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Published on 21/11/17

On Friday 11 November, the Senior School, along with the Preparatory School and all staff, assembled with the Mayor of Elmbridge, Councillor Lake and Councillor Shipley, Governors and guests for our annual Remembrance Service. We began with a very moving and beautifully played rendition of Elgar’s Nimrod and spent a quiet and reflective hour in this important assembly preceding the weekend of remembrance.

We gathered as a School community, many of us coming from different parts of the world, to honour Remembrance Day.  It was on the 11 of November, 1918 that the guns on the Western Front in Europe fell silent after more than four years of continuous battle.  The armistice signed that morning brought to a close the ‘war to end all wars’.

The First World War was a turning point in world history. It claimed the lives of over 16 million people across the globe and had an impact on the lives of so many more. One hundred years on, we are all connected to the First World War; either through our own family history, the heritage of our local communities or because of its long term impact on society and the world we live in today.

Across the world, nations, communities and individuals of all ages will come together to commemorate the lives of those who lived, fought and died in the First World War and other conflicts.

A voice indelibly linked with wartime, albeit the Second World War, is Vera Lynn’s. I grew up in New Zealand knowing who she was and certainly my parents, who lived through WWII, loved Vera as they listened to her on the wireless. Imagine that, technology called a wireless!

Vera Lynn was born in 1917 in East Ham, London and now lives in Sussex in her 100th year. Dame Vera Lynn has retained her East London cockney accent and, when interviewed recently, said she never learnt to read music but just sang higher when the dots went up on the stave, lower when they went down!!

Her speaking voice is as strong as in the days when she entertained the troops in Burma 75 years ago. Still as sharp as a pin, despite reaching 100, Vera recalls one of her most enduring songs, (There’ll Be Bluebirds Over) The White Cliffs Of Dover, written in the wake of the Battle Of Britain. She remembers when Spitfires, Hurricanes and Messerschmitts dominated the skies over the White Cliffs during 1940, not a bluebird in sight.

Back to World War 1, Prince William spoke recently and most passionately about the devastating impact the Battle of Passchendaele, also known as the Third Battle of Ypres, had on New Zealand.

Prince William praised the resilience and strength of character shown by the New Zealanders who fought in the Battle of Passchendaele, saying the world continues to admire those qualities in the country today. The prince spoke at commemorations in Belgium to mark 100 years since the darkest day of World War I for the New Zealand Division, when about 960 soldiers were killed or mortally wounded.

"All too often the newsreels speak of 'ordinary' men and women. There was nothing ordinary about their service or their sacrifice," the Duke of Cambridge said of the soldiers during his address at Tyne Cot Cemetery. "Half a world away, news of the losses was felt like a shockwave. Every death here left a shattered family there. Entire communities were robbed of their young people. No part of New Zealand was untouched by loss."

New Zealand's heavy losses on 12 October, 1917 were the result of an attempt to take a German position at Bellevue Spur. The soldiers who died on that day, and those who died from their wounds in the following days, accounted for six per cent of the country's total casualties during WWI.

"Kia mau mahara tonu tātou ki a rātou. We will remember them."

There is plenty of room in this world for differences, all of which are to be enjoyed and celebrated. Yet the world can unite, encompassing us all with our different cultures, languages, races, religions, interests, and actively so, in a stable international order that rejects conflict, as this School does. That there have been nearly 70 years of a largely peaceful and united Europe; this shows that international cooperation and union do work for peace. The union of people, not the division, is the methodology with which we should all engage to continue to ensure peace and prosperity.

Let us all resolve again to honour what it is that our soldiers fought for, and many died for. Let us have a renewed commitment in our own lives, to work to help the world to be a better place.

Here at Claremont Fan Court, we learn that intelligent analysis, discourse and active resolution are the tools for a progressive, liberal and respectful School and society to progress. We should never forget our soldiers’ efforts and sacrifice, a sacrifice that we honour through our commitment – each one of us - our commitment to live rightly in our School, in our families, our community, our nation and our world. Their service has given us the opportunity to achieve our life ambitions in this, our peaceful school in our peaceful nation.

Mr Insall-Reid
Head of Senior School