RHS marks the centenary of the Armistice at the end of the First World War
Over 3,000 people, including pupils, staff, parents, alumni and members of the local community gathered at the Royal Hospital School (RHS) this weekend to mark the centenary of the Armistice at the end of the First World War.
The activities started on Friday 9 November with a cross-curricular day for pupils in Years 7, 8 and 9 exploring the importance of the occasion and the enormity of the sacrifice. In Science, pupils explored the pioneers of battlefield medicine and watched a behind-the-scenes preview of Sir Peter Jackson's They Shall Not Grow Old looking into the techniques used to remaster black and white footage. A group of thirty Key Stage 3 pupils performed a short piece of drama depicting the 1914 Christmas Truce football match and there were readings of extracts from letters by soldiers in the language in which they were written as well as an exploration of war poetry.
On Saturday visitors to Open Morning and the Reunion Weekend, were able to view a wonderful display carpeting the approach to the Art and Design Centre. Over 200 pupils and staff created ceramic and acrylic poppies in remembrance of the fallen taking inspiration from the 2014 'Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red' installation at the Tower of London.
Inside the Art and Design Centre, visitors were the first to see a creative masterpiece: a model Sopwith Camel with 20ft wingspan created by Year 9 pupils under the guidance of talented art teacher, Debbie Hitchen. The reproduction of the First World War single-seat biplane fighter aircraft is laden with the faces of the young pilots lost and digital drawings which prompt augmented wartime footage and pen drawings of meticulously engineered gas masks floating on spilled blood. The project combined traditional skills of model making on a huge scale with the creative benefits of digital technology. Mrs Hitchen said, "This immersive project encouraged the pupils to learn and think about the Great War as they worked with pride to selflessly give their artwork in memorandum".
Sunday was the pinnacle of the commemorations with a whole-school Divisions, the Act of Remembrance, two chapel services culminating in the lighting of the Beacon of Light. The inspecting officer was Commodore Bob Anstey who is Assistant Chief of Staff (Submarines) and Deputy Flag Officer Scotland and Northern Ireland. He has a long-standing connection to RHS having had three children at the school. Two Remembrance Services accommodated the large numbers and Honorary Queen's Chaplain Rev Tim Wilkinson, who has specific pastoral responsibility for a unit dedicated to the complex needs of seriously injured and ill Royal Marines and Naval personnel, led both.
During the evening, the school's iconic clock tower was lit in red and the faces of former pupils who lost their lives during the Great War were projected to look out from the classroom windows whilst the school played its part in a national tribute entitled Battle's Over. Proceedings began with the bagpipes by Head Boy, Adam Warren and a poignant reading by Year 12 pupil Thea Chavasse who is a relative of Captain Noel Chavasse one of only three individuals to be awarded the Victoria Cross twice. Bugler, Roland Kerr played the Last Post and the Chairman of Governors, Henry Strutt, completed the commemorations with the lighting of a beacon signifying the light that emerged from the darkness of four years of war. Finally, the Chapel bell sounded in unison with thousands across the country to celebrate peace.
Headmaster, Simon Lockyer said, "This weekend saw RHS as its very best. The whole community – past and present – came together to mark 100 years since the end of the First World War. I felt enormous pride as we worked collaboratively and stood together to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice to bring us peace. The school's naval heritage provided added context as we reflected on these sacrifices made by many former members of the school community".