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Friday, 13 March 2015
As part of the School’s commemoration of the centenary of the First World War, members of the School Community attended a special dinner at School. Alumni and staff associated with the Armed Services were joined by pupils in the Scouts, Cadets and other uniformed organisations for this very special occasion, held on the 13th of March 2015 to mark the 100th anniversary of the date the first Old Boy fell in battle.
Second Lieutenant Albert Knowles Wilson was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Manchester Regiment and attached to the Indian Expeditionary Force. He was killed in action on the 12th of March 1915 during the Battle of Neuve Chapelle. This was the first British offensive of the war, and cost 11,562 casualties for the gain of just two square kilometres of land. He was killed on the first day, and was just twenty-five years old.
Following a drinks reception in the Riley Centre’s Leverhulme Suite, guests convened in the Headmaster’s Garden for a Commemoration of the eighty-one Old Boys who made the ultimate sacrifice in the Great War. Each of the fallen Old Boys was represented by a Tower of London poppy procured by the School. Earlier in the day, these were planted by students in the Headmaster’s Lawn while Boys’ Division Headmaster Mr Philip Britton read out the names of the dead.
In a moving ceremony, four final poppies were planted in the garden by Girls’ Division Head Girl Jess Melling, Boys’ Division Captain Paul Greenhalgh, Chairman of Governors Mr Michael Griffiths, and finally by the evening’s guest speaker, Major General Stuart R Skeates CBE, Commandant of the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. This was followed by ‘The Last Post’, played by Year 13 pupil Isobel Faulkner, and ‘The Ode to Remembrance’.
Girls’ Division Headmistress Miss Sue Hincks welcomed guests to the Arts Centre for the dinner itself following the commemoration. The special guest for the evening was Major General Skeates. He was commissioned into the Royal Regiment of Artillery in 1989, and over the course of his career has served on operations in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Iraq, Afghanistan, the Balkans, Cyprus and Northern Ireland. He has been Commandant of the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst since August 2013. His nephews attend the Boys’ Division, and his niece left Bolton School last summer.
After the dinner, Major General Skeates spoke movingly of the Bolton School Old Boys and staff who lost their lives in the two World Wars, and made particular mention of Second Lieutenant Albert Knowles Wilson.
Mr Britton said, “Today we have a day of Commemoration, to bring to mind the contribution of the School to the Great War, the impact on our community, and the sacrifice made by so many for freedom. It is entirely fitting that the day ends with a dinner for those involved in uniformed organisations; drawing together pupils, colleagues, Old Boys and Girls, and parents in a spirit of shared values, friendship and camaraderie, to acknowledge all that has been and to look forward to our futures.”
A video documenting the planting of the 81 poppies can be viewed here.
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