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Remembering the Somme at School – Headmaster’s Blog – Wednesday 7th July 2016

July 6, 2016
Ballard School War Memorial Somme 2016

Remembering the Somme at School

The Nation has been remembering the tens of thousands who gave their lives in the 140 day Battle of the Somme which began 100 years ago this month. We, too, had an act of remembrance on Friday 1st July beside our war memorial which included a recitation of the names of the four young men from our school community who died as a result of this devastating battle. We heard a brief account of the battle’s history, listened to a poem, laid a wreath and shared in a minute’s silence and a prayer.

Ballard School War Memorial Somme 2016

Assembled at our War Memorial on the day which marks 100 years since the start of the Somme

It is always difficult for those of us who haven’t suffered the horror of war truly to appreciate just how ghastly it was. I am thus humbled and amazed by the sensitivity of our young people who are respectful and thoughtful on these occasions. Our wreath was laid by two brothers as a special act of remembrance in view of the fact that Maurice and Herbert Fitzgerald, alumni of Edinburgh House School, both lost their lives in 1916 – one aged 23 years and the other 25 years. It seems, too, that their father also died on the same day as Herbert on the 12th October that year. They were an Irish family (from Cork) and it’s particularly fitting that Irish soldiers in the Great War are being remembered again across Eire and the UK as many from that island gave their lives for what was then part of a larger United Kingdom. The impact on the Fitzgerald family – the loss of two sons (out of three) and their father leaving a widow living at Milford-on-Sea close by to here – can hardly be imagined.

Ballard School Brothers Penrose-Fitzgerald Somme

Two brothers killed at the Battle of the Somme

I was also struck by the young man from Edinburgh House School, Captain Anthony Sapte, who was the first of our war dead from the Somme. He died on the opening day of the battle – one of 20,000 British casualties that day – aged only 19 years. The fact that at this age he was already a Captain (albeit a ‘temporary’ commission at the time) speaks volumes for the impact the war had already had on so many young men (and also many women) just two years into the war.

The fourth casualty, a schoolboy at Gorse Cliff (one of our constituent schools), was 29 years old when he gave his life in September 1916. He was another Captain, Owen Guy Parry-Jones, and was a doctor with the Royal Army Medical Corps. He had served from the outbreak of the war and will have cared for many of the sick and wounded until he, too, succumbed. No one was immune, not even those who had already given their lives to care for others.

Ballard School War memorial

Remembered with Honour – some of those named on our War Memorial

We will remember them.

Alastair Reid (Headmaster)



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