A new book by retired Oundle history teacher Colin Pendrill, entitled AND WE WERE YOUNG – OUNDLE SCHOOL AND THE GREAT WAR is a landmark volume charting the impact of the First World War on Oundle School.
Mr Pendrill, who taught at the school for 35 years, commented: “The book tells of some 1,200 boys from Oundle School and Laxton Grammar School who joined up ‘to do their bit’ for their country. In particular, it focuses on the brief lives and tragic deaths of 263 boys and masters who were swallowed up as a result of the conflict, setting the battles in which they fought and died in their historical context.”
Using extensive contemporary sources from the Oundle School archives, the boys themselves tell of their lives at Oundle School and at war, on land, at sea and in the air, and the book includes their letters home from school and from the Front.
In over 300 pictures, the book includes Oundle’s recruits, in peacetime and at war, as schoolboys and as junior officers.
The average age of those killed was 23 years and the youngest was just 17. The death-rate was high with nearly one in four of the boys who joined up losing their lives, during and after the war. One in three of the boys in Dryden House’s OTC Platoon of 1912, pictured on the front cover, perished in the fighting.
The book also looks at the impact of the war on the boys back at Oundle. The Officers’ Training Corps was expanded and an Army Class formed for those in their last year at school.
The boys kept pigs and grew crops, as the school grounds were ploughed up to maintain food supplies, and groups of pupils journeyed to Lincolnshire in their holidays to help bring in the harvest.
Mr Pendrill added: “As 2014 approached, the history department discussed ways in which the war might best be commemorated.
“I decided that the present generation of Oundelians needed to understand the courage and sacrifice of their predecessors who went off to war 100 years before.
“In 1920, the school produced a Memorial Book with pictures and brief biographies of Oundle School’s fallen.
“The idea now was to produce an updated and expanded version of that book adding a number of new elements. Firstly, to add the stories of the Laxton School boys who went to war and secondly to include a commentary on the impact of the war back in Oundle.”