To Serve Them All My Days

Written by R.F. Delderfield
Review by Susan Hicks

In 1918 miner’s son David Powlett Jones returns to England from the trenches. Shell-shocked, physically and emotionally damaged by his experiences, he takes up a position as a history master at Bamyfylde, a school buried in the Devonshire countryside. The novel plots the course of David’s recovery, his effect on the school and the effect that the other masters, the pupils and the fabric of the school have on him. It explores the changing political, social and educational climate of the period between the wars both in intimate and broad scope. David has to cope with a deep personal tragedy, and face up to a serious conflict of personalities when there is change at the top. World War II also challenges him as he has to come to terms with seeing his pupils go off to fight and perhaps die as so many young men died in the war he fought before coming to Bamfylde.

This is a gentle meander of a novel that occasionally becomes a plod. Anyone who is a teacher will absolutely long for the kind of pupils who populate the pages. Even the delinquent ones are thoroughly good eggs underneath while David Powlett Jones is an absolute saint who can set any troubled child on the right path, including the bed-wetters and illicit pipe smokers! However, that’s not to sneer. It’s a genuinely warm, comforting novel. Curl up under a quilt with lashings of cocoa and enjoy!