St. Ed’s Remembered

Along with the nation, St. Ed’s commemorated the centenary of the armistice at the end of the Great War with a number of incredibly special and unique events, the first of which was Mr Wright’s Armistice Sponsored Swim. To remember our 37 alumni who gave their lives during the First World War, a team made up of pupils, parents, staff, alumni, grandparents, siblings and friends swam for 37 hours non-stop with the aim to swim the equivalent distance to travelling from mainland England to Albert at the heart of the Somme battlefield, 98 miles! Mr Wright reported, “What an absolutely amazing 37 hours we had. Rather like Tommy Atkins in 1914, St. Ed’s response as a community to the “call to arms” made back in September was quite simply breath-taking. In terms of the distance swum, our initial target was blown away with a staggering 272 miles completed which means we swam from St. Ed’s to Albert and then managed to get back to mainland England – a truly incredible total. To single out just a few highlights, the swimmer who achieved the greatest distance was Miss Ritchie who during her four hours in the pool, which included a two hour stint from 2 am to 4 am, swam a staggering 718 lengths! Miss Wade-Smith clocked an impressive 658 lengths and Mrs Church, who was over 39 weeks pregnant at the time, came in between 4.00 am and 5.00 am to swim a length or two. Also taking part was our oldest swimmer Alan Hardy, Grandfather to Leo and Georgia Christmas, who is himself a veteran having served 26 years in the Army. He was injured in the Falklands war and as a result of injuries sustained on active service, swam his 80 lengths with the use of only his arms, just amazing.”

The swim raised funds for the “There But Not There” campaign which is a nationwide installation for the centenary commemoration. It has three aims: to commemorate those who lost their lives and fought in this war, educate the young about the past the sacrifices made by this generation, and raise substantial funds to help heal Veterans still suffering physically, as well as those with the hidden wounds of mental health issues associated with their time in Service. As this edition went to print, the total amount raised is a staggering £11,500. On hearing of this fantastic achievement, Mrs Jo Walker, Deputy Chair of Trustees for the There But Not There campaign (and mum to Toby and Florence!) wrote to Mr Wright.

Dear Mr Wright

First of all, I want to thank you for all the support you, the school and the wider St. Ed’s community have given There But Not There this year – the Armistice swim and the exhibition event that took place at St. Edmund’s was possibly the most spectacular of all of the fund raising efforts that we have heard about, a truly fantastic all inclusive event. To me it summed up the essence of St. Edmund’s and its alumni and supporters. I felt very proud to be part of such a wonderful place.

Our “There But Not There” Tommies have been installed around the country at war memorials, within communities, on iconic landmarks and in the homes of over 80,000 people, commemorating the fallen of WW1. We are so proud and honoured to have played a part in the country’s remembrance of the centenary of the end of the war. None of this would have been possible without the magnificent and generous backing we have received along the way, so this note comes with my sincere thanks for the support you have given to our project.

The swim started what was a very moving and reflective week at St. Ed’s. Mr Taylor’s WW1 Commemorative Exhibition was simply outstanding and included over 200 WW1 historical artefacts and memorabilia, including weapons, rifles, uniforms, medals and rare items including a WW1 blood transfusion box (1 of only 2 left in the world), and a Sopwith Camel propeller amongst other unique items. Over the three days it was on display, the exhibition welcomed over 850 visitors from the surrounding community including our own pupils and parents, children from local schools and residents from residential homes, all of whom were both astounded at such a unique collection and grateful to have been part of it. One of the most poignant moments was when the residents from Huntington House visited. Upon hearing the Chapel Choir in rehearsal, Miss Green kindly asked the choir to sing two songs that they had performed earlier in the school’s remembrance services, Flanders Fields and Keep the Home Fires Burning. Upon hearing the music, the gentlemen were all noticeably moved by the whole event and there was not a dry eye present in the chapel. Mr Taylor was absolutely delighted to see so many families and neighbours attend the exhibition on the Saturday and we are incredibly grateful to Mrs Abson who baked beautiful Poppy Cakes for the school to sell. Thanks to everyone’s generosity, the school raised £592.56 for the Poppy Appeal collection.

On Friday 9th November, the whole school attended Remembrance Services in the Chapel and we were honoured and delighted to welcome former St. Ed’s boy Lt Col (Ret’d) Crispin Black to address the congregation. Lt Col Crispin Black MBE was a 22-year-old second lieutenant with the Welsh Guards in the Falklands War and was on the Sir Galahad when it was bombed by Argentinian forces. He also served in Northern Ireland, headed the U.K. Defence Intelligence Staff's Yugoslav Crisis Cell, and was posted to the British government's Cabinet Office to work for the Joint Intelligence Committee and COBRA. He is currently an independent intelligence analyst and commentator on terrorism issues and he spoke profoundly of his personal experiences as well as speak to his enamoured audience about WW1 and what war meant then and what it means now. Miss Green led the Chapel Choir in a beautiful selection of songs and hymns including Flanders Fields, Keep the Home Fires Burning and I vow to thee my country, and whilst photos of the school’s 81 OSE’s appeared on a screen, the school fell silent as we remembered them.

To express their gratitude, the There but Not There committee have prepared a unique code (STEDSTOMMY10) that gives us all, and the wider St. Ed’s community a 10% saving on their 10” Tommies. This can be redeemed at check-out when purchasing from their store. Veterans need support year-round and by buying a Tommy you will be supporting our six beneficiary military charities which ensure the support is there year-round too. So whether it’s yourself or as a Christmas present, please do take a Tommy home this Christmas and share this code with the wider St. Ed’s community so we can ensure the work of their beneficiaries continues. On behalf of the Headmaster, Mr Wright and Mr Taylor, thank you so much for your support during our Remembrance week.

At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them.

December 2018