WW1 memorial at Rudgwick School honours 27 former pupils who died in the battlefields

Rudgwick School memorial unveiling -  Serena Nicholls, Stephen Woods,'Annissa Zitouni, Becky Hughes, Roger Nash and David Buckley SUS-190729-135410001
Rudgwick School memorial unveiling - Serena Nicholls, Stephen Woods,'Annissa Zitouni, Becky Hughes, Roger Nash and David Buckley SUS-190729-135410001

A war memorial has been unveiled at Rudgwick School in memory of 27 former pupils who died in the battlefields of Europe between 1914 and 1919.

Guests gathered on Friday, July 19, to see the long-awaited Welsh slate plaque which was dedicated by retired vicar and one-time army chaplain Rev Roy McAllen who lives in the village.

Rudwick School memorial unveiling - head girl Sammy and head boy Isaac SUS-190729-135359001

Rudwick School memorial unveiling - head girl Sammy and head boy Isaac SUS-190729-135359001

The event was hosted by headteacher Serena Nicholls, and involved head boy Isaac and head girl Sammy who together unveiled the roll of honour.

The plaque was the brainchild of Roger Nash, chairman of Rudgwick Preservation Society, who has written a two-volume account called Rudgwick’s Great War which was published last year.

From this, it became obvious there were more names of the dead than are found on the parish war memorial in Holy Trinity Church and that, with migration of workers in the 1890s and early 1900s being much greater than might be thought, there were many local boys not remembered locally in the years immediately after the war.

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Roger said: “It has been my mission over the last year to put that right, so here we are with a memorial of which any village school could be proud.

“Having attended a school myself where I saw the roll of honour on a daily basis, it seemed only right and fitting my research should culminate in this way, enabling future pupils to relate to their community and its history.

“We chose the very day on which 100 years ago Rudgwick, like communities large and small across the country, celebrated Peace Day which the government arranged for the nation to remember the official end of hostilities following the signing of the Versailles Treaty, and which on that day involved all the children of the village in sports and a slap-up tea.”

The school’s young governors were in attendance, as were some children whose loss of a loved one during the year is noted in the memory garden adjoining the site with a new bench provided by Billingshurst Lions.

Also able to attend was Tony Mariner, the only person still living in Rudgwick who is known to be related to one of the men, Luke Mariner, who died in France in 1918 of Spanish flu.

Stephen Woods, a great great grandson of Charles Woods who was the school’s long-serving first headmaster (1877-1912) and who would have taught all 27 boys, was especially welcomed.

A choir of pupils sang ‘I love my life’, and ‘I’m not giving up’, before proceedings were brought to a close by David Buckley, chairman of governors.

Roger said: “The Preservation Society and Rudgwick School are very grateful to J. Gumbrill, monumental masons, and Freeman Brothers, undertakers, for making and cutting the memorial stone, and especially for their sponsorship of the project from their community fund, without which we could not have achieved our aim.”

The society welcomed Annissa Zitouni, from J. Gumbrill, and Becky Hughes, from Freeman Brothers, and were thankful for their assistance from start to finish.

The society also welcomed sponsors of its books at the ceremony – Rudgwick Parish Council, Berkeley Homes, and Firebird Brewery, among others.

The Preservation Society presented Ms Nicholls with copies of a booklet with biographical and military details of all the men whose names are on the roll of honour, together with a list of all the servicemen the society has been able to find who attended the school and returned. This booklet is available to buy at the website lulu.com, search term ‘Rudgwick’.

Books published last year are still available in Horsham Museum or direct from www.rudgwick-rps.org

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