Remarkably little has been written about the relationship between schools and the First World War, published to be available to the widest readership. There are vast amounts of documents, in the form of articles and papers about specific schools, published over the last hundred years and mainly existing in archives, never having been widely read. Happily, Pen & Sword has been publishing some important books that attempt to correct the omission, also starting on similar coverage of WWII. In 1914, the situation was unique. The Battles of Trafalgar and Waterloo had given Europe a long period of relative peace. True, the Germans had begun sharpening their swords for the Franco-Prussian War, but there had been nothing to resemble the long periods of religious and national wars that had swept Europe for a thousand years and more. The Great War shattered that period of relative peace and the failure to end the conflict honourably and effectively had created the seeds of the Second World War and, in turn, the Cold War. It is still unclear whether the Cold War ended, or just became another shaky armistice. It is also unclear how the unfinished business from 1945 in the Middle East will be resolved, or the how the competition in the Pacific Rim may provide a new trigger for war. What is certain is that the circumstances of 1914 cannot be replicated at all levels in society. This book is therefore not only an affectionate, sympathetic and moving account of the relationship between schooling and WWI, but one of the very few books to explain a key aspect of that war.
NAME: Roll of Honour, Schooling & The Great War, 1914-1918
AUTHOR: Barry Blades
PUBLISHER: Pen & Sword
BINDING: hard back
GENRE: Non Fiction
SUBJECT: WWI, First World War, The Great War, World War One, European Civil War, 1914-1918, boy soldiers, Pals. Trench warfare, war-to-end-all-war, education, schools, public schools
DESCRIPTION: Remarkably little has been written about the relationship between schools and the First World War, published to be available to the widest readership. There are vast amounts of documents, in the form of articles and papers about specific schools, published over the last hundred years and mainly existing in archives, never having been widely read. Happily, Pen & Sword has been publishing some important books that attempt to correct the omission, also starting on similar coverage of WWII. In 1914, the situation was unique. The Battles of Trafalgar and Waterloo had given Europe a long period of relative peace. True, the Germans had begun sharpening their swords for the Franco-Prussian War, but there had been nothing to resemble the long periods of religious and national wars that had swept Europe for a thousand years and more. The Great War shattered that period of relative peace and the failure to end the conflict honourably and effectively had created the seeds of the Second World War and, in turn, the Cold War. It is still unclear whether the Cold War ended, or just became another shaky armistice. It is also unclear how the unfinished business from 1945 in the Middle East will be resolved, or the how the competition in the Pacific Rim may provide a new trigger for war. What is certain is that the circumstances of 1914 cannot be replicated at all levels in society. This book is therefore not only an affectionate, sympathetic and moving account of the relationship between schooling and WWI, but one of the very few books to explain a key aspect of that war.
The British education system not only deeply affected the British contribution to WWI, but was equally deeply affected by The Great War.
In 1914, Britain and the British Empire were at their height. Britons had a great self confidence and a strict class structure where everyone had a place, knew that place and was mostly grateful for that. Britain was at the forefront of marine engineering, its railway systems were in use around the world, a large part of the world’s land map was coloured for the Empire and the British systems of law and democracy had been widely distributed, not just to Empire but to any other country that thought to develop a civilized society, including the United States, which may have broken away from colonial rule, but retained a huge heritage and structural legacy from Britain. The British schooling system reflected this environment and comprised privately run schools, most known either as Public Schools, or as Preparatory Schools. Grammar Schools and a variety of primary and secondary schools that were open to all and provided to meet a commitment to a minimum standard of education for all, not necerssarily in the modern form of State Education but never-the-less funded in part, or in whole, by some form of taxation.
As with any society, it was not perfect. It contained many unwanted elements, perpetuating and enforcing the social structures. There were also signs of a need in Britain and the British Empire for structural renewal and economic review. As the pioneer of the Industrial Revolution, Britain was being overtaken by countries that had followed and learned from British mistakes, also introducing technologies and techniques that were improvements, while parts of British industry were beginning to stagnate. What supported the existing structure was the Empire as an almost captive market and source of raw materials, with a market place beyond Empire that provided a parallel market that was eager to copy the Empire and its colonies. Without WWI, it is possible that Britain could have avoided loss of markets, adopting new technologies, and helped the Empire to evolve into a family of equal independent nations, brought together by shared heritage, common aspirations, and a sense of fairness. As it was, the war took place and ripped Europe apart, disrupting the British Empire and introducing all of the elements to maintain international uncertainty and conflict far beyond the end of a war that was in itself incredibly destructive.
