Monday 12th November 2018, 135 former pupils died during the four year conflict, to commemorate the sacrifice made by those individuals, the School organised a programme of events and activities that spanned six months and included pupils from age 2 to 18. The youngest pupils in the School initiated the programme by planting poppies in the April, which was then followed by a well-attended photography exhibition at the Senior School, presented by a current parent honouring the spouses of those in the military.
On returning after the summer break a visit from a World War 1 Seargent and Nurse had Prep School pupils asking questions such as, ‘How far can a soldier’s gun fire?’ and ‘Why do you have a spoon in your puttees?’, which was followed later in the week by a Senior School performance of ‘Dean Close Remembers’. This followed the stories of 12 Old Decanians who fought in the war and involved members of the whole School from Prep to Senior and the wider Dean Close community; the Headmaster even had a starring role.
In the days leading up to Armistice Day, the Prep School built a replica trench and pop-up museum with artefacts supplied by a local art gallery, Year 8 pupils had their Poppy Poems published in Cotswold Life Magazine, the boarding community held a truce football match and the whole School joined together for a Victory Lunch. The Senior School created a Tree of Remembrance on the wall of the School’s BonBernard Art Gallery, where members of the Dean Close community were all welcome to write a message of remembrance on a paper leaf to attach to the Tree.
The week drew to a close with a Choral Concert of The Armed Man Mass by Carl Jenkins at the beautiful Tewkesbury Abbey. The whole Dean Close community was represented, including an 150-strong choir and orchestra of St John’s on the Hill, Dean Close Prep, Dean Close Senior, staff and professionals. The 13 movements of the piece, including a traditional Call to Prayer by Imam, Ismail Ginwalla, were each stunning and moving in equal measure. A truly wonderful evening and a poignant way to commemorate the Centenary of the Armistice. As a final tribute the School held a Remembrance Service in the Dean Close chapel, with a dedication to the Poppy Cloister featuring poppies bought from the Tower of London to represent each of the fallen past pupils.
DEAN CLOSE SCHOOL, WORLD WAR ONE HISTORY
In World War I, Dean Close (Memorial) School was comparatively small, some 195 pupils in all. Nevertheless, 771 old boys – Old Decanians (ODs) - either volunteered or were conscripted. We know that 135 died in action, were mortally wounded, or died as a result of illness or accident. In addition, the names of 115 others who were wounded, some more than once, is also known out of a probable total of roughly 140 wounded. Most, over 650, went into the Army. 49 went into the Royal Navy while 45 went into the Royal Flying Corps and the infant Royal Air Force. Many ODs were abroad and so 83 joined units appropriate to their location. The biggest contingent came from Canada with 28 ODs, followed by India with 24 with a further two from the Gurkas in Nepal. Ten ODs from Australia, seven from South Africa and three from New Zealand also volunteered. In all, ODs from 16 countries volunteered.
Numerous gallantry medals were won, including 80 Military Crosses, six Old Decanians winning it twice, including a Chaplain, the Rev. Victor Tanner. Air Commodore Henry Crowe won a Military Cross in World War I and became temporary Air Vice Marshal in World War II.
Dean Close marked World War I through drama and through a book We Will Remember Them, which came out in September 2014. The School has also purchased 128 ceramic poppies from the Tower of London exhibition that are now placed in part of the cloister leading to the School Chapel. In 2018, the Remembrance Book was completely re-edited, redesigned and reprinted, bound in leather and a research project was completed for the University of Gloucestershire in which the recruitment, motivation and subsequent experiences of Old Decanians in the Armed Forces of World War I were examined.