been married to Eliza and they had children Elsie, Anne, John and Joe. He was 76.'

Meanwhile – back to present times.

It was back in the late 1990s when my stories about the private school closing after more than 170 years prompted John to get in touch to see if we could find more wartime Bracondalians to swell the numbers for gatherings.

'With your help,' said John in 2001, 'I am now in touch with 43 old boys who were at the school at some time during the Second World War.'

Fast forward ten years and John tells me: 'I am now in touch with 63 old boys were at the school during the war and 26 of us attended a lunch at Glen Lodge Bawburgh Gold Club recently.

'Of course there may be some old boys of wartime Bracondale with whom I am not in contact with so could you say our next get together is already booked for April 18 next year,' said John.

If you were at Bracondale during the war give John a call on 01508 492399.