War Years

om Anselm was succeeded as Headmaster by Dom Christopher McNulty who, though a young monk only recently ordained, soon showed that he was the right man for the post. He had great dynamism, initiative and enterprise and a remarkable gift for making friends. As many of these friends had influential positions, he was able to make Belmont more widely known than it had hitherto been.
Dom Christopher’s period as Headmaster came at a time when those contacts could be of maximum use.

The outbreak of war in 1939 brought a great influx of boys because the school was remote from all the bombed areas.
The thirty-seven boys of 1938 swelled to seventy two in 1940 and to ninety two in 1942, while in the following year one hundred was reached. In spite of this expansion the original policy of keeping the fees at a substantially lower figure than those of the other monastic schools was still adhered to. In this way it was hoped that many would be able to give their sons a 'Benedictine' education who could not otherwise afford it.
Wartime restrictions and shortages caused great difficulty but the school routine continued peacefully and efficiently. Fr. Christopher produced the first School Magazine. He introduced the teaching of singing and music in 1939 and in that same year physics and chemistry also began to be taught.
In 1937 Dom Christopher produced the first outdoor play. The introduction of dramatic and artistic activities was one of the chief achievements of his time in the school. In the autumn term of 1938, despite the warnings of the more prudent, Fr.Christopher embarked upon his most ambitious project - the performance of "Murder in the Cathedral" in a Hereford theatre. Only his fortitude and energy made possible the great success of this venture. In the following January, the play was performed at the Cathedral Hall, Westminster, and the Headmaster reaped the reward of months of anxiety and difficulty.
The greatly increased number of boys at that time led to the setting up of the House System. The boys were organised into two Houses named Kemble, after the Herefordshire martyr-patron of the school, and Cantilupe after the great local saint, St. Thomas Cantilupe. The establishment of a Junior Department for the very small boys also became necessary. Their section of the school was called St. Ethelbert's after the saint whose shrine in Hereford Cathedral was so widely honoured in medieval times. All this activity and growth involved much reorganization, both of the available space and of the studies, and valuable experience was gained.
Mention must be made of the Air Defence Cadet Corps in 1939 which gave useful training for war to older boys, and which in 1942 became the Army Cadet Corps.
In 1941, Fr. Christopher resigned as Headmaster and received a commission as Chaplain to the Forces. He was a great loss to the School, but under the new Headmaster, Dom Alphege Gleeson, the number of boys continued to increase. From such a small school fifteen Old Boys gave their lives in the armed forces during the war. Fr. Alphege had to battle with the worst of wartime conditions, with their restrictions and frustrations, and various emergency safety measures had to be taken, such as the building of tiers of bunks for the boys in what had been the monastery parlours.
The ever-pressing problem of accommodation was more acute than ever. The books were moved out of the library to the cloister and the former library became classrooms, whilst the novitiate became a dormitory for boys. Rooms also had to be found for a housekeeper, a matron and a lay master. Eventually the whole of the south block also, comprising the Abbot's room among others, became school territory. Despite this the monks cheerfully acquiesced in these deprivations which were recognised to be essential and inevitable. It was some reward for these sacrifices when, in 1944, the school was inspected by the Ministry of Education and officially 'recognised,' thus obtaining a definite standing.
With the end of the war it was possible to build a small but badly needed laboratory for the teaching of chemistry and physics in 1946. Two years later the new playing fields were completed, giving ample space for three football pitches.