My Dad's a Policeman

My Dad’s a Policeman by Robert Druce (BHCHS 1940-47)

This superbly written autobiography chronicles the childhood and teenage years growing up in Loughton before and during the War.

The author was one of the ablest, but also one of the most rebellious early pupils at BHCHS.

Druce recounts his young life in great detail. Former pupils of Staples Road and BHCHS will instantly recognise their old schools, and even some of the staff. Robert changed all the names of the characters, other than his own. You won’t get far into the story before you see why he took the precaution of changing the names.

Central to the story is Robert’s difficult relationship with his father, who was over-ambitious for his son’s success. Early in his time at Buckhurst Hill, Walter May, the brilliant French teacher, recognised Druce’s outstanding linguistic ability. As well as nurturing this, he became almost a substitute father, helping Robert to cope with other difficulties that were the inevitable result of rebelliousness.

The author explores many other relationships during his growing up. His observation is consistently sharp, and he has the uncanny ability to pick out humour from the most difficult circumstances.

My Dad’s a Policeman is also remarkable as a portrayal of life during the Blitz, which began exactly at the time when the author was entering his first year at BHCHS. Druce brilliantly conveys the terrifying threat of the air raids, as seen by an 11 year old. But then, as the war continued, he tells how he and some of his peers at school became fascinated by the effects of war which made such an impact on their teenage years.

As he grows into his middle teens, Druce describes amusingly and with great honesty, the awakening of adulthood, both sexually and emotionally. In the later chapters, we follow his journey through National Service, university and into working life.

My own first contact with Robert Druce was early in 2000, when he became a welcome addition to the growing list of Old Bucks traced. He told me that he was then in the final stages of writing My Dad’s a Policeman and sent me copies of the eight chapters which cover his time at BHCHS. At that stage he was confident of finding a publisher. We were still hopeful about this when, in the following year, after being reunited with Walter May, he brought his former French teacher and mentor to our Annual Dinner.

Sadly, the book had not been published when Robert died suddenly in 2005. I remained in contact with Elizabeth, Robert’s widow. She was, at first, hopeful of finding a publisher, but this proved impossible.

Since Robert’s death, the world of publishing has been blown apart by technological developments. Self-publishing, either in hard copy or digital, has swept away the earlier restrictions. Elizabeth readily agreed to allow My Dad’s a Policeman to become my first project in book publishing.

The first reactions to the book have been very encouraging. It is sad that many of Robert’s contemporaries are no longer able to share his work. But the book’s appeal will extend far beyond those who were educated with him.

Perhaps, at some point, we may consider publishing a printed version. In the hands of a good script writer, it could be turned into an great film.

Meanwhile, it is available as an e-book on Amazon at £4.99 and can be downloaded into any type of e-reader, not just on Kindle.  Click HERE for the link to the Amazon page.

Graham Frankel

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