knox grammar school


Knox's oldest Old Boy Marsden Hordern shares his fondest memories

Knox Grammar’s oldest known living Old Boy is Warrawee’s Marsden Hordern (OKG38) OAM VRD, 102, who began at the School in 1929 and graduated in 1938. Mr Hordern – student 329 – attended Knox alongside brothers Hugh (OKG38) and John (OKG41).
As one of the School’s early students, Mr Hordern was under the Headmastership of Neil MacNeil, who he remembers as “remarkable”.

“He was a decorated Army Officer from World War I, he fought in France, I think he was wounded,” Mr Hordern says.

“He was extremely strict, but he was fair.”

Mr Hordern remembers his days at Knox fondly, and in particular, recalls his excitement about the installation of the swimming baths, which were located on the site of the modern-day Reid Industrial Arts Building.

“I must have been ten or 12 … and they had just built the swimming pool at Knox and it was a terrific thing for a school to have a swimming pool in those days.”

Marsden Hordern (OKG39)

A love of the water was apparent in Mr Hordern from this early age and while at Knox, gained his Royal Life-Saving Society Resuscitation Badge in 1935. After his graduation in 1938, Mr Hordern studied Arts at the University of Sydney and during these years, he signed up to serve in WWII as a Sub-Lieutenant in the Royal Australian Navy, then training for anti-submarine warfare. During this time, he conducted secret missions for the Navy in Timor-Leste and Indonesia, rescuing women and children and evacuating them to Darwin, and protecting the coastline from Japanese attacks.

He continued to serve in the RAN Reserve until 1970.

Taking part in the compulsory Cadet training while a student, Mr Hordern said service to his country was implicit within Knox boys, losing some of his classmates during World War II.

“My cousin Peter Hordern (OKG36) was the first Knox boy killed in active service during the Second World War. War broke out and he went over to Europe and joined the Air Force and was killed.”

Records show that British-born Pilot Officer Alfred Peter Burdett Hordern was 22 and disappeared, presumed killed, during operations over the North Sea on Anzac Day in 1940, during the Battles of Narvik.

Pilot Officer Hordern is remembered at the RAF Memorial in Runnymede, England.

Lieutenant Marsden Carr Hordern pictured after World War II, where he had suffered from malaria while posted to the tropics. Credit: Marsden Carr Hordern OAM VRD

Lieutenant Marsden Carr Hordern., RANVR Credit: Marsden Carr Hordern OAM VRD

Writing in a Knox publication in later years, Mr Marsden recalled: “Many boys in many countries were about to discover that the late 1930s and early 1940s were dangerous years to be leaving school.”

Following the war, Mr Hordern completed his studies and worked in department stores both in Sydney and in the London office of Hordern Brothers, and later established an art gallery specialising in reproductions. He continued to enjoy life on the water as a yachtsman, including participating in four Sydney to Hobart races.

He has written three books and for his work, has been awarded The Age Book of the Year, the Victorian Premier's Literary Award (A. A. Phillips Award for Australian Studies), the Braille Book of the Year; and the Australian Maritime History Prize.

In 2004, Marsden received an honorary Doctor of Letters from Sydney University and in 2009, he received the Order of Australia Medal for “Services to the recording of Australian maritime history, particularly early exploration and naval history during World War II”.

Mr Hordern’s son, Nicholas, graduated from Knox in 1974 and grandson, Edward, graduated in 2005.

A keen chess player, Mr Hordern is regularly visited by Senior Knoxonians Ted Metcalf (OKG55) and Brooks Wilson AM (OKG49) and is described as difficult to defeat.

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