Friday 18 November 1921
courtesy of The Cambridgeshire Collection
GALLANT SOHAM GRAMMARIANS
Memorial to Fallen Old Boys Unveiled in School
"A RED LETTER DAY"
["Fighting was not their profession in life - it was only a high sense of duty that made them combatants. They were not thinking of themselves as in alien lands they reached full early their journey's end."]
Thus spoke Mr ET Neathercoat, MPS, President of the Pharmaceutical Society, a native of Ely, and a former student at Soham Grammar School, on Wednesday [16 November 1921], when unveiling the memorial tablet in honour of the 16 Old Soham Grammarians who made the supreme sacrifice during the Great War. The words crystallised the inmost thoughts of scholars, relatives, and friends who attended the ceremony, and it was some little consolation, to those who mourn, that Soham Grammar School took a noble part in the Empire's hour of need.
Fixed in a prominent position in the assembly hall [in the Old Grammar School], the tablet possesses little architectural grandeur, simplicity being the keynote of its beauty, but nevertheless it is a fitting token of the School's gratitude.
Ably carried through by the Old Boys' Club, of which the esteemed Headmaster, Mr J Clement Pratt, MSc, is the chairman, the scheme readily received the support of former and present students and friends, and by their generous subscriptions the outlay was met.
AN IMPRESSIVE CEREMONY
The ceremony opened with a hymn and the Lord's Prayer.
The Headmaster, in an interesting address, said by means of that memorial they would perpetuate the memory of those old boys who made the greatest sacrifice - their lives - for their King and country. The War Memorial would, he hoped, achieve another, secondary, purpose. It should have an influence on the minds of the present and future boys of the school. The noble sacrifice of those men, former pupils there, would stir many of their boys, and kindle in their hearts the spirit of self sacrifice and devotion. If the memorial in any way influenced the boys for good, it would achieve a glorious work.
Mr Neathercoat commenced an eloquent address by expressing his appreciation of the compliment paid to him as an old student in the invitation given him to unveil the memorial. He recalled that 25 years ago he was a boy in these classrooms, and said his presence that day flooded his mind with vivid memories of his school days. That day was really a red-letter day in the history of that grand old School. In his opinion the Old Boys Club had done the right thing in arranging for the erection of the memorial tablet in the school buildings, there being no more suitable place for a memorial tablet to fallen heroes than their old School, where they probably spent some of the happiest days of their short lives.
In these days of industrial unrest, of heavy taxation, possibly as its result, and of the general upheaval in the worlds affairs, we were very liable to perhaps
FORGET THE PRICE
which was paid for the victory which the world now enjoyed. Furthermore, he feared we ran the risk of losing, by mistakes, or weakness the peace that was won by bravery and strength in war. That was why he was glad that the Old Boys Club arranged that the sacrifices made by the Old Boys from that School should never be forgotten whilst the School remained, and that in an age of shifting sands and changing opinions that tablet would stand like a stone whilst those old grey walls endured. It should also be for ever a source of pride to the relatives of those young heroes had left behind to know that their names and deeds would never be forgotten by the future generations of boys who would attend that School.
|Those young stalwarts left
behind them many bright hopes, but they also left behind
an example of courage, of love of country, and a strong
sense of duty, which would be at once an encouragement
and an incentive to those who followed them in the
classrooms of that School. All of them were at the
threshold of life, with all its unplumbed possibilities.
They counted every promise which the future held as of
little account, and in order to make the world safe for
Freedom they went forth as the champions of a great
cause. Those young men were not merely patriots in the
narrow sense of the word: they did not fight in order
that the British Empire should have dominion over other
countries, but, rather, that the whole wide world might
be freed from the tyranny that was threatening it and
saved from the oppressions by which it had suffered so
Fighting was not their profession in life - it was only a high sense of duty that made them combatants. They were not thinking of themselves as in alien lands they reached full early their journey's end.
Having read the Schools Roll of Honour, the speaker concluded with the words: I now unveil this memorial to the imperishable memory of the names inscribed thereon, and to the glory of Almighty God.
The Union Jack was then withdrawn, and disclosed the memorial, bearing the following inscription:-
TO THE GLORIOUS MEMORY
Before formally dedicating the memorial, the Rev JC Rust, MA, Vicar of Soham, and chairman of the Governors of the School, observed that he had known many of the boys familiarly. He made special reference to Cecil Edmunds, who, he said, obtained one of the highest distinctions as an undergraduate of the University of Cambridge, and afterwards took an appointment as a headmaster in Suffolk. In him the educational world lost a very distinguished member.
Deeply they sympathised with those who mourned, and they hoped to see them again in the home beyond, where there would be no shedding of tears.
Dedicating the memorial, the Rev Rust said: In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, in everlasting memory of those who gave their lives in the Great War for peace and liberty, I dedicate this Memorial in the name of the old boys and present boys of the School; in the name of the inhabitants of Soham; in the name of those who believe that there is a life in which we shall all meet hereafter. I trust we shall learn to follow their example and protect all Gods Heavenly Kingdom.
The assembly then stood with bowed heads in solemn reverence for one minute until the silence was broken by the shrill notes of the Last Post, sounded by Bandmaster FJ Talbot, of the Soham Comrades Band, and a former student at the School. O God, our help in ages past was then sung, and the Rev Rust pronounced the Benediction
Afterwards Bandmaster Talbot blew the Reveille, and the ceremony concluded with the National Anthem.
A handsome wreath of laurels and lilies was hung at the base of the tablet by Mr Neathercoat, on behalf of the Old Boys Club.
page created 7 Nov 11
10 Nov 11: Michael Yeomans 60 writes: My grandfather [the Frederick Talbot referred to in the article above] was an army bugler on the battlefields of World War I in France and played the Last Post and Reveille many times out there, no doubt amidst scenes of unspeakable death and destruction. But, afterwards, he would never talk about the war.
After he returned to Soham he used to climb to the top of the Clark & Butcher's flour mill to play the Last Post and Reveille on Remembrance Day every year. My mother said he would come back from that looking as white as a sheet. I don't know how many years he did that.
When I was at SGS there was a remembrance service every year outside the Memorial Gates. For several years I played the Last Post and Reveille at that service. I guess that was around 1962-66. My grandfather coached me on how to play that properly, and he used to get quite emotional, no doubt with the very real memories of what it was like on the battlefields of France.
last updated 18 Nov 11