THE centenary commemorations of the First World War have meant that the current generation of school children are well informed about the events of 1914-18.

The ‘Great’ War had a huge impact on Bury Grammar School. 98 former pupils died, representing a significant proportion of the boys who had attended the school in the previous few decades - the total number of boys at the school in 1914 being 165. We feel that it is vital to remember that these were all once young people like today’s pupils: individuals, with their own families, friends, hopes, fears and unfulfilled ambitions, not simply names listed on a memorial.

There are six pairs of brothers and an uncle and nephew recorded on the school war memorial in our Roger Kay Hall. The oldest fatality was 54, a farmer called Richard Hopkinson who took 8 years off his real age to get into the Canadian Army. The youngest was 16 year-old Fred Hyde, an apprentice on a merchant ship sunk by a U-Boat in 1917. The old boys who died came from many backgrounds and walks of life, reflecting the local community: they ranged from the proprietor of the Bury Times newspaper to the son of a railway porter who had come top in the Civil Service Exams.

The 1914 School Captain John Hartington and his successor John Maddox, were both killed serving as junior officers on the Western Front.

The last old boy killed in action was 19 year-old 2nd Lieutenant Joe Morris, Lancashire Fusiliers, who died in the crossing of the Sambre Canal on 4th November 1918, exactly a week before the war ended. This was the same action in which the War Poet Wilfred Owen was killed.

Joe Morris is buried at Pommereuil Military Cemetery in France, which a group of pupils and teachers visited on their recent battlefields tour. He was one of four brothers to attend BGS, three of whom became School Captain. Joe’s father Hugh Morris, the Headmaster of St Chad’s Junior School in Bury, paid to have the school motto ‘Sanctas Clavis Fores Aperit’ on his headstone.

We are proud and humbled to honour the service and sacrifice offered by our old boys and girls and, as the nation remembers its war dead this weekend, so we will pay tribute to those former Bury Grammar pupils who lost their lives in the Great War by telling their stories to the pupils of today.