Remembrance Day at SMUS is steeped in tradition as a way to honour those who served our country; those members of our community – alumni – who did not return home from the FIrst and Second World Wars.
We light a candle for each of those individuals, and read off every one of their names so we never forget the ultimate sacrifice they made for us.
Head of School Bob Snowden reads a letter Captain R.V. Harvey, one of the founders of University School, wrote to the students 100 years ago before he went off to fight in the First World War. He was wounded in action in France, became a Prisoner of War and died in 1917. He is buried in a military cemetery in Europe.
This letter, dated Aug. 21, 1914, still has great meaning and its reading remains a tradition on Remembrance Day.
“I need not tell you that my heart is all with the old school, now as always, and I can hardly realize that school is going to re-open while I am far away,” Harvey wrote in his letter. “If I go to join the troops who are fighting under our flag I shall feel that I have all your best wishes and prayers, and that while I am away every boy will do his best in school or out, at games or at drill, to keep the honour of the school as high and untarnished as we others are trying to keep the honour of our country.”
A tradition we have on the SMUS Review is printing Reverend Fletcher’s speech, given at the Richmond campus ceremony. He helps put days like this in perspective and reminds us of the wider community.
by Keven Fletcher
Here we are, again. And I wish I could inform you that someone figured out the human condition for us. That we could mark this day and read the names, knowing that we aren’t repeating the same patterns that led to so much death.
But, I can’t do that – which is exactly why this day is so important.
We need to remember, again. Not the notion of “sides” or “heroes” because heroic acts were not the sole domain of any one side and neither were the darkest expressions of our nature.
We need to remember those who fell for who they were; people much like you and me – a very human mix of conviction and doubt; of hope and fear; of greatness and despair.
We need to remember, so that we are fully aware of the price still being paid today, again, by people much like you and me; because in the busyness of our daily lives, we so easily forget the frightening cost of the way we humans sometimes run our collective life.
This morning, we recite their names, their letters, their stories so that we hear within those words, our own sense of call that we might do our part to end the violence that took their lives and address our own challenges in ways that are peaceful and just.
What will you take with you from the ceremony this year?
I wonder what they would have us take, these students, these soldiers? And if they could ask something of us, I wonder by what acts they would have us remember them?
Perhaps some expression of generosity; some private extension of apology or forgiveness; some public moment of courage; some moment, that if repeated, would indeed have us play our role in building a more peaceful and just world.
My friends, go in peace. Go and strive for peace, again and again.
You can browse and download photos of our Middle and Senior Schools Remembrance Day service at the SMUS Photo Gallery.