Ipswich School and the Great War

To mark the centenary of the end of the Great War in November 2018, Ipswich School launched an initiative to involve not only the whole school – from Prep to Sixth Form – but the local community as well. Seventy two pupils from Ipswich School died in the Great War and a total of 414 pupils served in the conflict, so the school felt it fitting to mark their sacrifice with a series of events.

The Remembrance Day Event – Sunday 11 November 2018

The centrepiece of the initiative was the creation of two special Remembrance Doves Memorial Artworks. The first was an art installation of almost 800 hand crafted ceramic doves flying across the front of the school next to a main road and through the school’s chapel to the Great War memorial on the wall. The second was another flock of 330 doves which was created at the nearby Prep School. Each dove bore the name of a member of the pupils’ or teachers’ families who had fought or died in the war. This included individuals who fought on both sides of the conflict.

Over a thousand people came to view the Remembrance Doves on Remembrance Sunday, following Ipswich’s Remembrance Service in nearby Christchurch Park. The school opened up its chapel to members of the public so they could view the ceramic doves, hundreds of which were suspended from the chapel ceiling. The response from the public proved overwhelming with people queuing up the road to have a look at the Remembrance Doves. They also viewed an exhibition on the part the school played in the Great War and heard readings from teachers and pupils and listened to songs from the school’s Chapel Choir. Hundreds of people sat in the school chapel, which fell silent when a bell was rung 72 times for each former pupil who died in the conflict.

A wall of remembrance was created as members of the public were given postcards on which they could write the names of anyone in their family who had fought and perhaps died in the conflict. This was filled by the end of the morning. A special booklet marking the occasion and explaining the school’s role in the Great War was researched and written by past and present sixth form students of the school. This included much original research. Hundreds of these were given away free.

As a result of the overwhelming public interest in the installation, the chapel lights were left on in the evenings until Spring 2020 allowing more people to view the doves from the adjacent pavement.

Headmaster Nicholas Weaver said: “We were inspired by the Tower of London poppy display from 2014 to create something that would provide a focal point for the school’s WWI commemorations. The memorial artwork saw pupils and their families think about relatives and members of their communities who may have been involved in the conflict. The doves, which also symbolise peace, reminded us all of the part we have to play in learning from the Great War.”

The Remembrance Doves Art Installation

The doves were hand crafted by the school’s art department. This involved a massive effort involving over 30 team members working over several months. In total it took them over 400 hours to complete the task.

Each pupil – and in the case of the Prep School teachers too – was invited to write a name on a dove to pay tribute to someone from their family or local community who had fought or died in the conflict. The names included vast numbers who had fought in the British armed forces. However, they also extended to men who had fought in the German army, the Russian Army and with the Anzacs and Chinese porters who had supported the conflict in Africa, reflecting the very broad wider school community. The senior school doves were located at the front of the school, next to a main road, where members of the public could readily view them. The flock seemingly took off from a tree planted in 2014 to mark the centenary of the start of the Great War. The Prep school doves were located so that pupils and parents would pass them as they arrived and left school each day.

Read more about the making of the doves here.

The Opening Ceremony – Tuesday 6 November 2018

Both the Remembrance Dove installations were officially opened on Tuesday 6 November.

At the senior school a permanent memorial garden had been created just beneath the chapel window through which the flock of doves ‘flew’. This was officially opened and the Remembrance Doves blessed by the Rt Rev Martin Seeley, Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich in a short service. The school’s chaplain also officiated and fittingly, as she is also a member of the art department which created the doves, she helped Cllr Jane Riley, Mayor of Ipswich, to hang the final dove. Members of the armed forces, councillors, representatives from local history organisations and other invited guests were in attendance, alongside pupils from across the school.

There was an exhibition about the school’s involvement in the war to which was attended by the invited guests. Refreshments featured Anzac biscuits and trench cake baked specially by the school’s catering team.

Some comments received on social media afterwards included:
“Absolutely stunning and the combination of the installation and the choir singing was so moving.”
“This is stunning! What a beautiful memorial.”
“Looks amazing from the road! Beautiful.”
“Thank you to staff and pupils @ipswichschool for allowing the public to see this great act of Remembrance”

The Great War Lecture – Tuesday 13 November

On the Tuesday evening following Remembrance Sunday, Ipswich School also hosted a public lecture in memory of the seventy two former pupils from the school who tragically died in the conflict. An exhibition of items from the school’s archives relating to the war, including a ceremonial officer’s sword, batons and a cup presented to the school by Lord Kitchener were on display. Alongside this a large temporary exhibition was set up by local WW1 historians featuring personal items, uniforms, and artefacts, further embedding the event in the local community.

Five silhouette ‘tommies’ from the ‘There but not there’ project were sat in the audience in the school hall as members of the public, pupils, teachers and parents took their seats. Each of these represented someone from the 1913/14 school football team who died in the Great War and whose lives were later summarised by sixth form pupils.

Some original research was presented about the involvement of the whole school community in the war. The talk was accompanied by members of the school’s Combined Cadet Force taking the role of members of the football team as well as readings of personal letters and poetry from the period by various members of the school community.

Some of the comments received on social media afterwards included:
“Well done to all those involved. A very well put together presentation, lecture and display.”
“An informative and entertaining lecture. Well done to all.”

You can see some of the slides from the lecture here.