AKS has a rich archival collection which covers the history of Arnold, KES, QMS and KEQMS. The repository is maintained by Mrs Bickerstaffe and her small team of volunteers who have, in recent years, organised the excellent “Schools by the Sea” public exhibitions – as well as cataloguing and preserving much of the material. Members of the student Archive Club have been helping in this effort to breathe life into the exciting documents held within the collection. The Year 7 members of the club recently discovered the story behind the AKS war memorial during their Friday lunchtime activity. This week’s blog from the students is from our young archivists and their account of what they learnt about this important part of our heritage.
During Remembrance Week, we delved into the history of a war memorial which stands on the front lawn, outside school, and simply reads “In memory of an Old Boy killed 26th June 1918.” With the help of Mrs Bickerstaffe, we discovered that the memorial (a helio-chronometer) was in fact commissioned in memory of a former KES pupil and Head Boy Burton Critchley – otherwise known as “Plum” – who was killed in France in June 1918. Jamie explained to us that Plum had been killed by an anti-aircraft artillery or “flak.” Plum left an indelible mark on the historical record at AKS, with his many sporting feats as captain of the rugby team, leader of the debating society and a talented actor. We were, however, most touched by his account of a 1917 dog-fight which led to the death of his friend and comrade “Chivers.” Plum wrote:
“We dropped down to the ground and we pulled Chivers out. He was still breathing and he smiled as he opened his eyes and recognised the fellows around. He could not speak for a minute or two, but just lay there like the fine fellow he was, smiling up into my face. At length he held out his hand and I gripped it. He did not say much, but his words will stay with me to the end of my life: ‘Good-bye, old man. Let them know at home. That fight was great, wasn’t it? Carry on old fellow and give it them hot. Oh! If only the —.’ His words trailed off, and he passed to a land where wings are tokens of peace…Someday I shall meet him when I, too, am called to a haven of peace, and I shall grip his hand and say ‘That was a good fight, old man!’” (The Lidunian School Magazine, December 1917).
During Archive Club, we also read the account aloud at the war memorial outside school. Charley captured our collective response to the story: “I feel so proud and inspired by Plum and Chivers because of how they fought in the war. Yes, they had no choice in doing it, but they sacrificed their lives. Seriously, just two normal boys with loads of responsibility and a gun just shoved into war trying to serve their country – just amazing.” Katie, Menuja and Charlotte all described the story as “touching” and felt “proud of those who served our country.”
Since September, we’ve been photographing, handling and analysing a variety of historical documents. We’ve enjoyed a rummage through some of the collections and the even sampling of old KEQMS uniforms. One of our favourite sources so far has been an Accident Book recording incidents at King Edward VII across the twentieth century. We discussed how documents such as these might reveal much about changes in school life across the twentieth century – as well as the evolution of health and safety law! Jacob even discovered an accident which occurred as blackout curtains were being hung at school windows during World War II.
We’re looking forward to continuing to learn more about the history and heritage of the school, but also connecting with the experiences and stories of past pupils like “Plum.”
New members are warmly invited to join Archive Club, which meets in the library on Friday lunchtimes.
Year 7 Archivists