Bristol Grammar School

War Memorial

Much thought was put into the design, positioning, and manufacture of the War Memorial in the Great Hall. Below is reproduced the account of the unveiling of the War Memorial in October 1922.

Bristol Grammar School Chronicle

December 1922 Page 91

The Old Bristolians’ Society

Unveiling of the War Memorial

On October 5th a large assembly of Old Bristolians, School Cadets, masters, and relatives and friends of the fallen witnessed the unveiling and dedication of the War Memorial. Mr H. E. Chattock, chairman of the Governors, presided. The report following is taken from the Western Daily Press.

 

The memorial is worthy of the school and the cause for which it has been provided. It takes the form of a screen across the transept of the Great Hall, forming a background to the platform dias. Its design has been carried out by an old boy of the school, entirely as a labour of love, and is a most attractive example of modern Gothic art. Like the Great Hall itself, its style embodies the perpendicular features that were in vogue at the date of the school’s foundation. In type the screen follows the tradition of the arcaded and vaulted rood screens that are characteristic of the West of England. It has thus a double appropriateness, not only as most suitable to the practical purpose of the memorial, but also as reminiscent of what was perhaps the most prominent and important ornament in pre-Reformation parish churches – the portrayal of the Great Sacrifice, by means of the Crucifix with attendant figures. The screen is designed in six bays; the two end bays are occupied by doorways to the East Transept. Over the two doorways are the mottoes: “Ducle et Decorum Pro Patria Mori,” and “Ex Spinas Uvas Celestes.”

The panelling of the four bays between the doors contains the memorial tablets in bronze, with a dignified cast lettering, to which very careful attention had been given. The tablets and side tablet are the work of Messrs. Humphreys and Oakes, of Bristol. The screen has been admirably executed on oak without artificial colour of any kind, by Messrs. R. F. Ridd and Sons, of Bristol, and the carving of the upper portion, particularly in the free rendering of the vine ‘motif’ on the frieze, offers a really good example of modern craftsmanship. The dais is furnished with a table and chair of Jacobean date, the colour of which harmonises with that of the bronze tablets, and as these are toned by time, the face only of the letters will be kept bright.

 

At the side of the memorial screen is a bronze tablet inserted in the panelling of the hall, with the following inscription:-

                  This screen was erected by the Old Boys Society and by the parents and friends of those who gave their lives for King and country in the Great War.

                  Their name liveth for evermore.

Over 700 old scholars of this school joined the Colours, and among the distinctions gained were:-

                  Victoria Cross, 2.

                  Companion of the Bath, 3.

                  Distinguished Service Order, 5.

                  Military Cross, 29.

                  Distinguished Conduct Medal, 4.

                  Croix de Guerre, 8.

Lêgion d’Honneur, Croix d’Officier, 1.

 

It is worthy of note that the design and execution of the memorial, in every detail, is Bristol work.

 

When the memorial had been dedicated by the Bishop the inspiring notes of “The Last Post” rang out, and the organ led the large assembly in singing “Let saints on earth in concert sing.”

 

Sir Hubert Llewellyn Smith immediately followed with his address. He said – The Memorial which has just been unveiled was one of many hundreds which had been set up throughout the country in the last three years. Those memorials had differed very widely in form and type, and also in the bond that united those whose names appeared upon the roll of honour. But there was no bond that was closer and stronger than the bond of fellowship in the same school. There was no need for him to say anything about the form which their memorial had taken. They saw it before their eyes, and they could judge of the beauty of its design and workmanship, the fitness of its setting, and the grace and dignity which it added to the great hall which, for many of them, was so full of imperishable memories. He was not going to speak to them of the form of the memorial, but rather of the inner meaning of it. What exactly did it stand for? What was its object and aim? Primarily it was a reminder of the death of those 120 men and lads who gave their lives for their country. But it was not for the dead they mourned; he was thinking rather of the public loss, the loss to their city, their country, and to the world. If the screen was a reminder of death, it was far more a reminder of that great response to duty which led those lads to give themselves to their country, and in the end to make the supreme sacrifice. When they thought of it from that point of view their sadness was mingled with the pride and with joy. Looked at from that opint of view the screen presented to them not only the sacrifice of the 120 men and lads whose names were inscribed thereon, but also of the many hundreds who gave themselves just as cheerfully and willingly; who faced the dangers and privations of the war, many of whom lost health and limbs, but who were not called upon to make the last sacrifice of all. They were proud to be fellow countrymen and fellow citizens and schoolfellows of such men and lads.

