As the cadets of the CCF stood smartly to attention and a hush fell over the assembled throng, the Heads of School read out one fifth of the names on the War Memorial. Over the course of their five years at the School, each pupil will hear the names of all 321 Salopians killed in World War I and the 259 killed in World War II.
This year we welcomed Air Vice-Marshal Sir Michael Simmons, KCB AFC (DB 1950-55), President of the Salopian Club, to give the address at the Remembrance Service in Chapel. Sir Michael qualified as a pilot while he was still a pupil at Shrewsbury School and went on to have a highly distinguished career with the RAF. His passion for flying was inspired by another Old Salopian, Richard Hillary (Ch 1931-36), who was a Spitfire pilot during World War II and wrote a book about his experiences, The Last Enemy. Despite being shot down during the Battle of Britain and badly burned, never regaining full use of his hands, he insisted on returning to flying. He was killed on 8th January 1943 at the age of 23.
Since September 2014, the School has been focusing its commemorations in particular on the Salopians who died in the First World War. During the week marking the 100th anniversary of their deaths, their names and obituaries are published on the school website (The news 100 years ago - Old Salopians in WW1) and they are included in the weekly Services of Remembrance held at St Chad’s Church in Shrewsbury.
The 321 Salopians killed represent around one-fifth of those who served; a further 336 were wounded, 42 of them twice, 15 three times and 5 four times. The losses among many other Public Schools were similarly heavy. Having all had some basic military training in the School OTC, most of the young volunteers were quickly made junior officers, whose job was to lead the way over the top and expose themselves to the greatest danger as an example to their men. The casualty figures among junior officers were higher than in any other rank.
The poem below was written in December 1914 by the then Headmaster of Shrewsbury School, Rev. C.A. Alington. It was first published in The Times, then reproduced in The Salopian.
To the School at War
We don’t forget – while in this dark December
We sit in schoolrooms that you know so well,
And hear the sounds that you so well remember –
The clock, the hurrying feet, the Chapel bell:
Others are sitting in the seats you sat in;
There’s nothing else seems altered here – and yet
Through all of it, the same old Greek and Latin,
You know we don’t forget.
We don’t forget you – in the wintry weather
You man the trench or tramp the frozen snow;
We play the games we used to play together
In days of peace that seem so long ago;
But through it all, the shouting and the cheering,
Those other hosts in graver conflict met,
Those other sadder sounds your ears are hearing
Be sure we don’t forget.
And you, our brothers, who for all our praying,
To this dear school of ours come back no more,
Who lie, our country’s debt of honour paying –
And not in vain – upon the Belgian shore;
Till that great day when at the Throne in Heaven
The books are opened and the Judgment set,
Your lives for honour and for England given
The School will not forget.
To mark the centenary of the First World War and as a tribute to the Salopians who fought in it, Shrewsbury CCF cadets re-enacted a photo held in the School's Archives, which shows members of the School's OTC engaged in a mock charge on Field Day 1915. The CCF's re-enactment of the photo took place in 2014 and was filmed by Oliver Lansdell (PH 2010-15) for Shrewsbury School TV. Please click on the link below to watch it: