- Cycle ride to the Somme: 20th - 21st October
- Remembrance Service: 6th November
- Hong Kong Reunion: 14th November
- Australia, East Coast Reunion, Sydney, Café Opera: 17th November
- Australia, West Coast Reunion, Perth - The Lucky Shag: 18th November
Remembrance day chapel service - 6th November 2018
by Mr Tom Moulton, Head of History
"As you are all aware, this weekend we shall mark the hundredth anniversary of the end of the Great War. That famous moment – the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918 when the Armistice came into effect and, in a well-used phrase, the guns fell silent.
It marked the end of a war so shocking, that no-one could have conceived of such an apocalypse before it happened. It was by far the bloodiest conflict in human history up to that point and was unprecedented in its impact on civilians, especially in the way that the huge casualty list touched so many families across all the combatant nations.
What I wonder, was the reaction to the end of this cataclysm, of our forebears – the Lawrentians of 1918? The school had endured four years of casualty lists, two years of evacuation, with the Junior and Senior Schools separated, at Camarthen and Chester respectively, the school buildings in Ramsgate had been used as a convalescent home for Canadian troops in 1917, and boys and staff had recently endured the Spanish Influenza, which killed millions across the world in 1918. So there must have been a sense of relief that it was finally over. The Lawrentian (very brief during this period) devotes attention to the hope that a return to Ramsgate would be possible in January - which it was. It is almost inappropriately lighthearted in its report on the Officer Training Corps (the CCF of its day), saying “The OTC carried on throughout the term with undaunted effort in the face of peace and flu.” The Spanish Flu got more of a mention in another item of news, where it was reported that “In common with the rest of mankind SLC has passed through a course of influenza, Spanish variety. Thanks to the untiring efforts and indomitable energy of Sister, the school survived. What school can boast the distinction of 87 boys, 5 masters and a dozen servants stricken with one accord, and of a Sister able to cope with such a visitation?”
The report for the Senior School at Chester makes no mention of what happened on Armistice Day, but the Junior School at Camarthen reported that “Armistice Day was celebrated by us in a truly patriotic manner. Shortly after 11 o’clock the joyous news reached us and soon afterwards work was suspended. Bells were rung, patriotic songs sung, and cheers given for the Allied commanders.” A Thanksgiving Service was held on the following Sunday. In fact, these ad hoc celebrations were to be superseded in the fullness of time by more considered events such as the plans for the erecting of a War Memorial and the building of this Chapel.
We can gather from these brief references that the overwhelming mood was one of joy and patriotism. This was reflected in the country more widely, with scenes of quite wild and uncontrolled celebration in London and other cities. At the same time the school and the nation had to take stock of the huge losses they had suffered.
A final 14th Roll of Honour was published in the Easter 1919 Lawrentian, by which time the Senior School had returned to Ramsgate. This roll contained the names of 105 Old Lawrentians who had died on active service during the war. You may be aware that this was in fact considerably short of the actual number, now believed to have been 144. Half of these men were aged under 25 at the time of their death, and many were volunteers who had joined before conscription was introduced in 1916. Nine were still to die after the war ended, 5 of these in 1919. Of the twenty Old Lawrentians to die in 1918, perhaps one of the more poignant stories is that of Private WT Wesley-Long. He was born in Munich, Bavaria in 1895 and came to St Lawrence College in 1910, leaving in 1913. He joined the army in Canada on 29th January 1918. On his Attestation Paper the following question appears: Have you ever offered to serve in any branch of His Majesty’s forces and been rejected? Wesley Long’s answer is Yes. The next question is If so, what was the reason? To which Wesley Long’s answer is Being born in Germany. In other words, this was a man who had tried to join the army in the UK but had been rejected owing to his connections with the country Britain was at war with. In fact his family still lived in Munich in 1918, where his father was a doctor. After being rejected for military service in Britain, he emigrated to Canada and made a second attempt to join the army, as part of the Canadian Overseas Expeditionary Force. This time he was accepted, and he eventually arrived in France on 12th September 1918. We of course know that at this point there were only about 9 weeks of the First World War left. Wesley-Long did not actually reach the front until 3rd October and was killed in action a week later on 11th October, exactly a month before the war ended. He was 23. Other OLs succumbed even closer to the end. 23-year-old FB Broad was killed capturing an enemy machine-gun post on 24th October and 19-year-old WN Hicks was killed on 27th October when a shell burst underneath his aircraft as he was flying low over his own lines on a contact patrol. Other soldiers on all sides continued to lay down their lives right up until 11.00 am on the 11th November. One can’t help but feel that that with the end so near, these deaths were completely unnecessary and it is this sort of tragic, futile waste, which seems to sum up the First World War for many.
