|14 Nov 2022|
When Britain declared war on 4 August 1914, there were 179 pupils in the College, but in the four years which followed 174 former pupils and one member of staff gave their lives in defence of this country.
On Thursday 10 November, the school community came together for a Remembrance concert, which you can watch below. The concert included performances from the College's String and Symphony orchestras, as well as moments of reflection led by College Chaplain, Daniel Merceron. On Sunday, the traditional CCF parade and a two-minute silence took place by the Memorial Arch to honour those who have lost their lives in conflict.
The congregation were reminded of the story of Major Thakur Dalpat Singh MC (Blackwater 1907–11), who was posthumously awarded the Military Cross by the Imperial Government - a rare honour to be conferred to military personnel from the colonies. His story was featured in The Old Eastbournian 2012, which you can read here.
A further story included in the concert was that of an Old Eastbournian fighting in the trenches on the Western Front in Belgium. 2nd Lieutenant Edward Cawston was a young officer of the Queen Victoria Rifles and these are his words from a letter he sent in January 1915, which was published in the Eastbournian magazine:
'Troubles and hardships are soon forgotten. A week’s rest works wonders. Last night, on returning to the rest billet I was lucky enough to find a bed - a real, double-barrel, spring-bottom bed, with a sheet. Whether it was the irony of the situation or the complete relaxation after physical and mental tension, I do not know, but, as soon as I was on the bed, I burst into laughter and then slept, very, very soundly.'
After a few days behind the lines Edward returned to the trenches with his unit. For hours the enemy shelled their positions relentlessly, and as a young man barely out of school he was to experience the horrors that so many shared. His letter continued:
'The proportion of shells that do any damage is very small, but those that fall right do shocking havoc. The enemy landed a shell on a farm where half a company of our fellows were in reserve. The shell accounted for over a dozen killed and a score wounded. Further, 1915 started sadly for the battalion. Our machine gun officer was shot by the enemy on the same day. No officer could have known his gun or gun teams better, nor been more appreciated by them.
'About the 4th and 5th we were having a short rest at the billet, and the enemy, in an attempt to locate one of our heavy guns, landed a shell in the main street. It burst on the hard cobbles and its effect was terrific. In a moment another dozen men were dead and a further score wounded.
'Somewhere round January 7 we were in the trenches again and under persistent shell fire. Duties had located me in a fire trench well to the right of where my platoon was. About nine of them were in a small advance fire trench and the rest - now only about twenty - were packed in a small dug-out a few yards behind. From where I was watching, with anxiety, it seemed as though the shells were within a few feet of, if not actually on, the packed dug-outs. With each explosion masses of black earth sprayed up 40 to 50 feet into the air. And yet, amidst all this terrible zone of crashing and destruction, through this playground of relentless violence, there fluttered from pool to pool made by shells in the sodden beet field, a group of first five, then eight and then thirteen white pigeons, enjoying - regardless of the noise to which they now seem accustomed - the showers of earth and roots which fill the air for moments after each explosion. News from my platoon by field telephone being delayed, I found myself figuring our casualties by the number of white pigeons fluttering round to home the souls of those whose work was done.'
We will remember them.
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