I was honoured today to lead one of Mill Hill’s most moving ceremonies, the annual Service of Remembrance. Commemorating the hundredth anniversary of the end of the First World War, the pupils planted one hundred poppies, designed and produced by Fourth Form, Remove and Lower Sixth pupils (led by Lucinda Randell and supported by Jade Stoller), in the Chapel garden. As always, we marked Armistice Day with a two minute silence and a wreath-laying ceremony, before the pupils remembered the fallen as they walked shoulder to shoulder through the Gate of Honour. Surrounded by the images of those Millhillians who gave their lives in the First World War, the Chapel provided the perfect backdrop to remember the young men whose lives had been cut short all too soon. As I read the names of the fallen, all one hundred and ninety three of them, their images were projected, one-by-one, on a screen; a most moving tribute to their sacrifice. It felt very much as if they were present with us to mark this important day. We were privileged that two Old Millhillians, Sam Chadwick (Priestley) and Zany Denyer (McClure), came back to perform Elgar’s violin sonata; a fitting tribute given that Elgar composed the work during 1918.
To further mark this important occasion, I asked our Senior Cadet, Hannah Beckett, to write her thoughts about what today’s service meant to her:
“Just as the guns fell silent on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, so we, like those in each year before us at this allotted time, will walk through the gate of honour side by side in memory of those who have fallen, in solidarity, in strength. United.
Western Europe, at least, has been at peace for over half a century, but conflicts continue around the world. It can all too easily become simply a test of memory to recite the dates of the World Wars. It can be all too easy to forget the impact they had on the hundreds of thousands of lives. And yes, with continuing conflicts in the World today, this impact on individual lives and families remains all too apparent around us. There is loss and heartbreak, but the unconquerable character of the servicemen and women I saw participating in the recent Invictus Games reminded me of the strength of the human spirit
With this year being the centenary of one of the most profound wars in modern history, it provides us not only the opportunity to reflect on the sacrifice they made, as we do each year, but also a sense of occasion to mark with reverence as to why their sacrifice still resounds with significance for today. 193 old boys left for the front, never to come back home to their families and loved ones. That is just for World War One. It is important to remember those from World War Two and other conflicts. As is the tradition, the names of those who fell will be read out. Each year, we alternate between those either killed in World War One, or those in World War Two and the Falklands conflict. In this centenary year of the end of the First World War, the 193 names of those lost will be read aloud for all the Sixth Form and guests to hear. I recall from my own experience from last year, the overwhelming sense of incomprehension at the number of names read out. It felt endless; name after name. There was a tangible stillness in the Chapel as the list was read out and people tried to process the extent of the sacrifice our School alone made. We must not, and cannot, let their sacrifice go unheard. On this centenary year more than ever, it is important to once again acknowledge and mark their sacrifice. In so doing, we embed them into the foundations of what Mill Hill stands for. A commitment to freedom, justice, fairness and the desire to make our community and our world a better place.
We will remember them.”