From the Deputy Head Master – Summer Hill

From the Deputy Head Master – Summer Hill

Remembrance Day

They went with songs to the battle, they were young, 
Straight of limb, true of eyes, steady and aglow,
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old: 
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun, and in the morning,
We will remember them.

This week we marked Remembrance Day with a service for the Trinity and Meriden Cadets and members of the Old Trinitarians’ Union and a moving ceremony on the Quad on Friday. The twin ceremonies acknowledge and serve as a reminder, for the young men and women of both schools, of the horror of war and the sacrifice of thousands of young men and young women, who have given their lives in the service of their country.

On 11 November 1918, the guns of the Western Front fell silent after four years of continuous warfare. With their armies retreating and close to collapse, German leaders signed an Armistice, bringing to an end the First World War. From the summer of 1918, the five divisions of the Australian Corps had been at the forefront of the allied advance to victory. Beginning with their stunning success at the battle of Hamel in July, they helped to turn the tide of the war at Amiens in August, followed by the capture of Mont St Quentin and Pèronne, and the breaching of German defences at the Hindenburg Line in September. By early October the Australians were withdrawn from battle. They had achieved a fighting reputation out of proportion to their numbers. But victory had come at a heavy cost. Australia suffered almost 48,000 casualties during 1918, including more than 12,000 dead. In the four years of the war, more than 330,000 Australians had served overseas, and more than 60,000 of them had died. The social effects of these losses cast a long shadow over the post-war decades. Each year on this day we observe one minute’s silence and turn a page in the Book of Remembrance, in memory of those who died or suffered in all wars and armed conflicts.

One of those we remember is James Robert Whittaker who came to Trinty as a Boarder in 1926, played 2nd XV Rugby and 2nd XI Cricket, and won an academic Prize for French. When he enlisted in 1939, he had been working as a teacher in Casino, near Lismore. He was stationed on Ambon in what was then known as the Dutch East Indies. On January 30 1942 the Japanese Imperial Forces invaded and the Australians and Dutch Indonesian troops were outnumbered and quickly overwhelmed. Along with many of his comrades, James Whittaker was executed and buried in a mass grave. After the war it was revealed that Whittaker had had the opportunity to escape Ambon by boat, but, in an extraordinary act of self-sacrifice, he had given up his place to a mate who was married and had children. James Edward Whittaker’s story is one of a series in Robert Scott’s, Trinity Remembers, and was movingly dramatized by the young men of the Drama Co-curricular Group at Thursday’s Quad Assembly. Lest we forget.

Finally, it has almost become my custom to share the pithy and sometimes amusing occasional remarks delivered on the Quad by the School Officers each Thursday so that you have a conversation starter with your sons. This week, Thomas Power 12Mu spoke in a surprisingly sophisticated way about the importance of stepping out of his comfort zone in order to grow. His thesis was that the discomfort zone is where it all happens, the hot spot for improvement, and that this is where young people learn to build resilience and where their character is both formed and revealed. In a term where we are focussing on wellbeing, help seeking, and building resilience, his encouragement was serendipitous.

Bradley Barr | Deputy Head Master – Summer Hill

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