Remembrance Service Address to School

Headmaster's Remembrance Service Address to School
November 2023

As we all know, whilst we may be able to remember what has happened in our lives up to now, we are not able to predict with certainty what will happen in our futures. All of us have hopes and plans, dreams and ambitions which we will try our best to fulfil, but sometimes those plans and dreams change, and sometimes external events mean that our lives don’t play out as we had hoped.

Behind me, on the boards just in front of the altar, are the names of the Old Bromsgrovians who gave their lives in the two world wars, about 100 in each. Like us they will have had memories of their time here at School, and like us, they will have imagined where their futures might take them. Because of the wars in which they were called to play their parts, their lives were cut short all too soon, but they gave their lives so that we can live ours in the best ways possible, living out our dreams to the full.

Frank Wearne won a scholarship that enabled him to attend Bromsgrove from 1908 to 1912. He became Head Monitor, and will have thought about his future options when he took up his place at Corpus Christi College, Oxford in 1913. But then war broke out in 1914 and he joined the Public School Battalion. He was severely wounded in July 1916, but returned to the fighting in France the following May. While leading his men into a German trench, Frank was shot when they all came under heavy fire. Although injured he refused to leave them, but stayed with them directing operations and supporting them all. Just before the order to withdraw was given, Frank was shot again and was carried away mortally wounded. Later, at Buckingham Palace, the King personally presented Frank’s father with the most prestigious decoration of the British honours system, awarded for valour in the presence of the enemy. News of Frank’s bravery, his Victoria Cross and his sad death was shared with all Bromsgrove pupils on the first day of the new school year in September 1917.

Spencer Travers attended Bromsgrove for five years, leaving in 1913. He was captain of rugby and Head of School House. He went on to Dublin University where he showed promise as a rower but when war came, he enlisted with his brother. It is said that the qualities he showed as 1st XV captain playing on the pitches that we all know here, meant that he was destined to be an accomplished leader of others; when the situation was at its hottest, he was noted to be at his coolest, regularly displaying remarkable courage. Whether it was his ambition to do so or not, it is recorded that Spencer was destined to be an officer of unusual capacity. Sadly, that promising career was cut all too short because Spencer Travers was killed at Gallipoli in 1915.

Frederick Bentley left Bromsgrove in 1894 and began his career working for Lloyds Bank. He remained a bachelor and is said to have been devoted to his library and fly-fishing. His level of seniority in the bank would have meant that he was exempt from military service, but he volunteered under the Derby Scheme – a system devised to strongly persuade eligible 18-41 year olds to enlist. He was sent to France in 1917, initially as a stretcher bearer, and was reported missing following an enemy attack. No further details were ever established, and the War Office declared Frederick Bentley officially Killed in Action. At 40, he was the oldest OB to die in the First World War and so he never returned to his work, his home or his pastimes.

The hallowing of this building, the war memorial chapel, took place in May 1931. It was unfinished until 1960 when it also commemorated those Old Bromsgrovians who gave their lives in the second world war. The foundation stone was laid in March 1930 by Mrs Spreckley who lost three sons, all Old Bromsgrovians. She represented the mothers of the fallen and, like all parents, they will have hoped to see their children grow up, develop their own lives, careers and perhaps have families. For Mr and Mrs Spreckley and so many other parents, that was never to be.

Most of us hope that we will never have to go through anything like the experiences that I’ve shared, relating to just three former pupils who attended School here, just like us. We hope we will not be caught up in war, as they were, and we hope our lives will not be cut short like theirs. As teachers, as parents, as people we hope that we will not lose pupils, classmates, family or friends, rather we hope that they, like us, will leave School to lead happy, worthwhile lives across the world, living out their dreams.

But yet, wars and conflicts continue to take place across the world and young people continue to die fighting for peace. As we gather here together, 54 nationalities living and working at Bromsgrove School together, perhaps we might reflect on how we can make the world better, together.

We might note that nearly all the countries who fought each other in the first world war are represented today across our harmonious school community. We should think about how we can better understand the perspective of those who have different backgrounds and beliefs to ours, as we seek to build a better world. Mindful of the freedom and opportunity we enjoy, it is so important that we develop our talents to the full and follow our dreams …and, along with all of that, thinking of those Bromsgrovians named on the boards behind me, who sat in seats like these, and who led lives like ours here in School, we must never forget them and the sacrifices they made for us….rather, we must always remember them.

Bromsgrove School is a co-educational, independent school.

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