Retired Oundle School History teacher, Colin Pendrill, has published a new book entitled And We Were Young – Oundle School and the Great War, a landmark volume charting the impact of the First World War on Oundle School.
The book tells of some 1200 boys from Oundle School and Laxton Grammar School who joined up ‘to do their bit’ for their country. In particular, it focuses on the brief lives and tragic deaths of 263 boys and masters who died in the war, setting the battles in which they fought and died in their historical context.
Using extensive contemporary sources from the archives, the boys themselves tell of their lives at Oundle School and at war, on land, at sea and in the air. The book includes their letters home from School and from the Front, as well as over 300 pictures.
The average age of those killed was 23 years and the youngest was just 17. The death-rate was high with nearly one in four of the boys who joined up losing their lives, during and after the war. One in three of the boys in Dryden House’s OTC Platoon of 1912, pictured on the front cover, perished in the fighting.
The book also looks at the impact of the war on the boys back at Oundle. The Officers’ Training Corps was expanded and an Army Class formed for those in their last year at school. The boys kept pigs and grew crops, and the School grounds were ploughed up to maintain food supplies. Most significantly, boys worked long hours in term time and in the holidays in Oundle’s unique engineering workshops producing materials for the War Office.
Presiding over this extraordinary response to the challenges posed by the war was Oundle’s radical and energetic headmaster, Frederick Sanderson, whose educational reforms ensured that Oundle School and Laxton Grammar School played an important and unique role in Britain’s war effort.
As the War’s centenary approached in 2014, the History department discussed ways in which the war might best be commemorated. In 1920, the School had produced a Memorial Book with photos and brief biographies of Oundle’s fallen.
As Yarrow Fellow, Mr Pendrill was commissioned to produce an updated and expanded version of that book, adding the stories of the Laxton School boys who went to war and including a commentary on the impact of the war back in Oundle.
With a foreword by Professor Andrew Pettegree of St Andrews University, this is the first School history to be written by an Oundle schoolmaster since 1956.
All profits from sales will be donated to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, which maintains cemeteries and memorials across the globe where so many Oundelians lie buried.
And We Were Young is available from the Oundle Bookshop (£25).