The Glenalmond Pals once again made their annual pilgrimage to the battlefields of France and Flanders over half term.
They were blessed with glorious weather but this did not take away the overwhelming scale of suffering and loss that was encountered. Alongside the traditional visits to the Sanctuary Wood (the only surviving trench system in Flanders), Theipval, Newfoundland Park and the Menin Gate, they also managed to commemorate a number of personal stories. Miles K was able to play Highland Cathedral by his Great Uncle Gilbert’s name on the Tyne Cot memorial to the missing and Miss Kirk was able to leave a cross for her relative at the Arras Memorial. At a school level they once again visited the grave of Francis Faithfull OG, the youngest to die on the Western Front, and listening to piper Jock S play ‘Mist Covered Mountains’ in tribute as they stood in darkness with the only light shining upon the grave stone was particularly moving. They also commemorated W.S.Petersen OG who was killed in 1914 almost 100 years to the day that they visited his resting place. Killed right at the start of the war before it became clear that battlefield cemeteries would be required, he is buried in the church yard at Zillebeke and a short service was held with readings, piping and the laying of a wreath.
With 157 OGs killed in the conflict, it would be impossible to visit them all. Faces were put to names at Thiepval as Mrs Mundill and Mrs Dove (archivists) had produced short pamphlets with a photo and brief information for the ten OGs commemorated here. However, the colossal sacrifice of all of those OGs is now commemorated in St George’s Memorial Chapel in Ypres itself where a brass plaque has been installed to ‘Remember the 157 Sons of Glenalmond killed in the Great War’. We hope that this will be a fitting memorial and one which can be visited each year by subsequent Glenalmond Pals. We are very grateful to Fr Brian Llewellyn of St George’s for allowing us to hold a special service of remembrance here and we were lucky to have an organ scholar, piping exhibitioners, members of the chapel choir and a music scholar whose primary instrument is the trumpet to make this an extra special occasion.
The Glenalmond Pals Battalion are now safely home from Flanders but, as we look towards Remembrance Sunday, for the 39 pupils who were able to visit these extraordinary places, we will remember them.