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Last week saw Bloxham students, staff and friends of the school come together to remember the fallen from both World Wars and many other conflicts around the world.

On Thursday, we held an event in the Chapel to launch ‘Remember Him at the Altar’, a book 22 years in the making, jointly authored by Old Bloxhamist Matt Dixon (Cr 89-94) and Bloxham’s history teacher, Simon Batten. As well as being an OB himself, Matt is the son of an OB, a military historian and battlefield guide who also hosts the popular Great War podcast, ‘Footsteps of the Fallen’. Simon also holds the role of school archivist, and his first book, ‘Futile Exercise?’ on the British Army before 1914, was awarded the Arthur Goodzeit Prize by the New York Military Affairs Symposium.

‘Remember Him at the Altar’ tells the stories of the 80 Old Bloxhamists who lost their lives in the Great War. At the launch event, Matt and Simon shared some of the experiences of those who served from the book. The evening was particularly moving, with four of the families whose forebears are discussed in the book in attendance at the event. A touching moment was hearing Helen Brooks read an excerpt from the book about her great uncle Basil Brooks, who was killed at the Battle of the Somme in July 1916.  Also present were Chris Jackson, whose great uncle Edward Boissier Board was killed at the Somme in September 1916, and Elaine Cottrell and Steph Lynch whose great uncle Hilary Pullen Burry was the first Bloxham pupil to die in the Great War, killed at the Battle of Neuve Chapelle in March 1915.

The choir sang in the interval, with members of staff joining the Harmonix for a moving performance of ‘The Dying Soldier.’ The second half of the evening saw the dedication of the Harry Ayres cross. Harry was employed as a servant at Bloxham School before the Great War and enlisted at only 17 years old in August 1914. He was wounded at Ypres and died in Norfolk War Hospital on his 18th birthday in July 1915. Harry is buried in Bloxham churchyard. The wooden cross which had marked his grave was becoming increasingly weathered and damaged, and so has found a new home at the rear of the school Chapel. Harry’s great-niece, Joy Auld, read a prayer of dedication of the grave cross, which was followed by a two-minute silence and the Last Post, played by music teacher James Ramm.

Old Bloxhamists and members of the local community, as well as friends and family of those who were killed in the Great War, had the chance to mingle over drinks and canapés in the small dining room where Matt and Simon concluded the evening by signing copies of their book.  A very memorable and meaningful evening was had by all.

This year also saw the return of our Garden of Remembrance, a small plot of grass opposite the Headmaster’s Lawn, with a cross planted for each Bloxhamist who died in the two World Wars, the Boer War and the Korean War. Their names were inscribed onto the crosses in a previous year by members of the Third Form studying the Great War with Simon Batten. Part of their lessons involved investigating what life was like for the OBs who were embroiled in the conflict. Some current Bloxhamists also chose to make a cross for a family member killed more recently in the line of duty.

On Armistice Day, the whole school gathered together in the Main Field for an Act of Remembrance led by our school Chaplain, Father Alex. The CCF laid a wreath and stood to attention. One  particularly special aspect of this year’s ceremony was the presence of a descendent of Edward Board, one of the OBs who died in the Great War and whose name can be found in the Garden of Remembrance.

On Remembrance Sunday, various members of the Bloxham School community joined the village service at the War Memorial. The School Captains laid a wreath and many from within the School came together with Bloxham residents to pay their respects to all those who have given their lives in the service of our country.