King Edward’s School and the Great War

Throughout the Great War hundreds of King Edward’s School’s old boys and masters fought and died in the many campaigns on land, sea and in the air. We are commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Great War and the contributions made by these Old Edwardians through a programme of events outlined below.

Exhibition: King Edward’s School and the Great War

In November 2014, an exhibition opened in the School Chapel to mark the centenary of the Great War and to commemorate the service and sacrifice of over 1,400 Old Edwardians who served in the conflict.

The first phase of the exhibition explored the School on the eve of the war, the involvement of Old Edwardians in raising the Birmingham City (Pals) Battalions, and a short film revealed the impact of the conflict on Tolkien and his school friends.

The second phase of the exhibition opened in May 2016 and commemorated the centenary of the Battle of the Somme, in which 52 Old Edwardians lost their lives. This exhibition explored the Somme campaign in greater detail and told the individual stories of Old Edwardians who fought and died in the campaign.

The third and final phase of the exhibition opened on 6 November 2018 and centred on the School’s Roll of Honour, whilst also seeking to remember forgotten casualties of the First World War.


Great War films
Four films have been produced to accompany the exhibitions in the Chapel. The experiences of three Old Edwardians are told in individual documentary films about JRR Tolkien, Robert Cary Gilson, and John Osborn Walford, and an additional film looks into the history of the Somme.

Roll of Honour
A virtual Roll of Honour provides visitors to the exhibition with the opportunity to browse through photographs and biographies for each Old Edwardian listed on the bronze memorial plaques in the Chapel. The Roll of Honour has now also been transferred to the School website and can be viewed by clicking here.

Tolkien Lectures
To mark different points of the conflict, three distinguished academics have given talks as part of this annual lecture series.

Professor Gary Sheffield, one of Britain’s foremost military historians, gave a lecture titled ‘British Army Officers in the First World War: Recruitment, Training and Performance’ on Tuesday, 7 October 2014.

Professor Sir Hew Strachan, the world’s most eminent historian of the First World War, talked about the Battle of the Somme on Wednesday, 4 May 2016.

Professor Sir Simon Wessely, Regius Professor of Psychiatry at King’s College London, talked about 100 years of shell shock on Tuesday, 6 November 2018.

Battlefields Trip
During the October 2014 half term, 40 pupils travelled to the battlefields of Belgium and Northern France to mark the contributions made by all in the war, but especially those of Old Edwardians and the Birmingham Pals.

The trip was based around Ypres and the Somme and boys visited the key battlegrounds, trenches, museums and monuments. They attended a service at St George’s Memorial Church in Ypres, during which a plaque was dedicated to Old Edwardians who lost their lives in the First World War.

Along with the Chief Master, a contingent from the School’s Combined Cadet Force represented King Edward’s School at the Menin Gate ceremony where a wreath was laid. The group later moved onto the Somme battlefield and visited the graves of Old Edwardians killed in the area, and a short ceremony of remembrance followed at the Thiepval Memorial. Finally, the group attended the French National Memorial at Notre Dame de Lorette.

For information on other events and attractions related to Birmingham’s heritage, visit Birmingham Heritage Forum’s website.

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