The First World War demanded one of the most sustained and extraordinary efforts ever made by the British people. It was made possible by a multitude of individuals and by the communities of which they were a part. This study is a celebration one of those communities.
The archives of the Wakefield Grammar School Foundation are a rich source of information for those interested in the First World War and in the individuals who experienced it. This study uses much of this material, including photographs, documents, minutes of meetings and school magazines in an attempt to bring the period to life. The schools' magazines, `The Savilian' and `The Wakefield High School Review', are especially important and core chapters covering the years 1914-18 end with material from both. Here can be found eyewitness reports on such events as the arrival of the Royal Flying Corps in France in 1914 and the bombardment of Scarborough alongside accounts of school life in extraordinary times.
Appendices offer data about many of the Old Boys and Girls who served, including contemporary obituaries and photographs for almost all of those killed. No final figures can be established, but over 500 Old Boys saw military service and more than 80 were killed. In a sense, everyone at home served, but the study includes an account of over 200 Old Girls who took on new responsibilities on the Home Front or abroad. As this suggests, the study's principal focus is on all those involved in the war at Home and at the Fronts, and in particular on what they felt about it at the time. The echo of footsteps and voices in school corridors are accordingly as much part of the story as are moments of valour or desperation on the Western Front. The history of the schools just before and after the Great War and some account of their place in the local community are dealt with to provide context. For the same reason, attention is given to the key events of the period and to the ways in which they have been interpreted.
Throughout, the book is richly illustrated with a wealth of rare and previously unpublished images.
Elaine Merckx MA is the director of the Learning Resource Centre and archivist at Queen Elizabeth Grammar School, Wakefield. Neal Rigby MA taught History at Queen Elizabeth Grammar School, Wakefield from 1971 to 2009 (first as an assistant master and subsequently as head of department).