‘I think it is quite hopeless to describe what today means to us. We who will return to tell people what war really is surely hope, that 11am this day will be of great significance to generations to come. Surely this is the last war that will ever be between civilised nations.’
-written by Private Arthur Wrench of the Seaforth Highlanders on the 11th November 1918.
Arthur refers to the Armistice agreement signed between the Allies and Germany which ended the Great War of 1914 to 1918. In our Service of Remembrance we pause, stop and think about those who have fallen in all conflicts, soldiers, sailors, airmen, civilians and indeed service animals. Indeed for the school, it is only right that we remember specifically, those Old Breconians, who have lost their lives in the service of their country.
We remember their selfless sacrifice, the tragic loss of life and the impact these losses would have more broadly on family, friends and the community. It is important to eternally remind ourselves of the dreadful cost of war, if we are ever to live in peace. We remember a former pupil of the school, who was awarded the Military Cross for an outstanding act of bravery leading to the saving of life in World War 1:
Captain Benjamin Ethelbert Nicholls – Military Cross (and Bar)
Ben, known in school as ‘Inky’ studied at Christ College from 1906 until leaving to work in his stepfathers solicitors office in Swansea. Ben was made a school prefect and was a promising rugby and cricket player, featuring strongly as a wing three-quarter in the Llandovery match of 1908, where he was reported to be a ‘neat dodgy runner and strong in defence. By 1915 Ben found himself serving on the front line in France where he was badly wounded by two gunshot strikes, taking the best part of a year to recover, in 1916 he was back on the front. It was during this time that Ben acted with the utmost bravery – his citation reads:
‘For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. A number of men were lying badly wounded in ‘No Man’s Land’ after a raid. He went to their rescue in broad daylight and succeeded in bringing several of them in. After dark he went right up to the enemy’s wire and succeeded in bringing in men whom he had been unable to reach earlier in the day. His courage and pluck were undoubtedly the means of saving many lives.’
It was separately reported that he saved no less than 14 lives that day.
One of the more visible acts of Remembrance is the wearing of a little wild flower, the Flanders poppy. It is the symbol of the Royal British Legion but much more than this, across the world it has come to represent the sacrifice of all those men, women and children who have lost their lives in conflict. But how was the poppy chosen in this way? It began with the mourning of a death by a fellow soldier in the battlefields of Belgium in 1915. Canadian doctor John McCrae was so moved by the image of poppies growing in the barren battlefield, he wrote the poem ‘In Flanders Fields’.
‘In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.’
The Poppy is our symbol of Remembrance, but let us remember that through pain and loss that there is always the light of hope, love and faith.
Thank you to all pupils, teachers and OB’s who contributed to a truly moving Service of Remembrance for both the senior and prep school as we approach Armistice Day. A special thanks to Major Chris Kerr for his Sermon and to Bella for performing the last post.
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