St Edward’s and the Great War

A newly-published e-book, written by the school Archivist, Chris Nathan, provides a fascinating visual impression of what the School looked like during the Great War. The manner in which St Edward’s came to terms with the impact of the conflict and the way in which it wholeheartedly supported the nation’s call are also brought vividly to life. The main characters are much in evidence as are those who gave their lives. We learn more about the role of those who remained in Oxford who, under Warden Ferguson’s leadership, maintained the School’s continuity, its curriculum and, of course, the life of its pupils.

War breaking out, as it did, in the summer holidays of 1914 meant that the School was confronted with a number of immediate challenges. Half the Common Room departed ‘en masse’, as did most of the non-teaching resident staff and most of the senior boys, including the majority of the Prefects (who at the time were largely responsible for school discipline). A major refurbishment programme, launched in anticipation of the biggest intake of new boys in the School’s history, was now delayed by workers departing for the front.

The next four years were momentous — challenging, tragic, often uplifting, devastating and exciting in equal measure. The constant drip-feed of losses, both of alumni and staff — many of a very young age — hit the School hard. Teachers and their former pupils were now fighting and dying alongside each other. Nothing was ever the same again.

The School has an excellent reservoir of photographs, letters and papers of the time in the Archive, supplemented by no less than thirty-two issues of the wartime Chronicle, edited by the redoubtable Wilfrid Cowell. A selection of these artifacts, documents and photographs have been used in this publication, many never seen publicly before, which gives a powerful and absorbing impression of those difficult times over hundred years ago.

Read the e-book here.

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