I often feel as though I don’t achieve anything particularly meaningful, but today I feel I have.
I write this on 11 November and today was the culmination of months of research and planning. We held an event at Godalming College to mark the reinstatement of the memorial to those former pupils who gave their lives during the Second World War. I first began to think about the memorial probably over a year ago. As a pupil at the former Grammar School I used to pass the wall-mounted memorial every time I went up or down the main staircase, and at Remembrance time the cabinet was opened up to reveal the 16 photos of the men who were killed.
At some point, maybe 12 or 15 years ago, the memorial was taken down. It was deemed at that time not to be relevant in a modern Sixth Form College. I started to make enquiries of various people and fairly soon ascertained that it was being stored in the old sports pavilion at the other side of the field. I talked with the only other Old Godhelmian on the staff, a History teacher, and together we went to speak to the Principal to ask how she would feel about reinstating it somewhere, especially in view of the imminent 80th anniversary of the outbreak of the Second World War. She was very positive about the idea and particularly keen to engage the enthusiasm of current students. We felt it would be great if current students could conduct some research into the lives of those on the memorial.
And so, earlier this year, the memorial was retrieved from the sports pavilion and one of the Estates guys did a fantastic job of sanding down and re-waxing the wood. A position was decided on and the memorial put back up. As the History students were being enthused about the research, we invited to college a 100 year old lady who had been in the very first intake to the school back in 1930. She talked with the students about her experience of school and her memories of those on the memorial, including Thomas Tinsey who she reported had been dared to set fire to the boiler room! (He didn’t succeed).
Today we welcomed the mayors of Godalming and Waverley, the Chair of Trustees and some Old Godhelmians as the students presented their research and we marked Armistice Day. A student played the Last Post very ably to a large crowd of students and staff gathered outside and it was very moving to observe the two minutes’ silence in that way. Back inside a wreath was laid at the memorial and the exhortation read. This year, among this cohort of students, there has been real engagement with the lives of those who went before, finding local connections and making their history studies more real. The mayor asked that in due course a copy of their research could be passed to the local museum. I am very pleased with what we have achieved together, honouring those who achieved so much during that war. We will remember them.