Our original war memorial, on our Junior playground, dates from just after the Second World War.
On it, thirty three names were engraved, and at the time, every effort was made to include those pupils and staff who had died in the two greatest conflicts of the Twentieth Century.
The make-up of the names on our memorial is roughly half First World War and half Second World War. Of the former, the majority served in the British Army, mostly volunteers, commissioned into ‘County’ regiments, from their public school OTCs and some Naval cadets, who served in marine battalions which fought at the Front.
Those from the Second World War were more likely to be ‘professional’ career soldiers, fighting in Europe, North Africa or with the Indian Army in the Far East (with the fall of Singapore).
A good number joined the Royal Airforce, serving with bomber or fighter command over Holland, Germany, Italy or the former Yugoslavia. Some were also in the Navy or Fleet Air Arm.
F.K.Philips’ name was added after the Second World War, as he was killed whilst serving with the Royal Airforce and his family wanted him remembered at school.
We don’t, however, know exactly when his name was added.
Subsequently, at the request of relatives, three more names; M.A.Simon and H.W.M Schofield from the First War and D.E. F Powell from the Second, have been added, in the last fifteen years.
By chance, our headmaster, Dominic Price, was tidying the school’s archive material when he found an old photograph album and a previously forgotten scrapbook that had originally been given to the Price Family in 1988, by Edward Pearce, who had been born at Merton Court in 1900 and was the son of Merton Court’s founder J.W.E Pearce (The Pearce family ran the school from 1899 to 1921).
Upon closer examination, the scrap book had tantalising shreds of complete and incomplete original press cuttings and notes, in J.W.E.’s spidery handwriting, from the period 1914-19, but time had not been kind to the pages.
The passage of ninety years had faded the pages of print, making the paper brittle and the articles difficult to read.
However, new names and information contained therein, suggested that the research into the original school memorial had perhaps not included all past pupil casualties from the two wars.
It was then that the detective work began in earnest.
-first one, then three, then more names-
Names which when crosschecked with the war memorials of Chislehurst, Footscray and also Sidcup, were proven to be past pupils.
And so it was, that the idea of the ‘Lost Boys’ project began.
Local Historian Yvonne Auld, along with S4 (YR 6) pupils, began to piece together further clues from Census documents and local papers, in the early 1900’s, along with information from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and the Imperial War museum.
Thanks to that incredible invention, the Internet, details of past Merton Court pupils was made so much easier to source than perhaps even five or ten years ago.
Sifting through various ‘leads’ both Mr Chris Price and Mr Dominic Price made fascinating discoveries about past pupils’ service histories and searched for their individual stories, trying to find lives and faces for those brave souls whose names we walk past every day in the playground.
In all nine names of pupils who attended the school prior to the First World War (but whose names were not on our original memorial) were discovered.
Who knows if there are more names out there….
In conjunction with the Sidcup Branch of the British Legion, in commemoration of their 90th Anniversary, a new school memorial stone was commissioned, with the names of nine newly discovered ‘Lost Boys’ engraved upon it.
In 2014 we commemorated the start of the Great War (1914-1918) and also added the name of the prolific artist Rex Whistler, who was killed in action in 1944, to our school memorial.
Merton Court Memorial Garden and Via Sacra 2015
The Merton Court Memorial Garden opened on the 6th November with a service to commemorate former pupils who had served and lost their lives in the First World War.
Designed by Phil Paton and Julia Keem, the garden has a winding path that leads through twenty two birch trees, with luminous white bark, each one representing a fallen soldier. The trees were suggested by the Headmaster after Year 5 trips to France with the school. They represent re-growth, with the path leading through the trees, creating a feeling of hope.
The new path also provides access up what was steep, muddy waste ground, to what is now a beautiful stone terrace, wide steps and a lawned area where pupils and teachers can sit, enjoy free time or have lessons. This path connects to the hall and our Foundation Stage classrooms to a quiet Astroturf area providing outdoor space for our Year 1 children.
Shaded woodland planting and bulbs provide interest through the school calendar and attract wildlife. Tall grasses create screens and movement, so children will be excited to see what is behind the next corner.
In 2015, each of the six Old Mertonians who lost their lives a century ago in World War One, were commemorated with a personal plaque. The remaining sixteen OMs on our WW1 school roll of honour will receive a commemorative plaque each, over the next five years.
Phil Paton and Julia Keem graduated from the University of Greenwich in 2012 with degrees in Garden Design and work in London and the South East. Phil Paton also maintains the gardens at Merton Court. Mayfair Construction built the garden with past pupil, Nigel Henry as site manager.
RFU WW1 Commemoration Articles
Please look in particular at a former Merton Court Pupil Robert Lawrence Pillman along with details of the other 26 fallen England rugby players from the first world war.
MERTON COURT FIRST WORLD WAR ROLL OF HONOUR
Service and year of death
Lt. Charles Henry Bearblock Essex Regiment Age 22 1915
Able Seaman Walter Theodore
Grahame Bryant Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve Age 18 1915
Lance Sgt Austin Campbell Dent Royal Army Medical Corps Age 23 1915
Capt. George Archibald Percy Douglas Essex Regiment Age 21 1915
Capt. Philip James Stanger London Regiment Age 19 1915
Flt Lt. Herbert Graham Wanklyn Royal Navy Air Service Age 19 1915
Capt. Ian Osborne Crombie Middlesex Regiment Age 21 1916
Lt. Bruce Norman Dickinson Royal West Kent Regiment Age 26 1916
Lt. Gerald Philip Day Lincolnshire Regiment Age 19 1916
Capt. Lewis Wilberforce Goldsmith Yorkshire Regiment Age 21 1916
Lt. Kenneth Hartley Moore Dorsetshire Regiment Age 20 1916
Lt. James Pearse Morum Rifle Brigade Age 20 1916
Capt.Robert Lawrence Pillman Royal West Kent Regiment Age 23 1916
Lt. Gerard Steuart Samuel East Yorkshire Regiment Age 27 1916
Lt. James Machattie Crombie Royal West Kent Regiment Age 20 1917
Lt. William Alfred Layton Robinson Royal West Surrey Regiment Age 20 1917
Lt. Marcel Andre Simon Royal Berkshire Regiment Age 19 1917
Able Seaman George Makins Davis Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve Age 22 1918
Private George Harry Larner Middlesex Regiment Age 19 1918
Lt.Vivian Charles Wolfe Sutton Royal West Kent Regiment Age 22 1918
Capt. William Maurice Crombie Indian Medical Service Age 25 1919
Lt. Henry William Melles Schofield 123rd Outram’s Rifles 1920
If you recognise any of these names or are a relative, please do contact the school. We would be delighted to hear from you.