November 2018 commemorates an important milestone in world history: on the 11th it will be 100 years to the day that an armistice was called, ending World War 1. The loss of the war is still visible today, with war memorials and honour rolls of the dead surrounding us in prominent public places. Oakham School is no different.
Many Old Oakhamians (OOs) and teachers left these shores to fight in a foreign land. In total, 335 Old Oakhamians and 8 members of staff served their country in all three branches of the military. With the anniversary of the armistice fast approaching, and owing to the School’s close and personal history with the war, many different departments from around the School have been engaging with the Archives in the past few weeks - whether it be to create moving displays, or to enhance the teaching of current Oakham students.
Form 3 Study Skills Project
The first project for which the Archives have been used was the Form 3 study skills project. This short series of lessons was aimed at introducing Form 3 to key academic skills such as citations, bibliographies, and formatting word documents. The idea was to look at the lives of 24 OOs who died in France during the war, and create booklets on both their military life and their time at Oakham School. The particular focus on those who fell in France was to tie in with the French battlefields trip that the Form 3 students would go on the following term.
After Miss Guillemot-Bonnefond, Assistant Archivist, and I had decided upon which 24 soldiers to study, we set to work researching their life and designing the booklets you can see below.
This was our first real project connected with the Archives, as both of us started in September. However, the project was fantastic in highlighting the wealth of information that we have in the Archives surrounding these OOs.
In conjunction with this project, the Archives Department also produced an exhibition for the entrance of the library. Whilst in a similar format to the booklets, this exhibition focused on OOs who did not necessarily fall in France. We added copies of Oakhamian magazines that mention the soldiers, as well as sporting images. It was very exciting when we discovered some decorative items in the library store room that really made the display more visually interesting to pupils and staff.
The Chapel is a very important part of Oakham School. Indeed, the Chapel was actually conceived in order to commemorate those who fell during the War. We were approached by the Chaplain to create 12 A1 size posters of OOs who fell during the War. We were told to draw up an eye-catching concept that should be centred on poppies, and so from this I developed the idea of a background of poppies with the ‘ghosts’ of soldiers walking along the horizon. The idea being that although 100 years ago may seem faint, they are still present in our minds. The final poster we came up with was:
In addition to the posters that were commissioned for the Chapel, we were approached by the Head of the History Department to design some simple yet striking posters of not only those OOs who fell, but of those who survived. The aim was for these posters to be spread all around the School. This project was exciting for us at the Archives as it gave us a chance to explore some different OOs and discover what happened to them after the war. We were pleased to hear that out of the eight Scott brothers who fought in the war, seven did survive and come home. These posters will go up at the same time as the Chapel posters.
History Wall Art Project
This last project will see the staircase in the History Department be transformed into a giant timeline of World War 1. This has been a combined project with the History and Marketing Departments. The Archives was asked to ‘add more Oakham’ into the design, and so we set to work sourcing images and rearranging segments in order to add little sections on aspects of Oakham life and pupils. It was interesting for us to see how Oakhamians were involved in almost all of the major battles of the War from 1914 to 1918. However, it was distressing to see the image of the 1914 – 1915 Oakham rugby team, where someone has drawn red circles around those pupils who fell in the war. Almost half of the people in the picture are circled.
The wall itself is still a work-in-progress, so unfortunately no sneak peeks at the moment! But we hope to bring you news after it has all been installed.
Thank you so much for reading, and please stay tuned for more news in the future.
From the Archives team
Written by Oakham School Archivist Mrs Charlotte McCrory