Armistice Day 2017 sees the publication of a new book by retired Oundle History teacher, Colin Pendrill, entitled AND WE WERE YOUNG – OUNDLE SCHOOL AND THE GREAT WAR a landmark volume charting the impact of the First World War on Oundle School.
Colin Pendrill commented, “The book tells of some 1200 boys from Oundle School and Laxton Grammar School who joined up ‘to do their bit’ for their country. In particular it focuses on the brief lives and tragic deaths of 263 boys and masters who were swallowed up as a result of the conflict, setting the battles in which they fought and died in their historical context.”
Using extensive contemporary sources from the Oundle School archives, the boys themselves tell of their lives at Oundle School and at war, on land, at sea and in the air, and the book includes their letters home from School and from the Front. In over 300 pictures, the book includes Oundle’s recruits, in peacetime and at war, as schoolboys and as junior officers.
The average age of those killed was 23 years and the youngest was just 17. The death-rate was high with nearly one in four of the boys who joined up losing their lives, during and after the war. One in three of the boys in Dryden House’s OTC Platoon of 1912, pictured on the front cover, perished in the fighting.
Long regarded as one of the country’s leading public schools, Oundle School in Northamptonshire was two ‘twinned’ schools at the time of the First World War. As well as the 350 boys of Oundle School, there were 50 Laxton Grammar School boys. Laxton was the original school in the town, founded to provide a free education for local boys. By 1914, most of the Laxton boys came from the local area of Northamptonshire, Lincolnshire and Cambridgeshire. Thirty boys from Laxton School were killed in the war, many serving in battalions of the Northamptonshire Regiment.
With the publication of this landmark book, Colin Pendrill recounts the story of the ‘local’ boys from Laxton School, alongside the boys from Oundle School, looking at their lives at School and at the Front and recalling the tragic deaths of so many local boys in the terrible and calamitous conflict that was the First World War.
The book also looks at the impact of the war on the boys back at Oundle. The Officers’ Training Corps was expanded and an Army Class formed for those in their last year at school. The boys kept pigs and grew crops, as the School grounds were ploughed up to maintain food supplies, and groups of pupils journeyed to Lincolnshire in their holidays to help bring in the harvest. Most significantly, boys worked long hours in term time and in the holidays in Oundle’s unique engineering workshops producing materials for the War Office. Presiding over this extraordinary response to the challenges posed by the war was Oundle’s radical and energetic headmaster, Frederick Sanderson, whose educational reforms ensured that Oundle School and Laxton Grammar School played an important and unique role in Britain’s war effort.
Colin added, “Oundle’s response to the Great War, home and away, would confirm its place as one of the nation’s leading and most unusual public schools.”
Educated at R.G.S. High Wycombe and Christ’s College, Cambridge, Colin Pendrill taught history at Oundle for thirty-five years, with thirty-five terms as Head of Department. His book AND WE WERE YOUNG has been his retirement project and a labour of love to document the cheerful resilience, heroism and sacrifice of the boys from Oundle’s ‘twinned’ schools who went off to fight for their country.
Colin concluded, “As 2014 approached, the History Department discussed ways in which the war might best be commemorated. I decided that the present generation of Oundelians needed to understand the courage and sacrifice of their predecessors who went off to war 100 years before. In 1920, the School produced a Memorial Book with pictures and brief biographies of Oundle School’s fallen. The idea now was to produce an updated and expanded version of that book adding a number of new elements. Firstly, to add the stories of the Laxton School boys who went to war and secondly to include a commentary on the impact of the war back in Oundle.
I hope that young and old alike will now remember Oundle’s fallen, not just as a generation lost but as individuals, each with his own unique story.”
With a foreword by Oundle’s leading professional historian, Professor Andrew Pettegree of St. Andrews University, this is the first School history to be written by a long-term Oundle schoolmaster since 1956. Anyone interested in the Great War and everyone associated with Oundle – past and present - should read this book.
All profits from sales will be donated to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, which does such a marvellous job in maintaining so many cemeteries and memorials across the globe, where so many Oundelians lie buried.
To order a copy:
AND WE WERE YOUNG is published by Helion & company (hardback 371pp + 300 pictures) and is available from the author, autographed, with a saving of £5, at the discounted price of £25.
Postage and packing is £3.50 for UK addresses, £8 for Europe and £11 outside Europe.
Payment, with name and address of recipient, can be made by card via the author’s PayPal account: email@example.com
OR by cheque payable to the author, sent with return name and address to 35 St Peters Road, Oundle PE8 4NU
OR by BACS transfer to:
C. R. Pendrill sort code: 20-26-23/Acc. No. 50253987
putting your surname down as the reference and e-mailing your name and address to firstname.lastname@example.org
And We Were Young is also available from Amazon and from the Oundle Bookshop.
A Schoolmaster’s thoughts on reading ‘Personal Notes’ in the Times
An Oundle war poem from 1916, in which a Housemaster, himself stationed in Salonika, reacts to news of the death of one of his boys from Crosby House – Christopher Gell aged 19 – killed on the Somme. The housemaster poet, George Tryon would himself be killed four days before the Armistice of 1918 when he insisted on returning to his men even though he was owed many weeks of leave.
Another gone! The well-known name,
And then, the all too brief career,
His home, his School, athletics fame,
“In action, – in his nineteenth year”.
Salt of the Earth, were such as he,
Whose like no other age has bred,
What futures we had looked to see!
But “killed in action”, they are dead.
Was it in vain we wrought, and they,
Character strong and time to build,
Fit their part in the world to play
Through life’s long years, had God so willed?
T’was not in vain; they’ve played their part,
Example set of highest worth:
Their country took from them new heart,
It saw the Sons of God on Earth.
Their lives were long enough to leave
A trail of blessing in their wake,
And so we have no right to grieve
Nor count them lost – ‘tis but a break –
For humbly we may dare to think
Each death but means one friend the more,
Who when ‘tis ours to cross the brink,
Will greet us on the further shore.
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 2016, the School completed its ambitious SciTec project, uniting 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. The development includes the ground-breaking Patrick Engineering Centre, a new Mathematics department and an extension to its sixteen state-of-the-art Science laboratories. Oundle has now embarked on a detailed Sports MasterPlan which will significantly upgrade sporting facilities across the School by 2020, incorporating the building of a new Sports Centre housing a fifty metre swimming pool and an eight court sports hall.
There are currently 1110 pupils on roll at Oundle School, with 860 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.