Wellington acknowledged the part of British education, in the triumph over France and Napoleon, by stating that the battles were won on the playing fields of Eaton, but it was a very different situation from that in 1914. Wellington also acknowledged that his army was made up of rogues and struck fear into him as much as into the enemy. That was a considerable difference. The mass of Wellington’s army was made up of those given the choice of death, transportation or military service, those fleeing civil and criminal pursuit, and those who had no where else to go. The officers were almost as colourful and the army system provided for the purchase of commissions, with the management of regiments being left to the largely autonomous rule of the colonels who had mostly purchased their commissions and advancement, with debts owed to politicians and commercial interests. The British Army of 1914, the Royal Navy and the new Air Forces were a very different proposition. They were professional organizations but inadequate in numbers to fight a major war. They would expand at a frightening rate, consuming millions of young men and requiring various forms of mobilization for women. It was the first war that Britain was to fight as a total war. Aerial bombardment and coastal bombardment exposed civilians to direct enemy action. No part of the British Isles could be regarded as immune to enemy fire.
The period from the victory over France at Waterloo was dominated by the dash for Empire. The need was for administrators and the officers of Empire. When British forces did take the field they rarely achieved victory and frequently added new disasters to the history of British Arms. The Army of the Indus marched into Afghanistan to a political disaster that culminated in the almost total destruction of the Army and, with one exception, Surgeon Major William Bryden, who succeeded in his orders to carry news of the defeat to the nearest British garrison, the few survivors were taken into slavery. In Africa, the Zulu warriors destroyed a British Army, sent to take control of Zulu lands and the survival of the small detachment at Rorke’s Drift provided an opportunity to wring some propaganda value out of a disastrous campaign. However, the business of administration of a vast Empire continued and British schools turned out new generations of officers of Empire.
The ‘contemptible little army’ that Britain sent to France was to come as a very unpleasant surprise for the Germans, so the late Victorian reforms had been successful. There was nothing the British commanders in the field could do to correct the deficiencies in numbers and the huge numeric German advantage inevitably meant a steady retreat. At this stage, it was still a war of movement and great heroism was displayed by small British units as they fought with such determination and skill that the Germans thought they were facing much larger forces. Even to platoon level, officers put up a fighting retreat and managed to withdraw in good order, reforming with larger formations. There was also a great communication between British and French commanders, far beyond anything that either could expect and much provided by one junior British officer who was the skilled connection between senior British and French commanders that made possible a vigorous counter attack that sent the Germans reeling. However, the small and exhausted British force lacked the resources to drive the Germans back into Germany or to destroy their armies. That gave the Germans time to dig in and the terrors of trench warfare came to dominate the Western Front.
The next years to 1918 were given to a war of attrition. British troops continued to make frontal attacks on German trenches and paid a terrible price. Young officers, little more than school boys, continue to lead their soldiers into the bloody face of wire and machine-gun. Armed with no more than a pistol and a cane, these youngsters demonstrated a blind courage that placed them to the front of the casualty list. As they were cut down, they were replaced by the next crop of young men straight from school, with little training other than that given by their schools. Incredibly, the morale did not waiver. Whole communities lost their young men. The best of a generation died in the mud of the Western Front.
The new recruits may have suffered and maintained their morale and determination, but so too did the schools that produced them. It is difficult to imagine how teachers continued in the knowledge of the losses. Neither did the quality and format of their teaching falter.
Even today, many public schools have a roll of honour on their walls, long lists of names in gold on time darkened wood for new generations to ponder. There are rolls of honour to remember pupils lost in WWII, but nothing to compare with the lists of those lost in WWI.
The author has done a necessary and effective job of providing an account of schools and the Great War, that needed to be written. In particular, he has proved a comprehensive view across the range of schools, not confining his perspective to public schools. The account is based on solid and extensive research, providing a vital perspective into one of the key elements of the history of the Great War. It is to be hoped that every school purchases copies to form essential reading in their libraries and that this new book meets deserved success with a wide readership.
