On the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month Old Carolians join together to commemorate the past pupils of the School who gave their lives in the two World Wars and in more recent military conflicts in the Falklands and in Afganistan.
On a cold damp morning, a hardy group of Old Carolians, their wives and friends, met outside the School Hall for the yearly Remembrance Service. A large group of cars, locked gates and doors, quickly made it apparent that there would be no Remembrance Service inside the warmer atmosphere of the Hall. Apparently, the site had been sold the previous day and all the locks changed. Many questions remained unanswered but Peter Picken told us that a Development Company had bought the site and intended to knock down the Library and the old 5th form building to build bungalows. Other houses are destined for what remains of the field and the rest of the area. There does not appear to be, at the present time, any scheme for the Hall but a Meeting is to be held in that building on November 22nd, between 2pm and 7pm, for anyone to listen to the Development plans.
The outside Remembrance Service was led by Rev. Canon Paul Brothwell, retired Hospital Chaplain and Vicar of Wilden. President David Laverty read the names of the old boys who had died in World War 1 and Senior Vice President Arthur Miller read the names of World War 2, Falklands and Afghanistan dead. David mentioned the Anniversary of the Battle of Passchendael, fought as the Third Battle of Ypres, between the months of July to November 1917. There are conflicting figures concerning the numbers of dead and wounded from both sides who endured the carnage in the mud, but the renowned historian A.J.P. Taylor, estimates that the Allied casualties were around 300,000 and the German casualties 200,000. David read some lines from the poem, In Flanders Fields written by Major John McCrae, and which is so well known.
In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly.
John McCrae served as a Major and doctor in the Canadian Field Artillery where he was second in command. A friend of McCrae’s, Lieutenant Alexis Helmer, was killed by an exploding shell on May 2nd 1915 in the gun positions during the 2nd. Battle of Ypres. John McCrae conducted the burial service for Alexis and, later that evening, he began the first draft of his poem. It was published in Punch a few months later.
President David Laverty placed the Old Carolian’s wreath against the wall of the Hall to bring to an end a ceremony which is always poignant. Finally we also need to thank Old Carolian’s Treasurer Peter Picken, who liaised with the Security Company now looking after the site for the County Council and who gleaned the elements of the news concerning the sale of the site.
Peter Vaughan, Carolian Military Correspondent