UCGS Senior Prize-giving 2018.


Members of the Old Paludians Association Committee were pleased to be able to attend the Upton Court Grammar School Senior Prize-giving ceremony in September 2018. This ceremony honours the achievements of senior pupils of the school from the previous academic year and we were pleased to see many return to the school they had just left to accept their awards or to congratulate and support their friends.

The OPA has in the past through the kind generosity of members sponsored a number of speech day prizes as a means of encouraging excellence on the part of the students. This year there were two prizes with an OPA connection – The Jeremy Black Prize for Languages, won by Hanna Mirza (below) and the new OPA Laurie Brokenshire Prize for Mathematics. Both prizes are funded by friends and family of the eponyms.

This year saw the addition of a new prize – The Laurie Brokenshire Prize for Mathematics. Laurie Brokenshire was a very distinguished Old Paludian and a great supporter of the Association. The prize was organised by Laurie’s friends and family who have established a long-term fund to support the donation of a prize to the recipient. The choice of subject obviously reflects Laurie’s excellence and passion as a mathematician. An extract from Laurie’s Wikipedia entry follows below.

2. OPA Committee Member and school friend of Laurie Brokenshire Ian Cairns says a few words on Laurie’s legacy before the OPA Laurie Brokenshire Prize for Mathematics is awarded.
3. The OPA Laurie Brokenshire Prize for Mathematics was awarded to Joshua Ellis by Dr Hora, Head of Mathematics
4. Ian Cairns and Joshua Ellis the first recipient of the OPA Laurie Brokenshire Prize for Mathematics.
5. The main speaker, Vivienne Porritt a noted educationalist national leader of WomenEd and Vice President of the Chartered College of Teaching, seen here with OPA Chairman Ron Fidler
6. OPA Chairman Ron Fidler and UCGS Headmaster Mark Pritchard. They don’t know this yet but OPA Committee Member Rajesh Sharma is about to tell them a very funny joke.

Laurence Phillip Brokenshire CBE (1952–2017)

The full article may be found at

7. Laurie Brokenshire
Photo courtesy of Ethel & Matthew Brokenshire (widow and son of sitter) – Matthew Brokenshire (son of sitter)

Commodore Laurence Phillip Brokenshire CBE (1952–2017), known as Laurie Brokenshire, was a Royal Naval officer, magician and world-class puzzle solver.


Laurie Brokenshire was born on 20 October 1952 at 40 Amherst Road, Plymouth to Martin Brokenshire (1926-97) and his wife Pansy Jeanne (née Hewitt; 1930-2007). He had a younger sister, Lynnette, and a younger brother, Adrian. His early hobby interests included chess, puzzles and magic.

In 1966, following the completion of his father’s naval career, the family moved to Slough, where he joined Slough Grammar School. He played for Buckinghamshire junior hockey. In later years, he managed the School chess club and, jointly, the School bridge club notably beating Eton College on one occasion. 

After school, he went to the University of Exeter (1971-74) where he took a BSc (Hons) degree in Mathematics, graduating in 1974. He played hockey and table tennis for University teams, and turned down the offer of a place in the bridge team. During this time, he beat his Head of Department, Professor David Rees, at both chess and, at Rees’ insistence, Go. He took a PGCE at Exeter in 1975.

Royal Navy

In 1975, Brokenshire joined the Royal Navy as an Instructor – his father’s career and service branch. After training at Royal Naval College, Greenwich, and subsequent postings to DartmouthWestminsterPlymouthPortsmouth and Faslane, his career developed as a submariner and later as a senior Royal Navy officer. His success on the Greenwich course encouraged him to take a second degree, this time an Open University BA degree in Science. As 2007 Royal Navy chess champion and President of the Combined Services Chess Association, he represented the RN at the NATO Chess championship several years running, creating for himself an international standing in military chess.

He commanded two shore establishments: firstly Northwood(1992-93) and later, as a CommodoreHMS Raleigh (2000-03) – the Navy’s main Torpoint training centre – the family lived at nearby Trevol House. In 2003, on the occasion of his retirement, the family moved back to their house in Stubbington, Hampshire, and he was awarded a CBE for services rendered.

