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First World War Commemoration

When we sat down to plan events to commemorate the Centenary of the Great War, we made a conscious decision that the College should see this as a four-year sequence of events rather than remembering the anniversary of the start of the war and nothing more. 


Of course, many of those who consider themselves friends of College - we have nearly 10,000 listed in over 90 countries worldwide - have not been able to come to College itself to experience these events. These pages are designed to update and inform readers about the range of commemorations which have taken place so far and to promote the events we have planned for the rest of this calendar year.


College has already seen some of the outstanding and heart-warming project work of our 13-year olds on 'Harmony and Reconciliation', we have experienced the power and beauty of Wilfred Owen's poetry against the backdrop of soaring architecture, candlelight and beautiful choral music and we have stood shoulder-to-shoulder in the pouring rain - pupils from 3 to 18 years old - on Armistice Day. We have visited the graves of Old Cheltonians killed in action in France and Gallipoli, we have commissioned a thought-provoking play, G.A.S.  and we have welcomed members of the public to two inspiring exhibitions about College's wartime contribution and heritage.

For public schools, the summer of 1914 was much like all earlier summers stretching back to the beginning of the century and before. Boys were looking forward to a long holiday, as were their teachers.

Public Schools and The Great War, The Generation Lost by Anthony Seldon and David Walsh

Few people, if anyone, at that time could have imagined that by the end of the next school term, already dozens of Old Cheltonians would have been killed - accumulating to a final total of 675 by the end of the First World War. As J K Best, who served as a Chaplian in the Dardanelles, before teaching Mathematics at College between 1920 and 1940 wrote in his diary 'Our playtime is over, we have put away childish things and got to business - real, grim business. It came very suddenly in the end as everything in the Army does.'

Throughout the centenary of the First World War, College is aiming both to commemorate and honour the lives lost, as well as remember those who served and survived. In addition, various events and trips are being organised as a way of beinging into focus that pivotal period in history for current Cheltonians.