AFTER studying the fate of pupils in the Great War, Magdalen College School tutor David Bebbington has been looking at a cache of Second World War letters.

In 2014 Mr Brownrigg’s Boys charted the history of MCS in the years prior to and during the First World War.

Now the chemistry teacher has written and edited Goodbye Shirley: The Wartime Letters of an Oxford Schoolboy 1939 - 1947, which reveal the thoughts of former pupil Shirley Michael Hickey.

Oxford Mail:

Mr Bebbington said: “I had become friends with Michael in 2012, when I was writing my first book.

“Michael was however suffering from cancer and getting progressively more poorly as time went by.

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“On my penultimate visit to see Michael, shortly before his death in November 2013, I climbed the stairs to his bedroom, where by this time he had been restricted due to his deteriorating health.

“Still enthusiastic and wanting to answer my questions, it was evident that he also had something else occupying his mind. ‘I want to show you something.’ he said, tapping on a black box file that lay on his bed beside him. ‘You must promise me that you will do something with them, publish them, then deposit them in the school archive’.

Oxford Mail:

“With a gulp, I agreed, but I still didn’t know exactly what was in the box. Upon opening the file, he revealed a muddle of letters which Michael described as ‘in a bit of a mess’.

“This treasure trove was a collection of all of Michael’s letters written and sent home to his parents in Stafford during his eight years of boarding at Magdalen College School.”

Mr Bebbington said it had always been Mr Hickey’s intention to publish the letters, to tell a story of Oxford and the school during the Second World War, via the words captured in the letters written at the time.

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The teacher added: “But time itself caught up with Michael. I was honoured and excited that Michael recognised in me a way of seeing his final project to fruition.”

In the preface Mr Bebbington explains that Shirley was once a popular name for boys as well as girls.

He said: “Until the 1930s the name Shirley had been borne by men and women alike but following the fame of the child starlet Shirley Temple and her Hollywood films in the 1930s, it became a firmly feminine name. With a girl’s name, Michael was vulnerable to mickey-taking and received a hard time at school.”

A spokesman for Grosvenor House Publishing said: “Michael Hickey’s schoolboy letters paint a previously unseen picture of Oxford during and immediately after the Second World War.

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"Interwoven with local newspaper headlines, the letters chronicle care-free school days, sport, music and cinema, balmy summers and harsh winters all with the constant backdrop of the war and the resultant militarisation of the city.”

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Mr Bebbington grew up in Cheshire and was educated at the University of Kent and Oxford University college Christ Church. Goodbye Shirley: The Wartime Letters of an Oxford Schoolboy 1939 - 1947 by Michael Hickey and David Bebbington is published in paperback by Grosvenor House, price £10.