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Boys' Poignant Service of Remembrance

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The whole school came together in the Great Hall as the Boys’ Division held its annual Remembrance Day assembly on the morning of 11 November 2022. Current pupils and staff were joined by representatives of the Old Boltonians’ Association, led by its Chair Roy Battersby, and the service was streamed on YouTube for those who wished to attend virtually.

Dr Holland welcomed everyone to the Hall with the reminder that the School community was coming together to commemorate those former pupils and members of staff who gave their lives in the First and Second World Wars.

He spoke movingly about the young men whose names are recorded on the rolls of honour either side of the Memorial Window, and how the catastrophe of war led to them never being forgotten. He read from Wilfred Owen’s poem ‘Futility’ and spoke about the purpose of the Service of Remembrance: not as an act of nationalism, but ‘a time for two minutes of poignant and reverent silence at eleven o’clock, the time at which, as agreed in the terms of the Armistice, hostilities were ended.’ The silence was originally requested by Sir Percy FitzPatrick, whose son was killed in France in 1917, and Dr Holland shared some of his emphatic statement on the need for this moment.

The names of those alumni who died 80 years ago, during the Second World War, were shared by current pupils along with a short biography of each man, thus turning a list of names into a catalogue of people to be honoured and remembered. They were: Sergeant Pilot Alfred Ronald Cheadle (killed 26 January 1942, age 20), Flight Sergeant Pilot William Dracas Ashley (killed in action 30 April 1942, age 23), Sergeant Pilot Geoffrey Isherwood Markland (killed in action 6 May 1942), Second Lieutenant Richard Parkinson Gratrix (died in hospital 12 June 1942, age 20), Sergeant Wireless Operator Air Gunner William Dennis Warburton (lost without trace 15 June 1942, age 20), Sergeant Navigator James Harold Evans (killed in action 16/17 September 1942, age 22), Sergeant Pilot Harry Nuttall (killed in action 25 September 1942), Flight Lieutenant Donald Higson (killed in action 17 October 1942), Flying Officer Peter Greenhalgh (killed 20 November 1942, age 20), and Pilot Officer Charles Douglas Marshall (killed in action 4 December 1942, age 20).

Dr Holland also made mention of Lieutenant Charles Reginald Fausset (killed in action 2 May 1915), who taught at Bolton School and was Senior Modern Languages Master 1909-10.

The assembly went on to mark the anniversaries of two historic events worthy of commemoration on Remembrance Day. 2022 is the 70th anniversary of the first British nuclear trials, and Dr Holland paid brief tribute to around 20,000 servicemen who were exposed to radiation while witnessing atomic tests. It is also the 80th anniversary of the disastrous Operation Jubilee, which took place on 19 August 1942 and has been compared to Passchendaele and the Charge of the Light Brigade. He gave context to this disastrous attack on the harbour of Dieppe, which saw 4,000 British and Canadian troops killed, wounded or captured, but also shared how this terrible loss of life informed the future success of the D Day Landings.

As he brought the assembly towards its end, Dr Holland spoke about leadership: something which has been of great concern to people of all nations this year. He also talked about the power of words, and the importance of commemorating those who gave their lives for the freedoms of the peoples of the world: freedoms which must be cherished and protected.

Finally, he said that the day of Remembrance is also a day to look towards the future, and reminded everyone that: ‘Life ... is a gift. It should not be squandered and is best lived purposefully.’

In bringing the assembly to a close, Dr Holland made reference to the end of the second Elizabethan era and looked ahead to the future. In closing, he spoke the words written on Bolton’s War Memorial: ‘Tell ye your children, our brothers died to win a better world. Our part must be to strive for truth, goodwill and peace, that their sacrifice be not in vain. Lest we forget.’

Following the two minute silence, Sixth Form students processed out of the hall with wreaths of poppies to lay them at the Memorial Window. They were accompanied by Dr Holland, Mr Ford (Head), Mr Britton (Head of Foundation) and representatives of the Old Boys’ Association. As they stood before the Memorial Window, Dr Holland recited the Ode to Remembrance before the laying of the wreaths.

The Remembrance Assembly can be viewed in full below or on YouTube.

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