Reminiscences of Sargodha



I first met Mr. Catchpole (Mr. Hugh Catchpole S. Pk., MBE. CBE) in the summer of 1959 when I had applied for entry into the Pakistan Air Force Public School at Sargodha from a newspaper advertisement in the Pakistan Times in Lahore. He was the Principal of the school.


Mr. Hugh Catchpole S. Pk., MBE. CBE

 Before the written test, my elder brother (Mustafa Anwer) who was a lieutenant in the army had taken me to meet Mr. Fasihuddin in Lahore, who was a teacher at the school. Mr. Fasihuddin had been my brother’s instructor and mentor at Quetta at the Joint Pre-Cadet Services Training Centre in 1953, where the cadets spent the first year. He had given a good recommendation which helped in his selection later from the Pakistan Military Academy at Kakul as an overseas cadet to the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst, England. Mr. Fasihuddin (taught geography) asked the names of some capitals of the countries of the world. I couldn’t answer for Nepal; Kathmandu.


 We appeared for a written test comprising Maths, English and Science which was followed by an intelligence assessment at the Pakistan Air Force Recruiting Centre on Abbot Road in Lahore. I was taken for the assessment again by my elder brother in a ‘tonga’ (horse drawn vehicle) and had cried at the end of it,  fearing that I had failed. The interview with Mr. Catchpole came next at the same place. The interview team comprised, besides the principal, Mr. Fasihuddin and Mr. Rehman Qureshi. During this I also mentioned that my mother’s office, the Information and Publications Ministry was situated right opposite the Air Force Recruiting Centre, when I think Mr. Fasihuddin brought up the subject. Mr. Catchpole asked me if there were any irregularities I had observed in the written test. I had replied in the affirmative on his prompt of some invigilators in the examination hall spending extra time with the applicants.

 On return from school (St. Anthony’s High School Lahore) one day that summer, I was told that I had been selected for the Air Force School at Sargodha. In fact, the news was broken by Shahida Rehmani, if I remember correctly, who was my sister’s friend and soft on my other brother Hashim. In fact I had couriered messages between the two. The registered letter received from the school also advised a list of clothes, undergarments, socks which were to accompany me on Aug 31, 1959 to Sargodha, a boarding school.

My mother dropped me at Sargodha on August 31. We had gone by a Pakistani Greyhound (United Bus Service). The school comprised four residential ‘houses’: Attacker, Fury, Sabre and Tempest, named after fighter aircraft associated with the Air Force. I was initially placed in Sabre House with Mr. Qadeer as the Housemaster, but this was changed  to Attacker House on my mother’s request to Mr. Fasihuddin, who was the Housemaster.

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For each residence there was a housemaster and an assistant housemaster, in the case of Attacker House, the AHM was Mr. A.B. Chughtai, who  taught Mathematics. There was also a physical training instructor, Sergeant Hussain, A washer man, and four peons. The clean clothes were brought every Saturday and the dirty ones picked up on Wednesday via a ‘dhobi chit’. (dhobi chit was the inventory of clothes sent on a printed form). The beds and shoes were made/polished by the peons. On arrival we had received a horde of uniforms, summer and winter, school blazers, ties, hockey sticks, shoes, football shoes, and knee pads besides such items as handkerchiefs. We were dispensed pocket money of Rs.2.00 every Friday and there was a tuck-shop waiting for the cash. The House comprised four dormitories, # four being for the senior most. These were administered by student dorm captains, a house captain, school prefects, and house prefects. These individuals had rooms.

Lights out was 9 pm and the bell in the morning woke us up at 6 am with the added noise of the jet engines being run up at the Air Force base. Assembly for PT was every morning at 6.30 with the principal invariably in attendance on his cycle, motorcycle or motor car.

Once I had been absent in the morning and he had come to the dormitory and checked on me. The assembly was followed by PT for half an hour. School started at 8.30 am and for this we had to change our clothes, go to the dining hall for our breakfast, and run to the school a quarter mile away. Every meal had the grace said before. Games in the afternoon started at 4.30 pm according to roster published on the school board. There was cricket, soccer (football), athletics, softball, basketball, and field hockey.

A sense of competition was developed and ever-present between the houses. We were lucky that there were a lot of Bengalis in the school, who were master sportsmen. They excelled in swimming, football, boxing, basketball, and our house (Attacker) profited in reputation from their skill. Some of us also were into aero-modelling and there was a time for that in the afternoon. The seniors also went for gliding at the Air Force Base. There was a treat of going for Friday prayers to the city mosque. A lot of people went since it afforded a chance to see the outside world. There was an afternoon detention in the house study area on any fault given by the prefects and for errors of greater magnitude a forfeiture of the movie on Saturday night. At night there were the howls of the jackals in the forest which was part of the Air Force base. The school was situated on the edge of the forest.

Mr. Catchpole also checked on me by coming to our house in Lahore when I was late on one occasion in reaching the school after the summer vacations. I used to miss our home so much that a deliberate shut out of the inevitable departure day to Sargodha was made. He was told that I had left that very morning for school. He gave me a caning for that, six benders in case I forgot again.

He was a keen sportsman and an avid cricketer. On watching my bowling action one day in a match, he said I wasn’t looking/following the ball delivery but was merely tossing the ball. I was disheartened and changed into a leg spinner. I did well in that style in the inter-house matches and even captained our junior team–Mohammad Syed Husain


Author 1982: Mohammad Syed Husain


 “Mr. Hugh Catchpole was born in 1907 in Ipswich, a small town of a pretty rural county, Suffolk in England. He did his Master’s in History from Oxford University and made the profession of teaching the bread and butter of his life. Before starting his career as a teacher, Mr. Catchpole did some flying in civil and played cricket for the Suffolk County Eleven. His enviable career in education spanned 68 years, beginning in 1928 as Assistant Master at the Prince of Wales Royal Indian Military College, now Rashtriya Indian Military College (RIMC), Dehra Dun, India. He went on to become the Principal of RIMC in 1948, and held the post till his retirement in 1953.

