John attended as a pre-preparatory pupil at Under Cliff Preparatory School in Orange Grove and then went on to St. John's Preparatory School, followed by St. John's College. His favourite subjects were Mathematics and Science and he excelled scholastically throughout his school years. His favourite sports were rugby, tennis and horse riding. He also participated in scouts, cadets and the school dramatic Society's productions of Gilbert & Sullivan's musical shows, which alternated biannually with plays or comedies, with the boys acting both the male and female parts. He matriculated in 1939, shortly after the outbreak of the Second World War.
At that time he intended taking a university course in mining engineering. However, the advent of war changed these plans.
His closest friend throughout his school days was Ian Leach and each year they would compete for the top place in their class. This friendship lasted from the first day they went to St John's College and thereafter throughout their lives. It also proved to be of great assistance to John later, when he needed help, and Ian had become a well-established orthopaedic surgeon.
Soon after starting preparatory school he came home and informed my mother that his teacher was a fool. She was taken aback at this and chided him, "John, you must not call your teacher a fool.". "But she is. She says that the Allies won the War in 1918 and Dad says that the Yanks won it and he was there!" This, of course, was typical of his father's sense of humour, but it needed some explaining to a young boy.
He accompanied his parents and the rest of the family when they left in February, 1937, planning to encompass the world and take about six months to visit the various places on their itinerary. This journey was brought to an abrupt halt owing to the Stock Market crash and, while his father flew back to Johannesburg from Hong Kong, he, his mother, sister, brothers and their nursemaid, returned as directly as could be organised by ship.
John completed his schooling at St. John's College shortly after war was declared.
At the end of every year the school put on a play, alternating these between a straight play one year and a musical, usually from Gilbert and Sullivan the next. All the parts, both male and female, were acted by the boys and they were usually of a very high standard.
One day after Dallas Milton, [our first cousin, son of my mother's sister, Gladys] had left our home to join up, but while John was still trying to do so, I went into his room to borrow something I needed, such as a ruler, and in John's desk I found a large number of pages of verse. These took my fancy and I borrowed them to read, leaving them in my room, without actually saying anything to him. A day or so later, he obviously came looking for them and took them away. Again, nothing was said about them, which may seem rather odd, but all the family were rather reticent in their ways. I never did find out for certain if these were written by John or Dallas, though the handwriting did seem to be that of Dallas, very small and neat.