That was not quite how it was seen at the time, however, - tragic certainly, but the term futile waste would not have been on the lips of so many as it is today, and this raises questions about exactly what Remembrance meant then or should mean now. In 1919 the idea that hundreds of thousands of young men had died needlessly or in a futile cause would have seemed madness for two reasons: ONE The mourning relatives of the dead had to believe that the deaths of their loved ones had served some purpose – and TWO The idea of the war being a just cause was firmly ingrained in each of the combatant countries, not least as a result of four years of anti-enemy propaganda. So in the 1920s, Remembrance was an opportunity to mourn and to give thanks for those who had made the ultimate sacrifice. In Britain the ceremony held at the centotaph (officially unveiled in 1920) was, much as it is today, a moment of solemn, respectful, national mourning. At the same time, it was also an opportunity for some to celebrate. Great reunions of veterans were held at the weekend closest to 11th November and these were often marked by riotous behaviour and drunkenness. But both of these types of Remembrance were completely national in character. Not that anyone in Britain probably gave it much thought at the time, but how different must have been the mood in defeated countries, where the huge losses were not mitigated at least by victory.
With a hundred years of distance and the tragedies of more recent conflicts to consider, we have been able to view the Great War with a broader perspective, and consider the human impact on all nations, rather than just our own. Remembrance itself has undergone many changes and has evolved as events and new ideas have reshaped the world, not least as we have realised that the so-called ‘war to end all wars’ was not that at all. So how should we approach Remembrance 100 years on? No-one who fought in that immense conflict is still alive. Perhaps a tiny few still live who can remember 1918 but they are a fast dwindling number. So it is up to us, who have no personal memory of the Great War, to honour the memories of those who gave their lives and those for whom the first days of Remembrance were filled with the raw emotion of recent bereavement, and at the same time to empathise with them in their great hope – that it would never happen again. We might strive for peace with a realistic appreciation that it is something that cannot ever be fully achieved, but that does not mean that we should not strive for it.
Whilst Remembrance today retains some of its national characteristics, it also reflects more of the mood of internationalism, which has gradually grown over the last 100 years. Remembrance must not only be about looking back but about hope for the future, about understanding and about international co-operation. We have a great opportunity to embrace something of that spirit in this school community. Here we have representatives from countries on all sides of the various conflicts, which have scarred the last century. That in itself is symbolic of a better world, albeit one which still faces significant problems and challenges. We shall all stand together in silence on Sunday and remember those who have died in war. We will remember those former pupils of this College - those men whose names are on our War Memorial, with whom we all share a bond; those who paid the ultimate price - many of them very young. But as we do, so I am sure that we will also remember the millions of others, from every nation, not connected with our school, who also gave their lives and left behind bereaved loved ones."
TM, Chapel, Tuesday 6th November 2018
Hong Kong Reunion - Wednesday 14th November 2018
The Hong Kong Club provided the perfect venue for this year’s alumni event on Wednesday 14th November 2018.
Hosted by Fook Aun Chew and organised by Dr Kay Chan, 25 alumni enjoyed drinks and canapés in one of Hong Kong’s historic and exclusive venues. We were delighted to welcome a significant number of younger OLs , many of whom were attending for the first time. Irrespective of age, all enjoyed being re-acquainted with photos and reports of themselves and their old school as well as meeting new faces.