 

The memorial screen would be to them and to future generations a reminder, a warning, and an inspiration. It would be a reminder to future generations of British boys of the way in which their predecessors did their duty; it would be a warning to them not to let their standard of devotion fall below theirs; it would be an inspiration and an encouragement to the timid and faint-hearted to play their part well and manfully in whatever emergency their country might hereafter be called upon to meet. But if they wished to build a permanent and worthy monument to their dead comrades they had to do much more than build a memorial screen in that hall. They had to carry on and complete the work of those who had fallen. They had to take a hand in the building of the new world to realise which they, who had gone, had given their lives. That was a far harder task then sending a subscription to a war memorial committee. It was now four years all but one month since the last shot was fired in the great war, and still the state of the world was such as to give rise to the very greatest appalling loss of live and material wealth, but rather was he thinking of the national and international jealousies and suspicions and hatreds which were still burning or smouldering, whilst at the same time there had been a decline in the standard both of private and public virtue. That came at a time when it was of the utmost importance that the standard should be raided instead of lowered. They hoped, they believed it would give way to a better state of things. It would be strange, indeed, if that period of common effort, of common sacrifice, and common sorrow which had passes through did not produce some effect in deepening and ennobling the national character. They hoped and believed it might yet be so, and that the present phase, remarkable as it was, for the increased intensity of the pursuit of private pleasure and indulgence and decline in the sense of duty and responsibility, would be but a temporary phase. So they hoped also that the present state of unrest and suspicion and hatred among the nations would give way to a higher, nobler conception of patriotism and loyalty, not only to each individual country, but to the great commonwealth of nations. They all hoped and believed that the same emergency which their fallen comrades had to face would not recur in their time, but in one form or another the call of duty was always there. The perils, the dangers, of the country at the present time were not so sensational and dramatic as they were in 1914, but they were grave enough to need all their energy and devotion, and it would be only by acting in the same spirit that those old Bristolians whose names and memorial they were honouring that day were animated by that they could build for them a lasting memorial, of which that beautiful screen was only the outward sign.

 

Col. T. H. Openshaw, president of the Old Boys’ Society, moved a vote of thanks to Sir Hubert Llewellyn Smith and the Bishop.

 

Dr. Cyril Norwood, in seconding, stated that 90 at least of those who fell were at the school with him, and many of them were his friends. Some would have gained distinction, and one, perhaps, would have won a national reputation.

 

The Head Master, in adding the thanks of the present school to the Bishop and Sir Hubert, said they would like to feel that the names recorded on those tablets might be a perpetual stimulus to all that was best in school life, and pass into the life blood of school tradition. It had not been his privilege to know personally those to whom Dr. Norwood had paid his striking tribute; but he had known others like them, and the one thought that occurred to any schoolmaster was the uniqueness and apartness of those who had so freely given their lives. We lived in troubled and uncertain times; but their glory and their niche were something final and secure. For most of us life became a gradual compromise with material conditions and aims, but they had transcended human weakness in obedience to a hold instinct, so that they taught the lesson that life is not measurable by time. Looking at what they were and what they attained, we could not say their lives had been in any sense cut off. Their lives, rather, had been gloriously completed and consummated. The School would be proud of the beautiful and dignified memorial, the work of an old boy, and was grateful to the Old Boys’ Society for its efforts in giving to the memorial a permanent shape. The school would guard it with care and reverence.

 

The Bishop, in closing the proceedings, said that no one could have been present that afternoon without feeling the atmosphere and being better for it.