 The first Pakistani Air Chief, Air Marshall Asghar Khan and his successor Air Marshall Nur Khan had been Mr. Catchpole’s students at RIMC. After retiring from RIMC, he came to Pakistan to become the founder Principal of Cadet College, Hasan Abdal. After expiry of his contract at the Cadet College in 1958; he joined PAF Public School, Sargodha as Principal. He stayed there till 1967 and then joined Abbotabad Public School as Head of the English Department, a post he held till the last day of his life. Mr. Catchpole died at the age of 90, on Feb 1, 1997 at the Military Hospital in Rawalpindi, surrounded by Rimcollians, Abdalians, Sargodhians and Abbotonians, whom he loved. Just two months before his death, he had to inaugurate a guest house named after him at Rashtriya Indian Military College, Dehra Dun. He had given a bountiful donation of Rs 1.5 million for that guest house and planned to shift there after retiring from Abbotabad Public School. In his will, he wished to donate all balances of his account to institutions he had been associated with. More than Rs 8 million was donated by him to different institutions including Ipswich School, Suffolk, UK, Rashtriya Indian Military College Dehra Dun, Cadet College Hasan Abdal, PAF Public School Sargodha and Abbotabad Public School.

 Mr. Catchpole was awarded the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1968, and the Commander’s Badge of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) and Sitara-i-Imtiaz (SI) in 1979, for his lifelong meritorious service to the cause of education. He is survived by hundreds of students, who proudly treasure their deep personal association with this legendary teacher. To them, he was an institution unto himself. “Mr. Hugh Catchpole belongs to that breed of legendary teachers, who did not take up teaching profession as a calling or a vocation but immortalized it with their missionary zeal, selfless dedication and single-minded sense of commitment. During his career, spanning more than 68 years, he played a vital role in the grooming and nurturing of thousands of young minds, and I consider myself lucky to be one of them.”

Tanvir Mahmood Ahmed, Air Chief Marshall,, Chief of the Air Staff,, Pakistan Air Force

 They should have lived and gone on . . . by Ahsan Saleem Hyat (447 Sabre)


General Ahsan Saleem Hyat HI(M).

1959 must be appearing ancient to those of you there today at our beloved alma mater. To the likes of us who passed through the same corridors, class rooms, prep rooms, and dormitories, as you do today, it seems only “yesterday”. Happy times, useful times get locked in that part of our minds that is ever present.

We came from All-Pakistan which you unfortunately don’t do today, for there is no East Pakistan now. The names of cities and towns like Chittagong, Rajshahi, Rangpur, Sylhet, Dinajpur, and many more must not be familiar to you. Dacca; I hope you would know, since geography is one of the strengths of the Sargodhians, is now the capital of Bangladesh, formerly East Pakistan. It is sad that it is no more. Sadder because the boys from East Pakistan enriched Quaid’s concept of Pakistan.

They were very good at studies and a large number of them were excellent at sports. Swimming came naturally to them. My closest friend, Khair-ul-Bashar Mehboob Alam Chaudhri, (KB) to all of us), could do 60 lengths of the swimming pool at a stretch, and that too with ease. Our House Captain, Shafiq Bhai, was a natural sportsman. He excelled in all games, but to my mind, cricket was his best. I do not remember a straighter bat than his while hitting a cover drive off the front as well as back foot. In football, Waleed Bhai’s curving corner kick would invariably land in the net. Haven’t really seen Beckam do it any better. It is sad that immediately after commissioning in the PAF, he went down in the Arabian Sea with his plane. Meezan was impish and he could weave circles around any team on the hockey field. There were many good ones from other houses too. Masoom from Fury House was a great competitor. There were “Greats” from West Pakistan too. None greater than Mickey Bhai. He excelled in all games, but cricket was his forte. I have always thought that he could have easily made it to the Pakistan Cricket Team. Tiwana (Nisar) Bhai could run mile after mile and never tire. As juniors we held in awe for his bold and, if I may add, some “errant” ways. He spent much of his time in “Freighter House”.None is more indelibly printed on my mind than Mr. Catchpole (May God Bless His Soul), our Principal. He was the “bossman”, feared, admired and loved–all at the same time. Fair to the bones when he said,

“Well I mean no!”,

it meant “no” and nothing president or air marshalls, and I think even he could not turn it into a yes. I don’t know why he left Sargodha (much after I left the school).

Subsequently he had taken teaching English at the Abbotabad Public School. I visited him every year or two to pay respects to the man whom so many of us owed so much. On one of my visits, I asked him what else he was doing besides teaching. His reply I would like to quote verbatim:

“i am financially supporting the schooling of a few very talented poor boys in Pakistan…, well, I mean, I earned my money here in this country. I might as well put it back into it”.

Only Mr. Catchpole would think and act like that.

He died at CMH, Rawalpindi.  I attended the funeral service at Christ Church, Rawalpindi. As I filed past, I couldn’t help noticing his always immaculately tailored double-breasted suit. I have drawn from the recesses of my memory of what is no more. I wish both East Pakistan and Mr. Catchpole would have lived forever. The former could and should have. The latter was a mortal, but immortal to those of us who had the privilege of being his pupils.

Bhai = brother; a senior was addressed as bhai along with the first name as a mark of respect

By courtesy: Sargodhian — Golden Jubilee Edition 1953–2003







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