They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.
At 11am on 11 November 2014, the Last Post sounded and the Oundle School community fell silent for a unique Service of Remembrance, commemorating 100 years since the start of World War 1 and remembering the former pupils (Old Oundelians) and teachers who died during the conflict.
On the lawns in front of the School Chapel, a memorial to the Old Oundelians (OOs) who died in the Great War, 1100 pupils and 400 teaching and support staff gathered for a Drumhead Service. A tradition, of forming an altar from the drums of a Marching Band, was borrowed from the British Army and used to form the centrepiece for the Service.
As the School gathered on the lawns, the 56 strong Combined Cadet Force (CCF) Marching Band played the slow march Scipio and The Day Thou Gavest Lord is Ended, before a lone piper, Upper Sixth former, Morgan Ball, played a piper’s lament whilst the Corps of Drums built the Drumhead Altar.
Head of Brass, Adele Hudson, said “This was an opportunity for the Band to lead the School in a fitting act of Remembrance to mark the sacrifice made by a previous generation of Oundelians. I am very proud of their performance today.”
Senior Chaplain, Brian Cunningham said, “This was a unique and poignant occasion for all the Oundle School community, standing side by side, remembering our fallen in war.”
At the end of the Service the School cast poppies into a field of 260 crosses, as a personal gesture of respect to pupils who had studied in the same classrooms, lived in the same boarding houses, and made the ultimate sacrifice with most of their adult life ahead of them.
Charles Bush, Headmaster, said, “This was a very special and poignant ceremony of remembrance by the whole community at our War Memorial on the Chapel lawns. All at Oundle School owe so much to those who made the ultimate sacrifice in war and we will remember them.”
Before the Service all pupils gathered in Houses for a short address on the subject of Remembrance and the sacrifice of Old Oundelians.
As has become traditional, a Colour Guard from the School’s CCF, Pipers and the CCF Marching Band paraded through Oundle on Sunday afternoon, as part of the town’s Service of Remembrance and laying of wreaths at the War Memorial. Eight of Oundle’s pupil trumpeters played the Last Post in various locations in Oundle and its surrounding villages and members of the Chamber Choir sang at a Remembrance Service in Apethorpe.
Further commemorations throughout the School year
Over 200 Old Oundelians lost their lives in WW1 and to mark the centenaries of their individual deaths, short services of remembrance are being held in the School’s Cloisters throughout the year. A new plasma screen in the Cloisters depicts information on WW1 and features brief biographies on all the fallen Oundelians; putting their service and sacrifice in the context of the Great War as a whole. Mounted photographs of each of the fallen are being placed in the School’s Chapel and on a commemoration wall in Cloisters until August 2019.
In September, a small party from the School departed for Ypres, Belgium to commemorate formally the Old Oundelians and members of staff who fell during WW1. Whilst there, the party, which included President of the OO Club, Richard Matthews, Robert Ringrose, Governor and Grocer, and Air Commodore Nigel Sudborough, the Headmaster, Charles Bush and his wife, Mrs Mary Bush, the School Chaplain, Reverend Brian Cunningham and the Heads of School, Lily Spicer (17) and Chris Titcomb (17), visited the grave of Old Oundelian, Eric Yarrow.
Headmaster, Charles Bush commented, “It was very moving to stand at the graves of former pupils and to read the names of others on the walls of the Menin Gate and to appreciate the sacrifice of a School generation in the service of their country.”
On the anniversary of Eric Yarrow’s death – 8 May 2015 – there will be a ceremony at the statue of Yarrow, created by former pupil Alexander Johnson along with an exhibition about his life in the Yarrow Gallery, a memorial built by his father, and a concert of WW1 music performed by pupils in the School’s Great Hall.
Back in July, in the latest of a series of cycle rides, Oundle resident and Regional Acquisitions Manager for the Co-op, Mark Rogers cycled from the School’s Yarrow Gallery to Eric Yarrow’s grave in Ypres, raising money for The Alzheimer’s Society along the way.
Eric Yarrow joined up in December 1914 and he died, aged twenty, on the 8 May 1915; 'we lost our officer, Lieutenant Yarrow. A part of a shell hit him. Our platoon is in an awful state about the loss of our officer, for all liked him ' (Alloa Journal, May 1915). Extraordinarily, but then perhaps not, his batman, Corporal Ramsey, chose to die beside him. Today they are buried beside each other at Essex Cemetery, Ypres.
Last but by no means least, the School has commissioned a play by former pupil, Eddie Elks based on the life of former pupil, Cecil Lewis. A Shadow on the Clouds, is to be performed in March 2015 in Oundle’s Stahl Theatre.
In A Shadow on the Clouds, Eddie Elks vividly depicts Lewis’ love of flying and sets it against the grim backdrop of war. The piece has been originally commissioned by the School as part of the WW1 centenary commemorations and will be performed by a talented ensemble from the School’s Fifth and Sixth Form.
Background Information on Oundle School
Oundle School is situated in the quintessentially English market town of Oundle, about 90 miles north of London. The School’s buildings, dating from the 17th to the 21st centuries, are dispersed throughout the town, which is, to a large extent, its campus.
The School’s history dates back to 1556, when Sir William Laxton, Master of the Worshipful Company of Grocers and Lord Mayor of London, endowed and re-founded the original Oundle Grammar School, of which he was a former pupil. In 1876, the Grocer’s Company divided the School into two parts; Laxton Grammar School, primarily for the inhabitants of the town, and Oundle School, primarily for pupils from further afield. In 2000, the Grocers’ Company reunited the two schools under the common name of Oundle School and retained the name of Laxton for the day House.
At the beginning of the 20th century, Oundle was put firmly on the map of leading English public schools by its most famous headmaster, F W Sanderson, who established Oundle’s reputation as one of the great science and engineering schools, a reputation still renowned today. In 2007, SciTec - a major and ground-breaking new science complex - opened, housing 16 state-of-the-art laboratories. The School is now embarking on a large SciTec Campus development project which will see a new Mathematics department constructed adjacent to SciTec as well as a significant upgrade to the Design and Technology department within the Patrick Engineering Centre. Due for completion in September 2016, the development will unite Science, Mathematics, Design, Technology and Engineering both physically and philosophically, enabling pupils to move seamlessly from theory to practice and from pure science to the achievement of a workable technology. A concurrent Sports Masterplan will upgrade sporting facilities across the School over the next few years, including a new 1st XI cricket pavilion due to open April 2015.
There are currently 1110 pupils on roll at Oundle School, with 850 boarders and 250 day pupils. Also within the Corporation of Oundle School is Laxton Junior School, a day School for children aged 4 to 11.