School’s stu­dents hon­our vet­er­ans

Auckland City Harbour News - - NEWS - By ROSE CAW­LEY

A sin­gle red poppy dec­o­rates each and ev­ery one of the por­traits that cover the walls of the cav­ernous Mt Al­bert Gram­mar School hall.

In times gone past, those faces walked the school’s cor­ri­dors.

Now, once a year around An­zac Day, their pho­tos are brought out and hung up.

It’s a sim­ple tra­di­tion to com­mem­o­rate the great sac­ri­fice they made.

When World War II broke out, the school for young men and its old boy net­work im­me­di­ately felt the im­pact.

A newsletter was sent to those serv­ing over­seas to keep them in touch with the school and its ac­tiv­i­ties, but most im­por­tantly keep them in touch with each other as war spread through­out Europe, Africa and Asia.

It was a great com­fort to the sol­diers and helped strengthen those bonds while abroad.

Dur­ing 1943, be­tween the harsh re­al­i­ties of war, more than 100 past pupils gath­ered for a school re­u­nion din­ner in Maadi, Egypt.

Each per­son at­tend­ing the re­u­nion signed a roll and the names of old boys known to have been killed were added.

The Maadi Roll still ex­ists and is kept in the school’s ar­chives.

By the end of World War II more than 30 per cent of all boys who had at­tended the school in the 23 years since it opened had been called up for war ser­vice.

Of those old boys, 198 had been killed, 444 had been wounded and 122 had been awarded mil­i­tary honours.

Cur­rent stu­dents of the school still re­mem­ber the past pupils who were lost in the world wars, fol­low­ing con­flicts and in peace keep­ing ef­forts.

Stu­dent Sa­man­tha Brake will be speak­ing at the school’s An­zac cer­e­mony.

She will be wear­ing the medals of her great grand­fa­ther Jack Tucker, who was a tank driver in World War II. For an English project sev­eral years ago, Sa­man­tha talked to her great grand­fa­ther about his ex­pe­ri­ences.

‘‘That was the only time he ever spoke to me about the war and he only did it be­cause it was for my ed­u­ca­tion.’’

Sa­man­tha says she was thank­ful to have heard his story first-hand be­fore he died.

‘‘It is one thing to learn it from books and in the class­room but to ac­tu­ally hear your grand­fa­ther talk about it is some­thing com­pletely dif­fer­ent.’’

Young­ster Wil­liam McMaster’s grand­fa­ther served in WWII and his great grand­fa­ther in WWI.

But he says his real in­sight into war came from a fam­ily friend, Den­nis Boun­cell, who was a stretcher bearer in WWII and re­ceived a Dis­tin­guished Ser­vice Medal.

He says it was Boun­cell’s sto­ries about go­ing back for wounded men, be­ing be­hind en­emy lines and un­der fire that made him re­think what those man gave up.

‘‘He went into a house to help some­one out and as he is walk­ing out an ex­plo­sion went off and he felt some­thing warm on his hand.’’

Boun­cell looked down to find hu­man tis­sue on his hand and found the man he’d been try­ing to help was dead.

‘‘That is when I re­ally started to re­alise what they went through and what hap­pened to them.’’

Photo: ROSE CAW­LEY

Mt Al­bert Gram­mar School stu­dents Wil­liam McMaster and Sa­man­tha Brake will be shar­ing what An­zac Day means to them, in light of their own fam­ily his­tory, at the school’s tra­di­tional An­zac as­sem­bly.

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