School’s students honour veterans
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.’’
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.