In Remembrance

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The problem with history is that it is in the past. Which is tricky when there are so many lessons we should learn from it. Remembrance Day is an important day to ensure that lessons that cost so much to so many aren’t kept buried in the past. It is paramount that those sacrifices that were made are not wasted. However unless you can make a real connection to the present, from the past, those lessons can remain untaught. Over the last 15 years in education I have often sat through Remembrance Day services at school and felt we have got the message wrong. The passing on of facts and figures, although hugely important, can at times be numbing and impossible to comprehend. The solemness expected from children without the deeper understanding of why we should remember doesn’t help. Worse still is the times I have had to sit and listen to the glorification of the war. The lessons from the past about the folly and dangers of war, as well as remembrance for the sacrifices made in them can be disjointed and ambiguous at times. Until today.

Our Head of Religious Studies started by reciting from memory “Recessional”, a poem by Rudyard Kipling.

God of our fathers, known of old—
Lord of our far-flung battle line—
Beneath whose awful hand we hold
Dominion over palm and pine—
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget—lest we forget!

The tumult and the shouting dies—
The Captains and the Kings depart—
Still stands Thine ancient sacrifice,
An humble and a contrite heart.
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget—lest we forget!

Far-called our navies melt away—
On dune and headland sinks the fire—
Lo, all our pomp of yesterday
Is one with Nineveh and Tyre!
Judge of the Nations, spare us yet,
Lest we forget—lest we forget!

If, drunk with sight of power, we loose
Wild tongues that have not Thee in awe—
Such boastings as the Gentiles use,
Or lesser breeds without the Law—
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget—lest we forget!

For heathen heart that puts her trust
In reeking tube and iron shard—
All valiant dust that builds on dust,
And guarding calls not Thee to guard.
For frantic boast and foolish word,
Thy Mercy on Thy People, Lord!
Amen.

I haven’t heard this poem since I was at school. It was explained to me then that it was taken from Deuteronomy, with regards to never forgetting the sacrifice that Christ made for us. It is a prayer which eloquently expresses humanity’s dire need to remember the sacrifice to deliver us from a tragic fate. The concept of remembering involves an acknowledgement of those who have ensured what we have today. The more we remember them, the more they will bring us into the full understanding of what they have done for us. Therefore, we shall always remember them, those who fought and died for our liberties “lest we forget…”

In the summer we finally got improvements to our schools nurses office. In the refurbishment old records of past pupils were found and they were read out today.

Kenneth Charles Harvey Jacobs

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Born 1920. Joined the school in 1930. Played 2nd XI Cricket, was a school prefect and was in the school play of 1933. Left school in 1937. Killed in action 1939 aged 20.

Philip John Carter

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Born 1922. Joined the school in 1930. Was a House Prefect, played rugby and cricket for the school and was in the athletics team. Missing in action 1942 aged 20.

Neville Cecil West

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Born 1919. Joined the school in 1927. Was in the school play and played school cricket and house rugby. Killed in action 1944 aged 25.

William Robert Elleman

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Born 1921. Joined the school in 1939. Was a House Captain and appeared in a school play. Drowned as sea in 1943 aged 22.

Desmond Hayne

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Born 1922. Joined the school in 1939. Represented his house in rugby, athletics and cricket. Died from wounds in 1942 aged 20.

Alan Salmon, Robert Goord, Richard McKanna, Anthony Bevan and Arthur Wellings. The list went on. They all gave their lives to ensure the freedoms we take for granted exist today. They gave their lives to ensure that the education they received in our school was allowed to continue. They gave their lives for these reasons and many more “lest we forget…”

Usually the silence is respectful. Today it was deafening. Remembrance of the past is a complex issue, especially when linked to war. If we can find away to link the past to our present, then we may be able to help shape the future. I feel deeply grateful for the sacrifices of our past students to ensure the continuation not only of our way of life, but of our school, and today I think our current students did to.

 

 

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3 thoughts on “In Remembrance

  1. I agree with this totally, I shamefully did not expect the pupils to all show respect to the past and present soldiers and make noise through the two minute silence we completed, but they did! Our school brought up the live BBC broadcast which commanded respect in a similar way to the poem you spoke about. When I was at school, I think the figures and the word ‘death’ did not mean a lot to me like you said (the only way they did in the end was due to personal losses of friends and family), so the fact they understand the message is a really positive thing.

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    1. I think its an incredibly difficult think to teach children, and its easy with hindsight and actually not having the responsibility to pass judgements on others that try to attempt it. Perhaps if we need to give our students more credit in understanding this difficult and complex day and reasonings behind it. I always worry about approach, especially if it is somehow glorifying war, but I do think I am seeing this less and less now.

      Liked by 1 person

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