School years (1910–1920)
Following a short time at Headland College, Plymouth, in May 1910, Phillips (then aged 8 years 2 months and living at 2 Woodford Villas, Plymouth) joined Plymouth College as a dayboy, a year after his older brother was admitted. It is thought very probable that during his ten years at the school Phillips was greatly influenced by one of the masters, Joseph Thompson (1859-1922).8
School records (F. J. Jeffery, pers. comm. 1997) show that Phillips’ career at this time was marked by outstanding academic success. He was awarded the annual Form Prize each year from 1911 to 1916. This was followed by Form Prizes for German, mathematics, natural science and geography (1917); English (1918); French and natural science (1919); French (1920); the Brown Prize for mathematics (1918 and 1920); and the Murch Memorial Prize for natural science (1918-1920); and, in November 1918, he obtained credits in English, French, German, elementary and additional maths, physics and chemistry in the Oxford and Cambridge School Certificate.
Despite this daunting record, his school years were not simply devoted to scholastic achievement. In the Natural History Society he was curator of botany in the school museum (1916) and, following the amalgamation of the Natural History Society and the Science Library to form the Natural Science Society in 1916, he became its librarian and treasurer (1917-1920). He also read papers to the Society on: ‘Magnetism’, ‘The microscope’ and ‘Petrol motors’ (1916); ‘Electrical transmission of the voice’ and ‘Chemistry and the camera’ (1917); ‘The origin and manufacture of paper’ (1919); and ‘How the coin of our realm is made’ (1920).