Roll of Honour - Schooling and the Great War, Barry Blades

Roll of Honour - Schooling and the Great War, Barry Blades

This book looks at the impact of the Great War on the British school system, covering the entire spectrum of schools from the grandest Public Schools to the national network of elementary schools. The text covers a very wide range of topics, from the initial impact of the outbreak of war to the efforts to remember those who served.

Each section covers an impressively wide range of topic - the section looking at the direct impact on the day-to-day life of the schools covers topics such as refugee relief, the production of items for the soldiers and the direct take-over of school buildings by the military. There is an examination of the impact someone's school had on their initial experience of the military, with the army deliberately choosing to recruit new officers from amongst the ranks of former public schoolboys. The section on teachers covers those who stayed at school, those who signed up and their military careers, conscientious objectors, the problems caused for schools by the loss of teachers and the role of women as supply teachers.

The final section, looking at the fallen, helps restore the balance to the debate over the role of the Public Schools. There has been a tendency to downplay the sacrifices of former public schoolboys (often in a legitimate attempt to emphasis the sacrifices of other groups), but as Blades makes clear former pupils of the Public Schools did indeed serve and die in large numbers, with many losing more alumni than their entire pupil body, and 35,000 former public schoolboys killed during the war. While this only represents 5% of the total British deaths, it is still a disproportionally high figure. This doesn't in any way reduce the significance of the sacrifices of the rest of society, but does need to be acknowledged. Well over 2,000 teachers were also lost, doing long-term damage to their profession.

The author examines the way different levels of the education system reacted to and were affected by the war, from the initial period of voluntary recruitment and the way the former school pupils were integrated into the army (with Public Schoolboys much more likely to gain a commission, many having served with Officer Training Corps while at school). The class distinctions carried on after death, with memorials at the greater Public Schools ranging from scholarships to entire chapels. 

This is a fascinating examination of the impact of the Great War on the British educational system, and the impact of an individual's educational background on their military career.

Part I: Call-to-Arms!
1 - Ante-bellum
2 - Roll of Honour

Part II: Schools at War
3 - On Campaign
4 - Lessons in War
5 - On the Front Line
6 - Alma Mater

Part III: Teachers at War
7 - Patriots
8 - Temporary Gentleman

Part IV: Aftermath
9 - Peace
10 - The Fallen
11 - The Forgotten

Author: Barry Blades
Edition: Hardcover
Pages: 288
Publisher: Pen & Sword
Year: 2015

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