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We All Stand Together at Remembrance Assembly

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Boys watched from classrooms, some watched from home, and Old Boys tuned in from around the world as this year’s Remembrance Day Assembly in the Great Hall of the Boys’ Division of Bolton School, led by Dr Holland, went virtual.

Dr Holland reflected that whilst not everyone could be in the Hall, everyone did very much stand together in these difficult times and on how the global pandemic, like war, reminds us that we are very much dependent upon one another. He told how we face a virus which can be as deadly as any weapon used in war. A poignant reminder that in a time of crisis, it is the aged and the vulnerable who suffer most.

This year, he reminded us, has been an historic one in which we marked the 100th anniversary of the laying to rest of the body of the unknown warrior in Westminster Abbey. Today was a day for looking back and commemorating former members of the school who laid down their lives for this country. Beyond the two world wars, Dr Holland asked the audience to remember all those servicemen who lost their lives in a wide range of other conflicts, including in the fight to save the Imperial Royal family in the Russian Civil War, in the jungle warfare of the Malay Peninsula, in China in the conflict of the Yangtze River, in Korea, in the Middle East in Aden and Palestine, in the Suez Canal, in supporting Oman in Arabia, in Brunei and Borneo, in conflicts on the continent of Africa in Kenya, in Sierra Leone and Rhodesia, in four long years in Cyprus, in the liberation of The Falkland Islands, during 38 difficult years striving to keep the peace in Northern Ireland, and more recently, in Bosnia, Macedonia and Kosovo, and in Iraq and Afghanistan. Throughout the second half of the 20th Century, only one year was unmarked by the death of a British serviceman. Dr Holland commended the boys for showing their understanding of sacrifice through fascinating displays in the History Department.

Dr Holland reminded the audience that 2020 marked the anniversary of two monumental events - the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Britain and the 75th anniversary of VJ Day. He recalled how 1497 pilots and air crew paid the ultimate sacrifice in the Battle of Britain and how without their courage our lives would be very different today. Whilst the air battle went on for several months, it is the repulsion of 1,120 German aircraft by some 630 British aircraft during an attack on the south coast of England on 15 September 1940 that is woven into the fabric of this nation’s history. On 18 June 1940 Winston Churchill, addressing the Commons, and at the outset of the Battle of Britain said if we stand up to Hitler, all Europe may be free or, if we lose, we will sink into the abyss of a new dark age; let’s hope future generations will say “This was their finest hour”. On 20 August, he uttered the immortal words: “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.” Dr Holland urged boys, when restrictions are lifted, to visit The Battle of Britain Memorial in Kent.

As is traditional in the Remembrance Assembly, former pupils who died roughly 80 years ago were commemorated. Private Frank Mather, who died aged 20 on 17 June 1940, 2nd Radio Officer Leonard Robert Armstrong who died on 25 August 1940 aged 22 and Thomas Leslie Hope, killed on this very day in 1940 aged 23, were all remembered. In their honour and in the honour of all members of the school community who lost their lives, Captain Charlie Griffiths and Sixth Form boys Zayd Ascroft and Nathan Burudi laid wreaths at the school memorial. The address came to a close with Dr Holland quoting the words: “When you go home, tell them of us and say, for your tomorrow, we gave our today.”

You can watch the full assembly here.

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