Royal Grammar School

Newcastle

Remembering 11th November

Remembering 11th November

Every year the whole business of Remembrance makes me feel young again. That may sound strange, when I’m facing retirement! But it always pulls me back to the memory of my grandfather, to whom I probably refer too often in our Remembrance Ceremonies at the RGS. 

Grandpa was wounded at High Wood during the Battle of the Somme on 15th September 1916, thus a century ago this year. Lucky man, he was invalided out and sent home, finishing the war (as he said scornfully) a “parade-ground soldier”. 

My childhood memories of Grandpa are powerfully linked to Remembrance. Usually on 11th November (and/or Remembrance Sunday) he would catch a train up to London to meet his old comrades from the 20th London Regiment (the Royal West Kents). A regimental sergeant major (RSM) at heart, to the end of his days, he used to impress us children with his tremendous bellow, “By the centre, quick march!” I think he never missed a Remembrance Day, except perhaps in the November when he died, aged 80.

My father was born in 1920. Now aged 95, he is a stalwart of the British Legion in Wells, Somerset, and will be donning his WW2 medals (and his father’s medal ribbon, as is now customary) for ceremonies today and on Sunday when I shall be with him and wheeling him between them. 

No wonder I feel young, then! Many members of the British Legion, those who form the committees and do the work, are veterans of the 2nd World War: Dad didn’t fight, as he was busy becoming a doctor. 

I stand up in the Main Hall at our Remembrance Assemblies (we have to do two, because we can’t get the whole school in at once), with that impressive War Memorial behind me: when I look out at all those childish and adolescent faces, I cannot help being moved by the thought that our older students are the same age as so many of my Grandpa’s comrades who were killed at High Wood on or around the day when he received his “Blighty wound”.

It’s humbling. I think our young people “get it”. Certainly they treat Remembrance with dignity and respect, while our musicians add further richness to the ceremonies. With that expert on World War 1, Mr Tilbrook, leading from the front, weaving in stories of ONs who are commemorated on our find war memorial, it could hardly be done better.

My thanks to all who contribute.

Bernard Trafford
Headmaster