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Quest to commemorate OBs who died in WW1 comes to an end

OB John SimonsAn exhaustive seven year quest to find images of those Bloxhamists who perished in the Great War has ended with the last one being discovered.

Shortly after the war, three boards containing photographs of the 76 Bloxhamists known to have died were placed in chapel, but by the 1970s they had been taken down, and one of the boards was destroyed in 1985 in a fire.

In 2010 three newly commissioned boards were placed in the Egerton Library containing the photographs, many of them replacements for the ones lost in the fire, but six were still missing.

Since then, the School Archivist, Simon Batten, and Old Bloxhamist Matthew Dixon have been engaged on a quest to find these six, using a painstaking combination of archival research and old-fashioned detective work, including sorting through countless pages of old newspapers and making contact with relatives of the young men, and they have succeeded in finding photographs of every one.

While this search was proceeding, they also managed between them to identify four more names that should be on the school’s memorial, and images had to be found for these four men as well. This has been the trickiest and most protracted part of the process, with the last two only being discovered in the last few weeks. In both cases they are images from group photographs of the men as young boys; Simon found Hilary Pullen Burry sitting on the ground in a group picture of Bloxhamchapel servers from 1911, with his name wrongly labelled on a photograph which had fallen out of an album in the school archives, while Matthew tracked down a distant relative of John Simons who had a digital copy of an original photograph, probably now lost, showing him, aged 13, seated at the front of a family group in 1909.

OB Hilary Pullen Burry

The school only found out about John’s existence in April, but his name has now been added to the war memorial in chapel and his image, albeit fuzzy and low resolution, will take its place with the other 79 on permanent display in the Egerton Library.

With this task finally accomplished, Simon and Matthew can now focus all their attention on their main task, the book they are writing together about the Bloxhamists who fought and died in the war, which will now include images of all 80 boys.