UCS comes together to remember the fallen

This Friday morning, the UCS Foundation held its annual Act of Remembrance at the war memorial at the Senior School.

Led by the Headmaster, Mark Beard, Headmistress of the Pre-Prep, Zoe Dunn, Headmaster of the Junior Branch, Lewis Hayward, and Head of the Old Gowers Executive Committee, Adrian Patterson, the procession carried wreaths of remembrance to lay on the steps of the striking memorial at Frognal. The four wreaths, representing Old Gowers (UCS alumni), Pre-Prep, Junior Branch and Senior School, were laid on behalf of all members of the UCS community in honour of those members who gave their lives in war.

The privilege of remembering the fallen went to the Headmaster whose poignant words reflected how readily freedom and liberty are threatened, as well as the terrible cost of service. “That cost pervades beyond the ultimate sacrifice, dreadful as that is in its own right,” he said. “The cost includes physical, mental or emotional injury or trauma; it includes the absence of time with family, and the psychological agony of the family. The pressures and dangers, the fear, the horror, the loss – the human cost – that come from serving, highlight why remembrance of service is so important.”

Twenty-hour hours earlier, Senior School pupils had also attended a Remembrance-themed assembly led by Deputy Head (Pastoral) and History Teacher, Andrew Wilkes. Mr Wilkes reminded pupils how deeply the atrocities of the Great War impacted the school community; 252 Old Gowers and staff were killed in the four years of fighting between 1914 and 1918 and no fewer than 17 families lost two or more sons, horrifying statistics in themselves.

Using extracts of letters published in school magazine The Gower, Mr Wilkes shared the experiences of two Old Gowers (UCS alumni), Lieutenant Charles Rogers and 2nd Lieutenant William Bird, who lost their lives in the Great War. Lieutenant Rogers was killed in action near Ypres in November 1914, sixth months before his younger brother Frank perished on the first day of the Battle of the Somme. Meanwhile, 2nd Lieutenant Bird died in August 1916, during his second deployment at the front, leading men under terrific machine-gun fire in the later stages of the Battle of the Somme.

Before his death, Rogers wrote letters home describing life on the front line. “I was in a hot corner yesterday… ordered forward with my two guns to come into action against the edge of a wood full of Germans. No sooner had we got the guns firing than two German batteries opened on us from behind cover and shelled us… My horse, a lovely animal, was killed. My coat was blown to shreds… I was hit on the arm by a small splinter of shell, but it had only sufficient force to go through my coat and merely gave me a bad bruise. My gunners were splendid. They went on serving their guns through the most infernal fire imaginable.”

When UCS stopped to remember the fallen on Friday 11th November, many in the Foundation took time to think about the lives of those in the school community – like those of Lieutenant Charles Rogers and 2nd Lieutenant William Bird – that were so sorrowfully cut short by conflict.

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