We look forward to meeting up again in 2019!
- OL London Drinks at the German Gymnasium: 6th February
- The House of Lords Reception: 19th June
- OL Reunion Lunch – The Mill on the Exe, Exeter: 28 September
- Old Lawrentian Society Dinner: 9th November
140th ANNIVERSARY THE HOUSE OF LORDS RECEPTION
Wednesday 19 June 2019
The highlight of the Anniversary year was the sell-out reception at the House of Lords hosted by General the Lord Dannatt. The Riverside Terrace provided a splendid venue for this sell-out event for 250 Old Lawrentians and their guests. OLs who had travelled from as far afield as Australia and Singapore heard speeches from our host, General the Lord Dannatt; OL President, James Barden; and Antony Spencer, School Principal, before giving their own rousing rendition of the School song! Take a look through the slide show for images of the event.
OL reunion lunch – The Mill on the Exe, Exeter
28 September 2019
How do you beat a great event like the South West alumni re-union? The simple answer is that you can’t!
Eighteen OLs and guests got together for the third South West annual re-union in Exeter. Malcolm Jones OL organised the menu and the venue; The ‘Mill-on-the Exe’ pub provided the food and drink; and our newly appointed OL President, Nick Marchant (Tower 1978), represented the OL Committee and entertained all attendees. The OLs who joined us included Malcolm Jones (Lodge 1955), Mike Henry (Tower 1954), Ray Bowesman (Manor 1953), John Isaac (Tower 1954), Ian Collins (Grange 1964), Eric Holdaway (Courtenay 1967), David Jackson (Lodge 1958), Nick Carmichael (Tower 1978), Kenneth Wilson (Tower 1980) and John Collins (Tower/Courteenhall 1944).
The event was full of laughter and good conversation which is pretty much what you would come to expect from an OL event! As you will see from the photos, the food was excellent and plentiful and the weather was very kind too. Next year’s re-union has already been booked for Saturday 26 September 2020, 12pm-3pm. If you live or work in the area and would like to join us, please contact us at email@example.com. Do bring a friend too!
Old Lawrentian Society Dinner - November 9th 2018
Nearly 100 Old Lawrentians and their guests gathered at St Lawrence College for this year’s Annual Dinner. This year’s guest speaker was BBC foreign correspondent and writer, Humphrey Hawksley OL (Cameron and Grange 1965-1972). Humphrey entertained guests with stories from his life at St Lawrence in the late 60s and early 70s – including descriptions of characters who tried to teach and those pupils who tried their best to resist – as well as his professional life when dealing with world leaders such as Donald Trump.
Acting OL President, Nick Marchant, presented his long-serving predecessor, James Barden, with an inscribed silver salver in gratitude for his six impressive years of service to his fellow Old Lawrentians. The Principal, Antony Spencer, also gave a moving speech ahead of his imminent departure to Mill Hill at Christmas.
Mr Antony Spencer - Principal's Speech
OL Dinner 2019
This will of course be my last OL dinner as Principal, and I find myself in a reflective mood this evening.
I guess I could take for inspiration for my farewell speech the way John Bercow bade goodbye to the House of Commons, which would involve me smugly sitting down for about three hours of fawning praise about my greatness- and then as soon as I’m gone everyone says “thank goodness we’ve got rid of him!”.
But I won’t, because unlike John Bercow I have no pretence of greatness.
I have said before that in my job I stand on the shoulders of giants, of those who have gone before like Canon Perfect. I would include in those giants those who led the school in more challenging times.
I guess it would be easy to bask in all the success the school is having now, with all the new facilities, great achievements and growth in pupil numbers, but Ieadership is tested more in difficult times, and until you do this job it’s hard to understand all it involves, not just day to day but with the ongoing weight of responsibility of protecting the heritage and reputation of the school, as well as the fundamental challenge of nurturing the individual lives of the pupils entrusted to us.
