Based on James Hilton's novel, a shy but popular British school-master marries a young beauty and becomes head master during the World War.
At Brookfield School 83-year-old Chipping (Robert Donat) comes late for assembly and greets boys. Resting at home he recalls the past and dozes.
Chipping arrives at the school in 1870 and is ragged by the lower prep boys. The headmaster Wetherby (Lyn Harding) orders caning and advises Chipping to use authority. Chipping keeps his class in, and without their best player they lose a cricket match. Years later Chipping is passed over for house master, because he is a good teacher. Chipping tells Staefel (Paul Henreid) he is disappointed. Staefel invites him on a walking tour of Europe. In the mountains Chipping meets Katherine (Greer Garson), and they quickly become friends. Chipping is praised for finding Katherine but retires to his room. On the balcony he overhears Katherine talk about him. In Vienna Chipping sees Katherine. In a ballroom she asks him if he was ever in love. Katherine gets Chipping to waltz with her. He says goodbye to her; as the train pulls out, they agree to marry. Chipping shows Katherine to his colleagues. She invites the boys to tea on Sundays, urges Chips to tell jokes, and persuades him to ignore a dorm party. Chips tells her that he is made a house master. Boys led by John Colley (Terry Kilburn) play April Fools tricks. Katherine and the baby die in childbirth, but Chips teaches his class and gets blank letters.
Years go by. Chips breaks up a fight with Peter Colley. Headmaster Ralston (Austin Trevor) asks Chips to retire or change; but he refuses. Five years later Chips retires and says he will remember them as boys. During the war Peter Colley (John Mills) asks Chips to visit his wife Helen and his son. Chips is asked to be headmaster until the war is over. Chips canes the impertinent Burton for despising and playing tricks on the war-time masters. During a bombing raid Chips teaches Caesar's Latin that mentions Germans attacking. Helen tells Chips that she hopes Peter will return soon. In church Chips announces the heroic death of Peter Colley and that former German teacher Staefel was killed fighting with the Saxons. At assembly Chips announces that the war is over. Chips gives tea and cake to young Peter Colley on his first day to calm his fears. Peter says goodbye.
Chips wakes. When Chips is ill in bed, people feel sorry for him; but he says he had thousands of children all boys.
In this sentimental story a dedicated teacher learns
from his charming wife to use humor and kindness to nurture the
goodness in boys. Although he trains them as officers, he hopes
the war will soon be over.