Checkmate! – silver medal after 68 years

Mr Posen. Photo contributed.
Mr Posen. Photo contributed.

A FORMER resident of Buxton has finally been presented with the silver chess trophy he was promised during the Second World War, 68 years after winning the competition as a schoolboy.

Eli Posen, aged 84, lived in Buxton throughout the Second World War, and attended the then Buxton College on College Road.

The Buxton College that Mr Posen attended from 1940 to 1943 was a county grammar school for boys endowed in 1674, which went on to form Buxton Community School.

However, when Buxton College of Further Education, based in Buxton’s Dome, received a letter from Mr Posen detailing the promise of a Silver Medallion from an inter-school chess competition that took place in 1943, they were happy to fulfil the pledge.

Mr Posen said: “I played chess for the school, against other schools, and when I was aged 17 I won a silver medal.

“However, as it was wartime all metals went to the war effort and the school could not issue silver, so I was given a temporary paper medal – which promised that it could be exchanged as soon as silver was once again freely available.”

It was only recently, while organising his possessions to move house from London to Gateshead, where he now lives with his son, daughter-in-law and his grandchildren, that Mr Posen discovered his long-forgotten paper ‘medal’, and decided to contact the now-existing Buxton College of Further Education for the silver medal that he rightly deserved.

“I was very proud to win the medal for the college in 1943,” he added.

“Although I can’t recall who I beat throughout the championships, I remember that it was an inter-school competition, and that I won some of the games quite easily.”

Mr Posen’s family was originally from Germany and, as an Orthodox Jewish family, had moved first to Holland and then to England as Hitler came into power. In doing so, they avoided the terrible fate of many Jews who remained in Germany during the Second World War.

Mr Posen said: “My father, who was an academic doctor, foresaw the persecution that could happen when Hitler came into power, and decided to take us as far away from Germany as possible.”

When war broke out the family was living in London, but fearing that German Forces would invade Great Britain Mr Posen’s father decided to move them north to the Peak District to avoid persecution. They were successful and lived out the war safely on White Knowle Road, Buxton, with Mr Posen attending Buxton College from age 13 to 17.

He then went on to emulate his father’s success, becoming a chemical engineer and running his own plastics company in London until he retired.

“I have very fond memories of Buxton, and can remember the house we lived in, the Dome on Devonshire Road, and my headmaster at Buxton College, Mr Mason. If you were ever late for class he gave you the cane, which I am sure doesn’t happen any longer,” he added.

Mr Posen was presented with his silver medal in his Gateshead home, by a member of Buxton College staff.

Mary Blauciak, Head of the Buxton College of Further Education, said: “We were delighted to be able to award Mr Posen with the medal he won back in 1943.

“The competition and the time he spent in Buxton clearly meant a great deal to him, and it was fantastic to see how much happiness the medal bought him.”

Mr Posen still continues to play chess, with his children and grandchildren.