Tomothy Halstead
ARRSE Rating
4 Mushroom Heads
I volunteered to review this book ‘Uppingham School in the Great War’ because I had previously read Vera Britain’s ‘Testament to Youth’ which involves her association with four old pupils of the school, her letters from and to them are documented in her book, all four were killed in the war, one of those was, Edward Britain, her brother. Vera Britain was the mother of Shirley Williams the Labour MP of the 1970s, Vera Britain’s book is most certainly worth a read.

The public schools in Britain provided 100,000 young officers for the Great War. Uppington school provided just over 2000 of them, of which 443 were killed in the war. Four old boys were awarded the VC (Collings-Wells, Larcells, Malling, and Maufe VC.) 226 won MC’s. Gen Sir Brian Horrocks a Corps Commander in WW2 was an Old Boy of Uppinham but spent almost the whole of WW1 in German captivity, he didn’t waste his time there, he learned Russian and German.

The book is the result of an in-depth study and research, and shows the results of how the Public Schools fully supported the Military, not only in the Great War but for fifty years before that event, and even up to the present day.

Great emphasis in Public schools was placed on games and contact sports to help prepare the boys for service, so they may be ‘Be quick and decisive on the battlefield’ In addition to Games, Chivalry was almost a religion, any boy that felt that he would not wish to defend his country was told that ‘He was better off dead!’

Public school life was all about ‘playing the game of life with a Straight Bat’ Henry Newbolt’s Poem about Cricket ‘There’s a deathly hush in the close tonight’ I have placed at the bottom of my review to show just about everything the schools echoed along with a sound education.

From 1895 onwards Germany’s desire to dominate Europe, was according to British public feeling, being blatantly flouted in the Fatherland; that combined with British Jingoism had only one eventual result, and most people knew that was coming, and that included the Public schools, Uppingham included.

Dulci et decorum est pro patria mori. Was drummed into them from a very young age. Like Siegfried Sassoon, Robert Graves, Wilfred Owen etc they were al mostlyl ‘classical scholars.’ Germany is about to dominate Europe and she’s got to be stopped! And the pupils of the Public Schools felt that they were the ones to stop them.
Amazon productThe book has smaller than usual print and is a harder read than it should be. It is though very well researched and a wealth of information,

I award four stars, however the poem below says it all.

There's a breathless hush in the Close to-night—
Ten to make and the match to win—
A bumping pitch and a blinding light,
An hour to play and the last man in.
And it's not for the sake of a ribboned coat,
Or the selfish hope of a season's fame,
But his captain's hand on his shoulder smote
"Play up! play up! and play the game!"

The sand of the desert is sodden red,—
Red with the wreck of a square that broke;—
The Gatling's jammed and the Colonel dead,
And the regiment blind with dust and smoke.
The river of death has brimmed his banks,
And England's far, and Honour a name,
But the voice of a schoolboy rallies the ranks:
"Play up! play up! and play the game!"

This is the word that year by year,
While in her place the school is set,
Every one of her sons must hear,
And none that hears it dare forget.
This they all with a joyful mind
Bear through life like a torch in flame,
And falling fling to the host behind—
"Play up! play up! and play the game!"

Henry Newbolt 1862-1938
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