Time to remember
Thursday 16 Nov 2017
One hundred years ago the world was at war and this Remembrance Day we have been reflecting on life a century ago.
More than 800 of our former pupils went to fight in the 1914-18 war with 125 never to return. Many more were wounded and nobody who had witnessed the horrors of the trenches was ever quite the same again.
School archivist Barbara Gent has researched some stories of the fallen alumni and discovered how the daily life of the school was changed during that time.
Said Barbara: “Many young men who had shown great promise on the playing fields and in the classroom, joined up and faced unspeakable horrors. One Old Giggleswickian (OG), John de W Kenyon, who was due to be head boy in 1914, took a commission instead and was killed in May 1915, aged 18. A story of wasted potential which was repeated all over the country.
“Meanwhile, it was important to continue with a sense of purpose, even normality, amid the chaos of these years. The headmaster, Robert Douglas, and his staff continued the school routine, although with changes.
“Speech Day was suspended for the duration of the war; green paint covered the study windows and brown paper, acting as blackout, was fixed to the dining room windows. Vegetable plots were dug and supper was reduced to bread and milk. Even the school cap was changed as there was a shortage of the material used to make it.”
However, it was not all restriction. Outings included cream teas and bathing at local beauty spots. Societies, debates and music activities continued. Not surprisingly, cadet numbers increased to 130 by 1916, and both boys and masters practised drilling and shooting.
Barbara has uncovered the stories of two particular OGs.
She said: “Dr Christopher Turnbull, who had grown up in Giggleswick village, was medical officer with the 1st Battalion Cheshire Regiment in March 1915 by which time he had already been mentioned in despatches. Word came through that an officer was badly wounded in one of the trenches. Lieutenant Turnbull volunteered to help, despite knowing that crossing an open space in daylight was almost certain death.
“Luck was on his side and he reached the wounded officer, only to find that to stop the bleeding he needed to get him to hospital for an operation. He and an orderly managed to move him into the communication trench, but owing to enemy fire they could not proceed and spent the next eight hours lying in mud and icy water, compressing an artery by hand to staunch the flow of blood.
“As darkness fell it was judged possible to move the wounded officer, by then a weak man. They reached the dressing station about 300 yards away, but in the process Lieutenant Turnbull was shot. He was taken to hospital in St Eloi, where two comrades did all they could, but he died shortly after on March 12 1915.
“His commanding officer described his act as one of “conspicuous gallantry”.
Two years later and 100 years ago on November 23 this year, Victor Atkinson, a pupil from 1907 to 1915 who had a record as a fine gymnast and had been head of his house, was killed defending an observation post on the front line at Passchendaele.
Barbara added: “He was just 20 years old and was known at school for his cheerfulness, modesty and sense of humour. By all accounts he had developed into a wise and tactful leader.
“These are just two stories of many. The school magazine, the Giggleswick Chronicle, for those years reported many examples of gallantry, self-sacrifice and heroism.
“The longed-for Armistice was celebrated in school by a day’s holiday and a Feu-de-Joie, a ceremonial rifle salute, fired by the cadets on November 12 1918.”
The School's First World War dead are commemorated in the Chapel, in the Memorial Library and in the recently produced Book of Commemoration.
In addition, every year Barbara sends a poppy in memory of the Giggleswick fallen to the Royal British Legion, which is placed with countless others at Westminster Abbey for Remembrance Day.
The school also has connections to The Poppy Factory – the charity which employs around 30 disabled veterans to produce the poppies and wreaths for the royal family and The Royal British Legion’s annual Poppy Appeal. It was founded in 1922 by George Howson, the great grandson of John Howson, master and usher of our School for 40 years in the early nineteenth century. A further family member, Andrew Westcott, was a pupil at the school during the 1960s.
As well as producing these poppies and wreaths, The Poppy Factory is the country’s leading employment charity for veterans with health conditions or impairments. It works with businesses across the country to provide bespoke opportunities and ongoing employment support for hundreds of disabled veterans of all ages and from all services, helping to restore their financial independence through sustainable and rewarding work.
Giggleswick also owns three of the famous ceramic Tower Poppies – as displayed in the Tower of London in 2014 - these were on display in the chapel during its Remembrance Day service on Sunday November 12.
Below: Dr Christopher Turnbull and Victor Atkinson