“I’ve given my life…”

“I’ve given my life to the principle and the ideal of remembrance.”

Elie Weisel

We use eight words to describe the values that underpin our activities as a school. As a community we need to take a little time once in a while to remind ourselves of these important ideas and to consider how we live by them in the busy days of a packed term-time week. Today we have paused to consider a number of these values. This week of remembrance allows us to stop and consider the plight of others whose lives are affected by conflict. We reflect upon concepts of service, community, endeavour and integrity.

We mark remembrance in a number of ways at the School. We had an assembly in the Junior School in which we paused, listened, sang and performed. One member of our community went to play The Last Post at the British Embassy and at the Senior School some students and staff joined together at morning break in an act of quiet reflection.

Remembrance, understandably, means different things to different people. For some it is a celebration and glorification of conflict, others see it from a very different perspective. I am in the second camp. If one message comes through in the activities of today it is an acknowledgement of the horror, brutality and waste of war. Alongside that message is another one that speaks to the importance that we place on freedom. During the Senior School’s act of commemoration we heard older pupils reflect upon the justifications for war and also the impact of war.

In the Junior School we considered the effects on civilian and animal populations as well as military personnel. No glorification here, but a clear acknowledgement of the integrity of those who are willing to defend the rights of others when all alternative other means have been exhausted. Alongside this is an appreciation of the long lasting impact that are made by the scars of battle on the landscape and population.

Out of such a solemn event it is good to be able to acknowledge students who made significant contributions. Our two flautists in the Junior School and our three Sixth Form readers at the Senior School gave much to our event. Our Year 7 reader who read her prize winning war poetry reminded us all that nothing good comes from war and the British Ambassador most certainly appreciated the playing of the Last Post at the Embassy this morning.

If you have a moment to visit our remembrance memorial at the Senior School I would encourage you to do so. Miss Wall of the Art Department and Mr. Bates of the History Department have created an entirely appropriate commemoration installation.

Much of the value of remembrance is in the lessons that it teaches the young in shaping their attitude to the resolution of disputes and to the avoidance of conflict. Not all of us will dedicate our life to the cause of remembrance like Elie Weisel, but if through the wearing of poppies, bleuets, forget-me-nots or marigolds we achieve a more peaceful world then today’s activities will have been worthwhile indeed. It is perhaps important that recall something else that Weisel said namely that “Peace is our gift to each other”.

Nicholas Hammond