A former headmaster of one of the country’s largest comprehensive schools, who lived in Putney for more than 60 years, died on April 7 aged 96.

Roderick Kirton Hands, always known as Rory, was born on September 25, 1918, and attended St Marylebone Grammar School in Westminster, where he won a modern Languages prize.

Ill health prevented Mr Hands from taking up a scholarship at Rada and he instead progressed to Kings College London, spending a year at the Sorbonne, before transferring to the University of Berlin in spring 1939.

He returned to the UK on the advice of the consul in August and though not expected to survive the TB which saw him invalided out of the Royal Artillery, Mr Hands had returned within 18 months to Kings College to train as a teacher.

Mr Hands moved to Putney in 1953 and was appointed headteacher of Chiswick Grammar School in 1963, and remained there for 12 years He oversaw the merging of the new co-educational school with two secondary modern schools, a move proposed by the borough that saw staff having to re-apply for their own jobs against a background of national industrial unrest.

Following his retirement Mr Hands was appointed chairman of the Froebel Teacher Training College and was elected to an honorary fellowship by Roehampton University in 1995.

Hands was predeceased in 2005 by his wife, Kate, whom he met teaching in the state sector. He is survived by a daughter and son, both of whom followed him into teaching and school management.

Mr Hands' son Tim, 59, who is master of Magdalen College, Oxford, said: "My father was an extremely popular man who had a great knack of producing feelings of loyalty in people. There are a lot of people in Putney who knew him and will miss him."

Rory Hands' funeral will take place at All Saints Church in Fulham at 11am today.