FOREWORD: Since the FIRE Project volunteers began writing book reviews for the on-line databases in 1995, the format has remained constant, but this new book deserves some additional comment, including a very effective Foreword to the book. Many books contain forewords that are clearly intended to borrow the fame or notoriety of the writer of the foreword. Frequently readers skip quickly past the foreword. In this case, the Foreword provides some very appropriate comments and perspective that adds to the work of the author.
Foreword by Sir Anthony Seldon
Master of Wellington College
I first met Barry Blades at a conference about schools and the Great War, held
at Wellington College in 2012. I had become fascinated by the topic because
Wellington, where I am head, lost 707 pupils in the war, the third highest
number of any school in Britain. I knew very little about the topic and wanted to
know more. Barry gave a wonderful talk and opened up a completely new world
to me. He had conducted extensive research into the impact of the schools on the
war, and vice-versa, and delegates were fascinated. I thought at the time that he
must write a book on the subject. Now he has.
The focus of the conference was on the public schools, but it became obvious
that Barry’s research, conducted over more than a decade, was not confined to the
wartime experience of the elite schools, nor to the battlefield experiences of school
alumni. Much has been written about public schools and the war, not the least by
the schools themselves, but few published works have dealt with the impact of
the first ‘total war’ on the schools which were attended by the majority of British
schoolchildren at the time. That impact, as this book reveals, was profound for
many educational institutions and their local communities. In 1914 the demands
of war led to the involvement of many schools in recruitment drives, whilst the
buildings of others were requisitioned for military or medical purposes. Rolls of
Honour recorded the names of teachers, older students and ‘Old Boys’ – and ‘Old
Girls’ – who had departed for military service. In the classroom, pupils charted
the advances, promotions and fates of their new set of heroes. Pupils and teachers
fought their own wartime ‘campaigns’, providing ‘comforts’ for ‘their boys’ on
the battle fronts, collecting ingredients for munitions, making the materiel of
war, donating their ‘War Savings’, and ‘Digging for Victory’ in response to major
food shortages. They suffered the horrors of war on the ‘Home Front’, especially
those under the flight-paths of Zeppelin and Gotha bomber aircraft. In 1918 they
welcomed peace, remembered the dead, and tried to return to some semblance of
Roll of Honour describes the wartime experience of ‘schools’ of all designations:
Public, Preparatory, Grammar, High, County, Secondary, Technical, Elementary,
Reformatory, Military. It looks at the education of boys and girls, and at forms of
‘schooling’ beyond the classroom and formal educational institutions. By doing
so, we are able to see the experience with a much greater sense of perspective. The
book discusses how all schools operated within a fragmentary national and local
‘system’, which was based upon widely held contemporary notions of social and
The place of one’s school in the hierarchy of schooling was often a key
determinant of an individual’s wartime status and experience. In Roll of Honour,
the crucial role of the great public schools in producing leaders of men – and the
great sacrifices made by them in wartime – is tempered by the assertion that the
‘Lost Generation’ was but part of a greater, but at times forgotten, ‘Lost Citizenry’.
Schools of all kinds, and in all parts of this country, paid the price for sending their
alumni off to fight in foreign fields.
Roll of Honour is an important contribution to our understanding of the Great
War. Dr Blades places individual schools at the centre of the action, but they are
inextricably linked to the military campaigns on the Western Front and other
theatres of war. Schools looked out from Blighty across the English Channel to
where the fighting was taking place, whilst their alumni looked back to their Alma
Mater from the trenches, air fields or naval patrols. Myriad faces of war challenge
familiar stereotypes. In doing so the author has opened up a major and neglected
part of the history of 1914-1919 and has performed a great service in enriching our
understanding of events a hundred years ago.
