"STAT LUX IN MONTE"
(Upon the hill top stands a guiding light.)
A History of Slim School
Whilst making a statement to members of parliament several decades ago Mr Fitzroy Maclean the then Under Secretary of State for War said "instead of being in well equipped barrack rooms, the class rooms are in straw huts. When the 138 boys and girls return from their holidays, they travel under armed escort in order to obtain protection from bandits who infest the whole area. In spite of that the children carry on very much as they would if in England".
That was SLIM SCHOOL (to map) back in the 50's! Somehow the "straw huts" are a bit of an exaggeration but they did originally have attap (straw) roofs but the flavour of the era is captured in that short paragraph and during the early days of Slim School during the period that was called "The Emergency" pupils did in fact have to travel to the school in armoured 3 ton trucks commonly referred to as "coffins" or "pig" and under armed military escort.
The school was originally built prior to the Second world War as a private school by Miss Griffith-Jones, known to all as Miss Griff. She sold the land to the British Army in the early 1950's which heralded the birth of Slim School, named after Field Marshall Viscount Sir William Slim. After spending the war in Changi Jail as a POW of the Japanese Miss Griff continued to live in the Camerons and in 1964 was still living across from the school in the Tanglin Flats. One of the pupils from Miss Griff's school, Mary Wiseman later went on to teach at Slim School from 1960 to 62.
Slim School was a boarding school for the children of British Commonwealth Military personnel who were serving in Malaya.The school was located in the CAMERON HIGHLANDS a mountainous region of a province called PAHANG. The school was officially opened on the 19th January 1951 by Sir John Harding and Lady Harding. Initially the school had a roll of about 85 pupils and 10 teachers, which fluctuated over the years that the school was in operation.
Up until about 1953 all the pupils were housed at the main school location, the now library was the boys dormitory and the girls dorm was located throught the archway by the dining room where it always remained. (see photo) It was not until about 1953 as the school rolls began to expand that the Nissen huts at Hopetoun eventually became the boys dormitories.
When the school closed in December 1964, there were 75 pupils and 10 teachers ( a teacher pupil ratio that many teachers would like to have nowadays).
The curriculum would have been familiar to anyone who had been to a British school of that era, consisting of Maths, English, History, Art, Domestic Science, Physical Education, Science and the normal range of crafts, such as woodworking, car mechanics, cookery, etcetera. The school was organised into 5 years, ranging in age from 11 to 16/17. As it was not possible to get jobs in Malaya many of the older pupils who would have left school in the UK to get jobs stayed on at Slim For these pupils the School ran RSA courses in shorthand and typing, Overseas Cambridge 'O' levels and later the CSE syllabus. There was also a day primary school which catered for the children of the local military garrison who were stationed in Tanah Rata.
There was, of course, the added benefits of a great climate and location. There were a great deal of sporting activities and a wide and diverse selection of recreational activities ranging from Scottish dancing to Drama, stamp collecting to motor cycle scrambling. For the more active and adventurous boys there was "The Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme". Slim School was the first school outside the UK to become involved with the award scheme. In the early 60's the scheme was opened up to include the girls at the school. Perhaps a sign of the times, that equal opportunity for all was recognised in this out of the way school.
Whilst the pupils taking part in one of the DOE scheme tasks (the jungle 3 day trek) went mostly without incident, however, on one occassion in October 1962 two pupils got themselves lost in the Ulu (jungle). After a great deal of time, effort and a degree of risk on the part of the searchers, they were eventually found fit and well. One teacher (who will remain nameless) said " I was all for leaving them there" as this incident cast a cloud on the departure of the Markbrides' from the Camerons. Another incident involving two students and a teacher (To read newspaper acount click here) caused considerable interest at the time and in due course the complete story will be told one day by the participants themselves, so watch this space.
In July 1955 the School had a visit from The Soldier Magazine who christened Slim School as "The School of Adventure" an observation that was so very true of the School as can be read in the following article and in the various school magazines. Adventure was just part of the daily routine. However, whilst adventure was a normal part of school life there was an ominous side to this. In December 1956 an ambush of a military convoy resulted in the deaths of 8 the 13 people in that convoy. Amongst the survivors was a pupil of the school. His father was killed in this ambush. To read the story of this incident go to Ambush
Religion was also taught and the local church All Souls was frequented every Sunday during term time by willing or otherwise Protestant pupils for Sunday morning services.
Click here for history of the Church.The Roman Catholic pupils attended the Chapel at the BMH (British Military Hospital) in Tanah Rata. The BMH had been a Roman Catholic convent and in 1971 when the British Forces left the then Malayasia, the BMH reverted back to a convent.
Saturday afternoon was the time when pupils went into Tanah Rata for their weekly shopping expeditions and to the AKO (Army Kinema Organisation) for the weekly picture show. The cinema being located behind the BMH and next to the NAAFI (Navy, Army, Air-Forces Institute). During term time there were various school functions like Sports Day, Speech Day with the usual parade of local dignitaries presenting prizes and giving speeches. The School also had a Social conscience holding a variety of fund raisers the proceeds of which went to an orphanage in Ipoh.
From time to time the school like any other was subject to inspections by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Schools and the tone of their reports makes for interesting reading. One wonders how we weren't all scarred for life. Go to this link for the inspection report Inspection
The school finally closed at the end of term in December 1964. The following letter was sent to the headmaster
Mr. Gerald Marchant at that time.
13th July 1964.
Dear Mr Marchant,
It is sad to think that this is the last Speech Day that the Slim School will hold, but we must not be too depressed about it. After all the School does not die because changes in national administration close it. The School still lives on in all those boys and girls who have passed through it into the world and who carry with them the traditions and standards that they have learnt here.
Schools are like men; it is not so important how long they live but what they do with the years that are granted and Slim School has achieved a great deal. I have been very proud to have given my name to the School and to have known its achievements. I give everyone of you my very best wishes for happiness and success in the future.
(My thanks to Peter Hall Hon Sec BFES/SCEA Association who kindly provided me with a copy of the above letter).
Mr Marchant the Head left Slim at the end of the summer term to become Head of Bourne school in KL. He was suceeded by Mr Warren Pope as Head. When the School closed in December 1964 the property returned once again to an Army Camp.
The name of SLIM School did not die but went on to re-open in January 1965 as The New Slim School at the Terendak Garrison in Mallaca and remained there until 1969 when it again moved, this time to Germany.
Recent research has revealed that the old school is now the home of the Malaysian equivalent of the British SAS. This has been verified by some ex pupils who have visited the old school. In the past visitors were met with some suspicion but over the years and with more ex pupils visiting and meeting with the authorities a dialogue has been established and our presence now seems to be accepted, although it would be prudent to make contact prior to arriving at the front gates demanding entry. I have included a letter from the present C.O. Major Zorkeflee which was sent to Tony & Beverley Talbot can be found by clicking here.
Also an up to date picture of the school can be found here. Click here for up to date picture. The dorms no longer exsist but the masters' bungalow does, however it is no longer a bungalow but it apears to have had another level added to it.
Please note that this is not a definitive history of the school merely as I see it at the moment. As I get more information and feed back it will change. If you see anything that is incorrect or anything that you do not agree with, please EMAIL David Wilmot me with your version of events and if I can corroborate them from another source I will amend the article.
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