During the First World War over 1,200 men from Oundle School and Laxton School joined the war effort, and 260 old boys with an average age of 23, and four members of staff lost their lives in the conflict. Over the last four years Oundle has joined the nation in commemorating the centenary of the War, observing the men’s sacrifice with a range of activities and occasions across the School.
Beginning on November 11 2014, the whole school gathered on the Chapel lawn for a Drumhead Service accompanied by a piper’s lament, and concluding with each pupil casting a poppy into a field of 260 crosses. Early in 2015 a statue of Eric Yarrow (G 1913), sculpted by Alex Johnsen (F 2014), was installed by the west door of the Chapel in a service of commemoration attended by the Yarrow family.
Another Old Oundelian, playwright Eddie Elks (StA 1999) paid tribute to flying ace Cecil Lewis (S 1915) with a specially commissioned play that was performed by pupils in the Stahl Theatre.
Former Head of History Colin Pendrill was appointed Yarrow Fellow to research and write a new, comprehensive update of the 1920 Oundle Memorials. His book, And We Were Young, was published in 2018 and the individual memorials from his book were published on the School website on the anniversary of each OO’s death in a lasting Roll of Honour. In a library-based project, every Third Form pupil conducted their own research on an individual OO who died in the War, which was followed annually in the Fourth Form by a CCF trip to The Somme where the CCF Band played the Last Post at the Menin Gate and Thiepval Memorial, and pupils visited the cemeteries and memorials where OOs are commemorated.
In the final week of the centenary, the School Archive curated an exhibit in the Yarrow Gallery of documents, artefacts and photographs from the war era, including medals, diaries and a signal announcing the ceasefire.
Throughout the duration of the centenary, the History department organised a morning service of remembrance led by Reverend Cunningham in the cloisters on the anniversary of each death, providing a vivid parallel experience of the scale of loss suffered by the School community during the war.
Finally, on the occasion of the centenary of the Armistice, a new cross, specially commissioned by Harry Williamson (StA 1955), was unveiled in the Chapel, followed by a gathering of the whole School on the Chapel lawn for a final Drumhead Service.