Sir Anthony Seldon
CONTENTS: Acknowledgements vi
A Note on Sources xi
Part I: Call-to-Arms! 1
Chapter 1 Ante-bellum 3
Chapter 2 Roll of Honour 26
Part II: Schools at War 49
Chapter 3 On Campaign 51
Chapter 4 Lessons in War 68
Chapter 5 On the Front Line 86
Chapter 6 Alma Mater 113
Part III: Teachers at War 121
Chapter 7 Patriots 123
Chapter 8 Temporary Gentlemen 149
Part IV: Aftermath 169
Chapter 9 Peace 171
Chapter 10 The Fallen 183
Chapter 11 The Forgotten 203
AUTHORSCOMMENT: As with forewords, many books include comments of explanation, acknowledgement and introduction, penned by the author to present his or her work. Some may be indulgences of the author but, in the case of this book, they provide additional valuable information that will be of assistance to the reader and should be read before diving into the body of the book.
The production of this book owes an enormous debt of gratitude to many
individuals and institutions. The original research stemmed from my earlier work on the history of Deacon’s School in Peterborough, a project
stimulated by former colleagues, friends and Old Deaconians Brian Anthony
and the late Wilf Saul. I was equally fortunate to have other wise mentors at the
University of London’s Institute of Education (IOE), where the late Professor
Richard Aldrich and Dr David Crook guided me through the broader contexts of
the History of Education and the intricacies and demands of academic research.
My thanks for such support and encouragement also extends to Professor Gary
McCulloch at UCL IOE and to Dr Peter Cunningham at the University of
Cambridge. The archivists and librarians at the IOE also deserve a special mention.
Sarah Aitchison, Rebecca Webster, Jessica Womack, Alix Kingston and Kathryn
Hannan have helped enormously by introducing me to their collections related to
the London Day Training College, the National Union of Women Teachers and
the Girls’ Public Day School Trust. The impressive collection of School Histories
in the IOE Library has been a major source of research material. I thank the
hundreds of authors of such works for providing so much rich detail about their
schools and hope that in some small way Roll of Honour serves to tell some of their
stories to a wider audience.
Additional material has been made available by archivists in other institutions.
I would like to thank Richard Hillier and Elisabeth Kingston at Peterborough
Library and Archives for allowing me to use images of Edward Adams and extracts
from the Peterborough Practising School Logbook, and for retrieving material
from the Deacon’s School Archive, which is now safely deposited there. Thanks
also to Paul Richards and the volunteers at True’s Yard Museum in King’s Lynn
for material relating to Joseph Dines and St Nicholas Boys’ School, and to Janet
Friedlander at the National Union of Teachers Headquarters in London for
granting access to an original copy of the NUT War Record (1920). My thanks to
all those school archivists throughout the land who do such an important job in
preserving the essential links to the past for their individual institutions. Rachel
Hassell at Sherborne School, Dr Christine Joy at Manchester High School for Girls
and Peter Harrod at Christ’s Hospital School in Lincoln have all been especially
helpful. I owe a particular debt to the archivists and historians of Harrow County
High School for Boys who first told the story of the school and of its pupils and
teachers, such as Bob Hart and Russell Wheeler, namely Alex Maynard, Jeffrey
Maynard and Trevor May. My gratitude also to Adam Cree for permission to use
his research material relating to Susannah Knight in Chorley, and to Keith Haines
for his work on Corrie Chase at Campbell College. I am particularly indebted to
Sir Anthony Seldon for writing the Foreword to this book and for giving me the
opportunity to share my research with conference audiences. His recent Public
Schools and the Great War – A Generation Lost (Pen & Sword, 2013, co-authored
with David Walsh), contained invaluable information and data provided by many
individual public schools, which I have used to augment my own research and
In addition to the aforementioned, the following have also helped in different
ways by granting permission to use images and information in their collections
or by providing links to other relevant material: Bruce Anderson (Rusholme
Archive), Dr Charles Barber (family letters of Barber), Mark Dodd (Genealogy
Forum), John Duncan (Newbattle At War), Brian Elsey (Wigan World), Jane King
(Peterborough War Memorials), Maurice Palmer (The Wellingborough Album),
Lianne Smith (King’s College London) and Emma Wootton (World War 1 School
Archives). To all the above, and to all those local historians whose websites have
added to my knowledge of individual people, institutions and localities in the
Great War, I extend my sincere thanks and appreciation.