Sea Cadets

Following the end of his Royal Navy career, Brokenshire was appointed as Commodore of the UK Sea Cadet Corps. As such, he toured and inspected as many local associations as he could.


Brokenshire was accepted into the Inner Magic Circle, and became an occasional professional / semi-professional magic performer. He was regularly used by his charities as a high-profile magic performer, in particular, performing table magic for members of the Royal Family at various charitable occasions. He was always able to find a suitable magic trick for any occasion, particularly for young children, and carried his “magic” bag with him at all times.


In his spare time, Brokenshire became a world-class puzzling expert. Specialising in combinatorial and mechanical puzzles, he was in regular contact with puzzle researchers, designers, makers, enthusiasts and other specialists around the world. He introduced some novel solutions to existing problems, and was exceptionally quick to solve new problems. He was retained by a number of major puzzles companies as a consultant to offer an assessment on the viability of proposed puzzles. His personal puzzle collection was considered among the largest in the UK. He organised and held G4G Celebration of Mind meetings at his house.

The famous puzzlist Henry Dudeney (1857-1930) once announced a particularly-difficult chessboard (aka checkerboard) dissection puzzle in one of his first puzzle books and asserted that it had a “unique”, or single, solution. Many people tried and failed to solve this puzzle, such that it famously became known as the “Dudeney Problem”. Some years later, true to his word, Dudeney gave his “unique” solution in one of his last puzzle books. Later still, Sam Loyd (1841-1911) asserting his own ability, disproved Dudeney’s assertion of uniqueness, by providing a second “unique” solution in one of his puzzle books. This same problem then became known as the “Dudeney-Loyd problem”. Today, that same problem is now classified as the “Dudeney-Loyd-Brokenshire problem” when Brokenshire found the third “unique” solution, after a gap of about 100 years. Substantial further analysis has shown that there were only ever three solutions, despite Dudeney’s original claim. For this solution and others, Laurie Brokenshire is present in the puzzling record books, and is in illustrious company.

International Puzzle Parties

Brokenshire and his wife, Ethel, camped and bicycled the length of several continents to reach successive invitation-only annual International Puzzle Parties (IPP) and Laurie organised and hosted the 2014 IPP34 puzzle party


From 1994, Brokenshire and his wife, Ethel, undertook fostering in Hampshire successfully fostering over 70 children in 22 years.


Brokenshire was a member of the Navy Christian Fellowship and a pillar of his local Church.

Sea swimming

In 1986, Brokenshire swam the English Channel. Subsequently, his son Matthew has also swum the Channel – making them one of the few father and son pairs who have achieved this feat. In later years, Brokenshire enjoyed sea swimming throughout the year with his local “Shack Sharks” club, and represented his locality at cold water swimming competitions up and down the country.

Personal life

Brokenshire married Ethel Isobel McMahon (1954-) (WRNS) on 29 March 1980 at Clonallon Parish Church, with 4 children:

  • Sarah Isobel Brokenshire (1981-)
  • Matthew William Brokenshire (1983-)
  • Rachel Ellen Brokenshire (1985-)
  • Phillip Laurence Brokenshire (1987-)

and several grandchildren. 

He was a member of Mensa.

Illness and death

In early 2016, Laurie was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer, which had overtaken his father some 20 years earlier. His response was immediate and typically selfless – his family undertook a 30-mile crowd-sponsored sea swim off Plymouth in aid of various cancer charities, raising the targeted £30,000 in under three weeks, and in excess of £45,000 overall. 

He had a protracted 18-month fight against his cancer, enabling him to see and interact with his new grandchildren. On 4 August 2017, he died at home surrounded by all his family. On 18 August, following a Thanksgiving service, attended by around 1000 people, at Crofton Church, his body was interred at nearby Crofton Cemetery.

At Upton Court Grammar School, an OPA Memorial Prize for Yr 13 Mathematics is given annually in Laurie Brokenshire’s name.



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iancairns on Test Topic 3
An Old Paludian. Not the oldest.

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