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#WeWillRememberThem – Ballard School – Headmaster’s blog – 11th November 2015

November 11, 2015

Today we held our Remembrance Day service in school in the same way that other schools, institutions and the Nation will be honouring those who have sacrificed themselves in defence of our country and the Commonwealth over the years. It is a solemn occasion and this year we have asked pupils who belong to a uniformed organisation (such as cadets, scouts, guides) to wear their uniform in school for the day as a further mark of respect.

Our Remembrance Day war memorial - with some pupils in uniforms.

Our Remembrance Day photo – with Squadron Leader Leonard Dickson (next to flag pole) and some uniformed pupils.

Occasions such as these are always tricky in schools where the connection with war is, thankfully, distant. We do have a few Service children, of course, and also many with grandparents and great-grandparents who served in the Armed Forces. This year’s guest of honour is one of our own parents, Mr Lee Gray, who is a medical registrar and someone who served as a major as a reservist in the Army. He will make the connection between the school and service for the Nation today. Mr Gray’s address will be posted in another blog entry.

Last year our war memorial was unveiled by another parent, Lt Col. Dan Reeve, a serving officer and holder of the Military Cross. On our memorial are the names of 60 pupils from our constituent schools over 121 years of history. They represent every branch of the Armed Forces and served in many theatres across all part of the world. This year, the 100th anniversary of the ill-fated Gallipoli campaign will be remembered. One of our former Gorse Cliff pupils, 2nd Lieutenant Francis Henry Grigson, will be remembered especially. He was killed in the early months of this campaign – on the 9th August 1915 – at Anzac Cove on the Gallipoli peninsular. An account of 2nd Lieutenant’s Grigson’s death is worth repeating here as it indicates very clearly the sacrifice of one person on behalf of another – and thus in turn on behalf of the Nation. The account was written by a Captain Agar, the subaltern in charge, who sent a report back to Grigson’s family:

On the night of August 8th-9th we entrenched on the crest of the big nullah on Coja Chemen Tepe; but we were shelled and told the position was untenable by day; we were ordered to leave a few men in these trenches and come down. This we did.
We were then ordered to advance again and join a Lancashire Regiment in another assault of Hill 971 (Sari Bair). We were then in a gully more or less under cover from rifle fire. I was in command of B Company to which your brother belonged, and we led off. The hill up which we advanced was very steep and covered with dense scrub about two feet high, with some open rocky patches. We climbed over some rocks out of the gully and began to advance. Owing to the nature of the ground it was impossible to go at more than a slow walk. We got about 50 yards up the hill with little difficulty, when suddenly a machine gun or guns opened fire on us from the left flank slightly in the rear. The sighting burst of their fire knocked me over and a Sergeant. Your brother was between us and unhit.

It was impossible to advance further and the Company fell back into the gully. I was rather badly hit through the chest, shoulder and arm; and my servant dragged me into a clump of scrub and tried to bandage me. Several men attempted to get me in, but none reached me; and as it was useless I told them not to try. Your brother then tried to reach me safely. He lay down in the scrub beside me and we were joined by another man named Dunkeley. Grigson asked if I were badly hit and said “He’s got it through the lung, where’s the dressing?” He took mine from my pocket and opened it and leant forward to fix it on my shoulder. In doing so he must have raised himself a little for he was instantly shot dead. I have never seen a man killed so instantaneously; he died in less than five seconds. My servant examined him; but there was nothing he could do. I do not know where he was struck…..Two men wanted to try and bring in your brother’s body, but were forbidden. I was told that the body was recovered and he was buried that night.

I believe this was so as he was awfully popular with the men. This is as far as I can remember. I never lost consciousness, I think; but was rather shaken; so some details may have slipped from my memory.

But I know your brother gave his life to save mine; and the least I can do is to let you know how much I and every one there admired him for it…. It is not easy for an inexperienced Subaltern like me to command a Company in such operations; and your brother’s support and advice were invaluable at every difficult moment-and there were a good many. I was naturally anxious to let his people know how splendidly he died.

#WeWillRememberThem

Alastair Reid (Headmaster)

We regularly tweet @BallardSchool

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