The majority of photographic and other images contained in Roll of Honour
come from my own collection of original postcards, newspapers, magazines
and other ephemera from the Great War period. Others were kindly provided
by individuals and organizations mentioned above. The Imperial War Museum
in London granted permission to include the image of Lieutenant Commander
Archibald Buckle. I have endeavored, without success, to contact representatives
of Aberdeen University Press for permission to use the image of Ishobel Ross. My
sincere apologies in advance for any inadvertent breach of copyright.
My thanks to current and former members of staff at Pen & Sword Books Ltd,
including Eloise Hansen, Lisa Hooson and Jen Newby, for commissioning Roll of
Honour and for agreeing to publish two future related volumes on Schooling and
the Great War.
Finally, my thanks to family past. It was they who first stimulated my love of
history with their early gifts of medals in toffee boxes and recollections of ordinary
men and women doing extraordinary things in extraordinary times. Family present
– my wife Heather, sons Richard and Stephen, father Keith and grandaughter
Daisy – continue to be the most important sources of inspiration, encouragement
and support today.
Sir Anthony Seldon
Professor Richard Aldrich
Dr David Crook
Professor Gary McCulloch
Dr Peter Cunningham
Adam Cree (Susannah Knight)
Jane King (Peterborough war memorials)
IOE Archives: Sarah Aitchison, Rebecca Webster, Jessica Womack, Alix Kingston
Peterborough Library and Archives: Richard Hillier and Elisabeth Kingston
True’s Yard, King’s Lynn
Deacon’s School, Peterborough: The Governors (now PL&A)
Manchester High School for Girls: Dr Christine Joy
Harrow County School for Boys
Christ’s Lincoln: Peter Harrod
Sherborne: Rachel Hassall
UCL Intitute of Education Library
Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge
Lianne Smith (King’s College London)
Mark Dodd (Tabernacle Schools)
Newbattle at War
Heather, Richard, Stephen, Father
REVIEWERSNOTE: Today, a publisher may provide a new book in many forms and formats. In addition to the time honoured printed work, bound in hardback and/or softback, it is now increasingly common to offer a very wide variety of electronic editions, some including video and voice with the pages of electronic text. This presents a growing challenge for the reviewer because time will usually dictate that only one edition can be reviewed. In the case of this excellent new book, the review was completed from the electronic .PDF edition because the objective was to complete the review ahead of the book launch to enable the review to be published at that time.
This reviewer has written and reviewed electronic books, eBooks, since the late 1980s but has a strong liking for printed paper books that include apropriate illustration. The first challenge is that the reader device has a strong influence on how the book is perceived by the reader. In the case of this review, the reviewer chose to copy the book file to a tablet computer with a colour display and later re-read parts of the book on a desktop workstation. The ‘feel’ of the book is different on each machine and will differ again when a printed-paper edition is reviewed. This reviewer can also say that paper books carry different impressions when different editions of the same work are read. The publisher constantly has to strive to keep prices down by reducing production costs. That means that the first edition to be released is frequently the most expensive. It is hardbacked and printed on heavy gloss paper with any illustration being presented at their best. There are occasions when a reviewer will review such a book and feel very well-disposed to the author and the content. Many years later, the same book will reappear, often from a different publisher, and be produced at the lowest cost. The subsequent review may be compared to the original review and is different because the reviewer perceived the work from a different perspective.
Each form offered by publishers has its own merits and the choice of offering paper and electronic editions of a work makes the book much more widely available. The publisher of ‘Roll of Honour’ is not only a prolific producer, but enjoys a deserved reputation for high quality product and a reputation for aggressive marketing and pricing. The result is that a reviewer can expect the higher cost paper editions to be of the finest production quality. The electronic versions will reach mass markets that the paper editions cannot reach. They will cost significantly less and their small data size will allow readers who do not have the deepest, or the most spacious homes and offices, to build a considerable library.
During the review process, this reviewer also used three different synthetic voice systems. As with basic text display, much depends on the machine and its voice software. Even the best of the three systems tested was somewhat metalic and robotic but there has been substantial improvement in these systems over the last five years. For those with vision restrictions, synthetic voice is a major advance and some of the current weaknesses are accepted because of the many benefits.
This reviewer offers the above comment as a qualification to the review process in view of the multiple formats in which this very worthwhile book will become available and the fact that only the .PDF electronic version was available in the target timescale.