Of all the events in the school calendar, it is Remembrance Day that hits me hardest as a Housemaster.
It is a challenging yet rewarding topic to discuss with our international pupils. Firstly, there is the inevitable search for clarification on what Remembrance Day is all about; not all countries acknowledge it in the same way we do in the UK. It is incredibly poignant to me that, were we living 80 years ago, many of the boys in the House would be encouraged to see each other as the enemy. I am incredibly thankful that we live in happier times, and it is encouraging to see that acknowledgment in the pupils' sentiments as well.
The message we carry in the Houses is that Remembrance is not a celebration of victory, but a chance to reflect on the loss of life and cost of conflicts around the world, regardless of nationality, race, or belief, and most importantly, a reminder that it should not happen again. It was pleasing to hear one boarder last year, whose country does not acknowledge Remembrance, come away from the Sunday parade with the opinion that all countries should acknowledge, in some form, this important message.
Being a Housemaster is incredibly rewarding. You get to know pupils in a way that you struggle to in a classroom; you see them in their ‘home’. And likewise, they see you in yours. It is a unique experience within education and one that I am very thankful to have experienced.
During those moments of Remembrance, I cannot help but think about those who held my position at Oswestry School in the War Years. I cannot begin to imagine the devastation it must have had on those Housemasters. To see boys grow into young men over their years in the House; attending roll calls and completing evening prep, no differently perhaps to how we do things now. But then to see those young men march off to war; young men who had been sat in House roll calls, a short time ago, replying “Here sir!” to the roll call. Now off to fight in foreign fields, many never to return. No more “Here, sir!”.
It is a truly heartbreaking notion. I cannot imagine a worse time to have been a Housemaster; it puts the challenges of Covid into sharp perspective. I have the utmost respect for the men and boys who lived through those times. I hope that, were they able to see us today, they would find solace and hope in seeing pupils from all over the world, joining in acts of Remembrance.