The time around Remembrance Sunday is always poignant, though perhaps never more so than this year when we commemorate one hundred years since the Armistice. It came into force at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, though it was actually agreed several hours earlier. A route had been agreed to bring a railway carriage containing German representatives through France to a clearing at Rethondes, near Compiègne, in northern France – this spot was chosen solely because of the proximity of two intact railway lines which would allow the two sides to meet. Over a number of days, the representatives trekked back and forth between the two carriages until an agreement was reached in the early hours of 11 November for both sides to stop firing at 11am. (It may interest you to know that the British Army was not represented at these talks as Lloyd George chose to send an admiral instead!). Word of the impending armistice quickly spread amongst troops on both sides but, somewhat incredibly, many took it as a signal for one last chance at glory and the firing and killing continued right up to the very second of 11am.
Much has been said and written in the meantime, and the increasingly easy availability of records these days allows us to know more than ever before. However, we must still be wary of the difference between fact and opinion in our treatment of history. Can we really remember what we never actually experienced, or are we simply repeating someone else’s version? For example, thousands will attend memorial services up and down the country this weekend, but how many know that Britain was the only combatant to refuse to repatriate the remains of its fallen? The government at the time deemed it too expensive.
Whilst remembrance usually centres on the fallen, it would be appropriate to consider Douglas Haig’s campaign for proper and compassionate treatment of those who returned. What we now know as the ‘Poppy Appeal’ was originally the Earl Haig Fund, a charity set up by Haig in 1921 to look after veterans of the conflict at a time when government support was unforthcoming.
As we reflect over the coming days we shall think of the huge effort of all those involved, whether on the battlefield or on the Home Front. They gave us the future we have. We Will Remember Them.
Gareth Seddon, Headmaster
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From the Archives
The School is lucky to have an incredibly dedicated person, Dr Anthony Reeve, who looks after the archives and the many historical artefacts that the School has acquired over its 400+ years.
With this week being the lead up to 100 years since the Armistice, it seemed only appropriate to share images of these two beautifully handwritten and coloured Rolls of Honour which were created around 1920. These particular items used to hang in Grindal House as a record of the ‘Names of Old Boys of Grindal House who either joined the forces or were on government service in The Great War 1914—1918’.
It was an incredibly humbling experience to read through the 124 names written in the frames, even more so when you consider that these are the names of Grindal alone and not the School as a whole.
Over 900 Old St Beghians served during the war, 184 lost their lives. Their bravery and the bravery of those who served from the parish and the wider country will always be remembered.
Open day: 24th November 10am—12 noon