'Have You Forgotten Yet?’ - Marlborough College remembers those that fell in The Great War

Written by Neil Goodwin on .

'Have you forgotten yet' - Some of the faces of Old Marlburians fallen in The Great War, exhibited at The Mount House Gallery'Have you forgotten yet' - Some of the faces of Old Marlburians fallen in The Great War, exhibited at The Mount House GalleryThe First World War took a great toll on Marlborough College, as it did on just about every community and organisation around the country and from far beyond as well.

To honour the 749 Old Marlburians that fell in The Great War the Mount House Gallery is holding an exhibition showing the faces and short biographies of all from the College who were killed in the conflict.

There will be a striking window display visible from the road at all times, and the faces of all 749 will be projected from inside the gallery during opening hours, but many will be seen from the outside with each panel showing a different face.

The exhibition title - 'Have You Forgotten Yet?’ - is taken from a line by Siegfreid Sassoon, one of the War Poets who was also an Old Marlburian.

The exhibition runs between Saturday 5 November and Friday 18, opening times are 2pm - 5pm Wednesday to Friday, Saturday 10am to 1pm, and Sunday 2pm to 5pm.

On Remembrance Day (Sunday 13 November) the gallery will be open between 10am and noon.

Marlborough College Archivist, Claire Russell, explains further the impact of WWI on Marlborough College and how the Memorial Hall emerged during the decade after the war had ended as a symbol or remembrance to honour those from the College who fell:

In 1925 the Memorial Hall was opened with pomp and ceremony to honour the 749 OM casualties of World War 1 by providing a hall for lecturers from the outside world to enrich and widen the experience of pupils and to provide a space for music and drama.  There had been many debates about the nature of the memorial but in the end, with the support of Master Cyril Norwood (who was enthusiastic about the idea of the League of Nations as a way forward towards international co-operation after the slaughter in the trenches, on land, at sea and in the air) it was decided to build the hall close to the magnificent Victorian Chapel.  The original inscriptions were spare: a democratic alphabetical list without any reference to rank, and the single word REMEMBER, picked out in red, and inscribed over the inner doors into the auditorium.

This list at the back of the Hall was fronted by a cork floor so that the audiences could soundlessly walk in front of the list to their places and the positioning allowed the dead to “spectate” events alongside their living school descendants.  The way to the Western setting sun was poetically left open from the West door of Chapel and the area around the hall landscaped.

There is plenty of evidence that attempts were made to ensure a definitive list, but these failed for many reasons – for example it was often difficult to establish a soldier’s death and eye-witness accounts were often fruitlessly sought, or it was decided to include men who died after 1919 as a result of injuries sustained in the course of the war. Some special pleading caused the inclusion of men only distantly connected with the war.

One of the aims of the contemporary College commemoration programme is to “right wrongs” and to establish a more inclusive list, but it will never be possible to be absolutely sure that all OM serving men’s deaths related to the war are recorded.  It is only possible to say that Public School deaths were approximately twice the national rate and that those in positions of leadership in the school and in sport had an even higher likelihood of casualty.  Young officers led their men over the top and became pilots in the experimental and dangerous planes which played an increasing part in the war.

This exhibition puts the photographs these men had taken before they left for the front and shows the variety of age –groups, regiments, regular troops and volunteers or conscripts who often went straight from school to training and the Fronts. The photographs and citations form the Rolls of Honour, housed in the MemHall, and now available digitally via the College website thanks to the OM Club and the generosity of individual donors.

Clare Russell, 30th September, 2016