Public Schools and the Great War: The Generation Lost
Seldon, Anthony & David Walsh (fwd Sir Michael Howard)
The book examines the impact which the Great War had on the Public Schools and the sacrificial contribution made to the victory which came in 1918. The war consumed about a fifth of all the public schoolboys who fought, while the survivors were scarred by the loss of so many friends. Based largely on source material from school archives and histories, it moves from the naive excitement of the summer of 1914 to the many moving stories that emerge from the carnage of the Western Front. It looks at school life in those war years, boys with their futures on hold and the prospect of death always very close, Headmasters and staff devastated by the loss of so many young lives. About one distinguished Headmaster, who died in January 1919, it was said that ‘the War killed him as straightly and surely as if he had fallen at the front’. The book ranges across many topics including the selflessness and pride of Public Schools across the British Empire and in Ireland; the role of the Officers Training Corps in militarising a generation; the letters written from the Front to teachers; the pride taken by schools in the Victoria Crosses etc won by Old Boys; the statistical terms in which the Public Schools’ contribution can be measured; the ways in which schools commemorated the war, and still do so today. Finally the legacy of the war is examined, both the effect on the schools themselves but also the contribution made by writers and artists to the disillusionment of the inter-war years.
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