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Bloxwich, Remembrance, Schools

School service honours war dead

Headteacher Jane Humphreys and Revd Phil Hoar lead the service.

Friday saw the continuation of an honourable tradition at one of Bloxwich’s most historic schools, Elmore Green Primary.

The service of Remembrance, attended both by school pupils and by members of the public (pictured above), echoed last year’s poignant return to the school of the Elmore Green School war memorial on Armistice Day.

The memorial commemorates the sacrifice made by former pupils of Elmore Green School in the Great War of 1914-18, listing sixty-seven ‘old boys’ of what was then Elmore Green Central School, later High School, who gave their young lives in “the war to end all wars”, some not passing away until 1919.  It had been moved from the school in 1958 when the secondary functions of Elmore Green High School were transferred to the new T.P. Riley Comprehensive, not far away in Lichfield Road.

Historians and authors Barry Crutchley (left) and Ken Wayman ponder the men on the memorial.

Historians and authors Barry Crutchley (left) and Ken Wayman ponder the men on the memorial.

The memorial quietly became part of the life of the new school until, in 2001, T.P. Riley was demolished and replaced by the present Walsall Academy, which opened in 2003.  It was around this time that the finely carved marble sculpture by Bloxwich-born Frederick T. Perry “disappeared” from the public eye.  In fact, it had gone into storage, but had been forgotten.

Over the following years, various people including Bloxwich local historians Edna Marshall, Barry Crutchley and ex-T.P. Riley history teacher Ken Wayman, had tried to find and raise the profile of the missing memorial and eventually, following convoluted enquiries via the Academy and within Walsall Council departments, in late 2010 it was tracked down to the premises of monumental masons A. Walker & Sons of Cannock, who had been storing it safely since the demolition of T.P. Riley years ago.

Following work done by Walsall Council officers Mike Gaffney and the late Elaine Box, funding was found from the Council to have the memorial returned to its original home in March of this year, when it was mounted on the wall of the school hall by the masons who had preserved it.

Youngsters read 'letters' composed by them in Great War style.

Youngsters read ‘letters’ composed by them in Great War style.

This year’s service, which referenced the 2011 event, was led by headteacher Jane Humphreys and Revd Phil Hoar of St Johns’ Methodist Church, including not only readings and prayers on war and peace linked to the original service of dedication when the memorial was first erected in the school after the Great War, but also Year 6 pupils reading out letters they had written in the style of a mother writing to her son ‘Tommy’ away at the war at harvest time, and his replies revealing the true horrors of that terrible conflict.

Pupils read the Elmore Green Roll of Honour.

Pupils read the Elmore Green Roll of Honour.

The youngsters also sang songs including ‘For all the Saints’ and ‘Keep the home fires burning’, followed by a poignant reading of all the names on the school memorial, now at its heart once more.  The piano was played by Mr Derek Willets, himself a World War II veteran of the landing craft which brought the British invasion forces to Italy and France.

In conclusion, The Last Post was played, followed by a minute’s silence in honour of the fallen, and the National Anthem was sung by both pupils, staff and members of the public.

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