At the beginning of the year, the team in the Archive's Department helped with the Form 3 study skills project in which pupils were given a booklet on an Old Oakhamian and had to use this as a gateway into researching the First World War. As a result of their assitance, Archivist Mrs McCrory and Assitant Archivist Miss Guillemot-Bonnefond were invited along to help on the Form 3 Battlefields' Trip and they tell us more below:-
This was such an exciting opportunity for both of us and we fully intended to take the archives along for the pupils to see.
Having Arras as our base, each tour explored the surrounding areas, learning about different battles such as Loos, the Somme, and Vimy Ridge. For us from the archives, the places where we visited were where some of the OO’s who fought fell. After spending so much time researching their lives at Oakham and seeing their pictures, it felt like we had come full circle in retracing their footsteps on the front line.
The first key sight connected to Oakham School was the first sight we visited: Dud Corner and the Loos Memorial. Five Old Oakhamians died during the Battle of Loos, two of which are named on the Memorial – E. G. Langdale and B. F. W. Mogridge.
Pupils gathered around the panel with Langdale’s and Mogridge’s name on and observed a minutes silence.
The next key site we visited connected to Oakham was Theipval Memorial. This huge monument to the missing of the Somme contains the names of several OOs including John Paul Bromhead, William Horace Lantsbery Dewhirst, John Norman Pickering-Clarke, George Holbrook Eric Vidler and Basil Vaughn Wood.
At Ancre cemetery, Pupils came face to face with the only OO grave on the trip, that of Lancelot John Austen Dewar. He died in 1916 whilst fighting on the Somme. Pupils and staff held a memorial service around his grave and laid a poppy wreath to not only remember Dewar, but all of the OOs who died in the war.
The final significant place connected to Oakham School that pupils visited was Vimy Ridge. Although not buried here, Malcolm Arthur Neilson fought at Vimy for the Canadian Army. He died in 1917. The stunning, crisp white monument to the Canadian fallen dominates the landscape and it was clear, once up there, how important a position Vimy Ridge was to capture.
Before our ceremony at Ancre, I spoke about three OOs (Dewar, Bromhead and Dyson) and encouraged the pupils to not just view the engraved names on the walls or tombstones as just a name, but to remember that these people once had a life and future prospects that were cut short by the war. By using archival sources, we can uncover these lives, get to know the soldiers better and thus commemorate their sacrifice with more reverence as it is brought home to us how much these soldiers lost.
It was a fascinating trip for both myself and Miss Guillemot-Bonnefond but it was also one of remembrance as we followed in the footsteps of OOs who went to fight.
If you would like any information on Old Oakhamian soldiers who fought or died during the war, please do get in touch and we will be happy to share information with you. But please do comment on social media with any family stories of your own connected to the First World War.