So whatever your own experience as OLs of the Headmaster when you were here, the fact that the school today is thriving is to the credit of all those Heads whose paintings you see on the wall. And I encourage you to support my successor, Barney Durrant, when he starts here at Easter, in the way that so many of you have been such a great support and encouragement to me.
A schoolmaster or mistress here, or a Head or Principal, isn’t just doing a job but following a vocation. I haven’t just worked here for seven years, but lived and breathed St Lawrence 24/7. I still keep finding out new things, like rooms I didn’t know existed, or quirky bits of history, or naughty things OLs did in their day, and there’s still plenty to do to continue to improve the school.
The job will never be finished, and I’m very conscious that I’m just passing on the baton of leading the school. But for those of you who know your Old Testament Hebrew, the number 7 is symbolic of completeness, and now after almost seven years it seemed the right time for me and my family for a move. It will be an emotional wrench, and I envy my successor in all that he will inherit, but I can’t anyway escape St Lawrence.
For a start, it’s a school that has a very wide reach, in spite of its laudable unpretentiousness. Just this last week when I visited Mill Hill, I discovered staff there whose family were OLs, and the Chaplain there told me he’s a drinking buddy with an OL here who is also a Governor. Lawrentians get everywhere.
And the greatest source of pride I have is in the calibre of the pupils we send out into the world. They are all varied, but we have a long track record of producing OLs who are confident without being arrogant, who understand the importance of friendship and loyalty, who know that the world doesn’t owe them a living but that with hard work and persistence they can be successful.
These are exciting times for the College. We’ve got great people working here, and the pupils are remarkably happy given all the things that young people have to face these days. We’ve just been awarded an international accolade for the quality of our teaching, and the sport is having success equivalent to our glory days. The Canon Perfect Centre is the envy of other schools and more importantly has significantly lifted the learning environment in the teaching of Art, Design and Science.
We are into detailed planning around the use of the spare land on the site of the old Science School and Backfield for a housing development that will remain owned by the school and thus will be a lasting asset forever. We’ve also acquired the old pavilion from the 02 Arena, which is currently sitting in kit form in some lorries across the road. Some generous gifts from OLs mean we’re therefore almost at the point of beginning to assemble a wonderful new sports pavilion for Newlands, having received planning permission just the other week.
So in my reflective mood I ask myself the question: Have I left the school a better place? Well, it’s the wrong question, because we all just play a part in a team of people stretching down 140 years who have each contributed in some way to making St Lawrence College what it is today. You are part of that team, whether OLs, parents or friends, and my final word tonight is a simple but heartfelt one: thankyou.
- German Gymnasium Drinks - 5 February
- Urban Golf, Smithfield, London - 27 February
- The Malaysia alumni event, Kuala Lumpur - 29 February
- Quiz Night - 06 March
Urban Golf, Smithfield, London
27 February 2020
Our intrepid OL golfers have managed to have a number of matches this year including at the London Club, Redlibbets and Royal Ashdown. There was also the first indoor OL golf event at Urban Golf in Smithfield in March. This was a fun social event which is ideal for beginners as it is very hard to lose your balls! A big thank you must go to the golf secretary, Bruce Gear, for all the hard work he does behind the scenes to make sure we have a vibrant OL Golf society.
The Malaysia alumni event, Kuala Lumpur
29 February 2020
The inaugural re-union of OLs in Malaysia was held at the Royal Selangor golf club in Kuala Lumpur. Despite the impact of the coronavirus, it was incredibly well attended and even included the new Head, Barney Durrant, who flew in from Hong Kong. Even though the main event was intended to take place on Saturday evening, it was clear from the WhatsApp chat group that OLs who had not seen each other in some cases in up for to 40 years were going to make the most of the occasion by starting the party on Friday and continuing it through to Sunday. Judging by the subsequent chat on WhatsApp, it appears to be continuing even now! Barney’s initiation concluded at 2am.