Sunday, November 11, 2018

Armistice Day - 100th Anniversary

Two very different  ways of commemorating the 100th Anniversary of Armistice Day were a privilege to attend.

The first was at St Johns Church Hyde Park  in the evening on Thursday November 8th. As it happened  I had ample exercise before that service, as in error, I walked from Paddington Tube Station to St James's Church near Kensington Palace Gardens only to be reminded that the service was being held at St John's church  so had to make  brisk walk back to the venue at St John's, which I reached just before the service began.

The students of 5 CoE schools, 3 private and 2 state acadamies combined to put on some  relevant readings from letters that had been sent from the WWI trenches, singing in choirs, music playing, both classical and historical songs from the wars mostly well known even today and a number of individual performances which were fully appreciated  by the large audience in attendance. 

One boy from one of the schools, had enlisted in WWI when he was only sixteen years of age. He was decorated for bravery but tragically met his death only 4 weeks before the end of the war.

The second commemoration was in the morning of  the 11th November at the  large war memorial at what was my old school, now known as the Beaumont Hotel. The names of 153 old boys of the School who had died in WWI and WWII, are engraved on the war memorial and Mass was said there to commemorate the sacrifices they had made:

The Mass was was very well attended especially as given the closure of the School in 1967, the youngest old boys are  nearly all about 69 or 70 years of age.

Most present were able to sing the almost idiosyncratic Latin version of the Our Father which I have rarely heard sung in this way away from Beaumont. Two boys trumpeted The Last Post and Mass concluded with a rousing verse from the old school song, Carmen Beaumontanum.

Courtesy Jesuit archives:

The youngest old Beaumont Boy to die in the First World War was fifteen-year-old Midshipman Geoffrey Harold who drowned in the North Sea in September 1914 after the Royal Navy cruiser HMS Hogue was torpedoed by a German submarine. Geoffrey (an old boy of 1911) had only been posted to the Hogue six weeks earlier after a fast-tracked cadetship. The Beaumont Review published a letter from the chaplain of HMS Hogue which detailed Geoffrey’s heroic last actions in tying together two boards for another midshipman who could not swim before following orders to jump into the sea.

The weather, surprisingly during  a week of intense rain and wind, was beautifully sunny for the whole of Mass. As in the commemoration  last week, a letter was read out, this time from a soldier to his wife 5 days before the Armistice was signed - again very moving.

After Mass,  meeting  friends and walking through the old place in the sunshine was also in its own way very moving as well as enjoyable. 

Beaumont almost glistened in the sun:

After  coffee and stronger drinks, we were invited to lunch at the former prep school of Beaumont -  St John's -  which is now thriving as a stand alone prep school.  

A splendid meal at the prep school facilitated the renewing of old friendships and the making of some new ones.

A moving, thought provoking day.

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