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Auckland Grammar School remembers the Battle of Passchendaele

The following is an excerpt from TV personality and past parent, Jude Dobson, whose only son Jack '12 is a recent leaver of Auckland Grammar School. Click here to watch a short video of Jude and Jack laying the wreath on behalf of the School at Menin Gate, Belgium, to remember the Battle of Passchendaele.

Remembering those who fought and often died in wars is naturally done through our own family's history. But they were also once part of a school community.

What are our current school communities doing to remember their fallen? To keep their lives and the lessons of the loss of them, alive for the current crop of young people walking through those same gates, perhaps a century or so later? One school leading the way is Auckland Grammar, determined to ensure their fallen alumni live on in some very tangible ways today, while reflecting on how World War I affected the School at the time also.

In 1918, with nearly half the staff having been conscripted, Headmaster J. W. Tibbs hired seven female teachers with experience in boys' education, the only female teachers ever to teach at Grammar until 1996. Some masters never returned, Old Boys too. Throughout World War I, Headmaster Tibbs regularly read out their names at assembly, including the day he had to read out his own son's name.

My son Jack has just finished at Grammar and my father - who will be 94 in September - is an Old Boy who has been a wreath bearer at previous ANZAC Day services. My friend, who is a military historian, is currently co-authoring a book on their war dead, with a proper obituary for every man, for the School's 150th celebrations in 2019.

ANZAC Day for all
Every year the Great Hall groans with ever-growing numbers coming to the service. With top notch speakers who bring the context of conflict alive, and an eloquent student address, the community turn out in droves.

Together, Old Boys who have served and current boys carry wreathes to the iconic 1922 War Memorial in their grounds. The community offer their poppies to the base of graceful Gummer and Ford designed obelisk, designed for the inscription of 286 WW1 war dead including Old Boys and Grammar Masters. The design was later added to for World War II, with more names on surrounding walls.

Crosses for every fallen Old Boy
The day before the traditional service, a group of Prefects take out the crosses the School has had made, one for every Old Boy who died in conflict. The boys measure accurately, they place them diligently row upon ordered row on the front lawn of the School these men once also attended.

Some of these men have no cross anywhere but here, their remains not identifiable, somewhere on the Somme. These men never grew old enough to start their own family, to see their own boys off to school one day. The School remembers them - they are part of their family.

Obituaries for every Grammar man
A name on a memorial, a cross on the lawn is not enough. The School have commissioned two historians to research every Old Boy and Master who went to war and never came back. All 286 of them.

They will publish a book with a proper obituary for each man on the centenary of the end of World War I (Armistice Day - November 11, 2018) before the School enters its 150th year in 2019. It is a monumental task.

I will make particular mention to three of them who died in October 2017, 100 years ago in the third Ypres battle, also known as the Battle of Passchendaele. Jack and I honoured their memories peronally, where we laid a wreath at the Last Post Ceremony at the Menin Gate in Ypres, Belgium.

We also left a poppy on Arthur's grave at Tyne Cot Military Cemetery where the N.Z.E.F. missing from Passchendaele were all buried if there was a body to find. For others like Erni, (with no known grave), we looked for his name on the memorial there.

For Stanley, we searched for his name on The Menin Gate Memorial, before the nightly crowds at the Last Post ceremony done every day since.

We are honoured to be able to lay a wreath in their old school's colours at the night ceremony. We will remember them.

Private Erni Bond, 2nd Battalion, Auckland Infantry Regiment, 44680, died October 4, 1917
Erni Bond attended Remuera School and started at Auckalnd Grammar in 1910, having good academic success in his classes.

He achieved a partial matriculation in 1914, and passed the Public Service examination with credit. He initially worked as a surveyor cadet, then worked briefly for the Lands Department before moving to work as a surveyor for the Electric Tramway Company in Auckland.

Bond served in the Territorials with the Auckland Infantry. In 1916, he also attended the Auckland University College. Bond attested on November 11, 1916 and entered camp on January 9, 1917 with the 25th Reinforcements, but he was transferred to the 24th Reinforcements and left New Zealand on April 6, 1917, arriving in Devonport in June 1917.

He initially joined the 1st Auckland Battalion in the field in August of that year, but on September 18, 1917, he was transferred to the 2nd Auckland Battalion and it was with this unit that he was killed in action on October 4

Erni Bond was 21 years old. He has no known grave and his life is commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial. One of his older brothers, Enoch Alma Bond, also served in the N.Z.E.F.

Private Stanley Joseph Rees, 7th Battalion, King's Liverpool Regiment, British Expeditionary Force, died July 31, 1917
Stanley spent one year at Auckland Grammar before attending Wanganui Collegiate in 1906. He was a very good swimmer, especially in the shorter distances. He left school to take a position at sea with the Craig Line, before transferring to the refrigerated meat trade between England and South America.

In March 1915, he left New Zealand and, on arrival in England, he joined the King's Liverpool Regiment. He married Annie L. Watson in West Derby, Liverpool, in the quarter ending September 1915 and immediately entered the Field in France at the Battle of Loos as part of the British 2nd Division.

In September 1916, the Battalion fought at Flers and it is possible he encountered old friends in the New Zealand Division at that time. For the third battle of Ypres, the Battalion was involved in the attack on the Pilckem Ridge. Following the fighting on July 31, Rees was initially reported as missing in action, but this was soon amended to "killed in action".

Stanley Rees was 26 years old. He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing in Ypres.

Private Arthur Noel Brown,2nd Battalion, Auckland Infantry Regiment, 26784, died October 4, 1917
Arthur Brown attended Ellerslie and Newton East Schools before attending Auckland Grammar for two years. He completed his schooling at Whangarei High School before returning to Auckland to take a position as a trainee chemist. Brown left the chemist business to take a position as a nurseryman in Warkworth and he was living there when he joined the war effort.

Brown had served in the 15th North Auckland Regiment as a Territorial. He attested for service on May 31, 1916, and embarked with the 17th Reinforcements for the war in September 1916, arriving at Devonport, England in November.

From Sling Camp, he left for the Front on December 20, joining the Auckland Infantry in January 1917. Brown undertook specialist training to operate as a Lewis gunner and served with the Regiment throughout the year, until October 4, when he was killed in action during the assault on Gravenstafel.

Arthur Brown was 20 years of age, and he is buried in the Tyne Cot Military Cemetery.
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Jude Dobson's son Jack '12 takes a photo of the wreath laid on behalf of Auckland Grammar School