Public Schools and The Great War
Anthony Seldon’s new book, co-written with David Walsh, will be published by Pen and Sword Books in early November. The book is called Public Schools and The Great War which examines the impact the Great War had on public schools and the sacrificial contribution made to the victory that came in 1918. It brings together for the first time and makes public the archival material on the war from over 200 public schools, including statistics of service and casualties, untold stories about the war and unique photographs. This book, written with Anthony’s usual authority, is a major corrective on the role and influence of public schools and their alumni on the way the Great War was fought, especially strategic decisions and battlefield leadership.
The war consumed about a fifth of all the public schoolboys who fought, while the survivors were scarred by the loss of so many friends. Based largely on source material from school archives and histories, it moves from the naive excitement of the summer of 1914 to the many moving stories that emerge from the carnage of the Western Front. It looks at school life in those war years, boys with their futures on hold and the prospect of death always very close, Headmasters and staff devastated by the loss of so many young lives. About one distinguished Headmaster, who died in January 1919, it was said that ‘the War killed him as straightly and surely as if he had fallen at the front’.
Public Schools and The Great War ranges across many topics including the selflessness and pride of Public Schools across the British Empire and in Ireland; the role of the Officers Training Corps in militarising a generation; the letters written from the Front to teachers; the pride taken by schools in the Victoria Crosses, etc, won by old boys; the statistical terms in which the Public Schools’ contribution can be measured; the ways in which schools commemorated the war, and still do so today. Finally the legacy of the war is examined, both the effect on the schools themselves but also the contribution made by writers and artists to the disillusionment of the inter-war years.
It's important to note that, although the book is generically about the public school experience in the Great War, it will also help schools and societies to plan their own research and commemoration of the war over the next five years.