St George’s School during World War I

Windsor Castle was declared a fortress area at the start of the war, so the school had to relinquish the key to the Hundred Steps which were closed for the duration.  After Evensong, instead of the usual prayers, special intercessions were made for the King, for his soldiers and sailors, for the wounded and for the restoration of the peace.  Boys began to contribute to Princess Mary’s fund for Christmas presents for the troops at the Front.  In the Christmas Term magazine it was reported that the 5000 men billeted at Windsor drilled every morning in the Home Park. In the following Spring Term a Volunteer Training Corps was formed at the school.  In the Summer Term the boys went to see the King review 1800 troops in the Great Park.  The removal from the Chapel in May of the banners of 8 enemy Knights of the Garter met with the comment “It is a great relief to find that these Germanic emblems no longer hang in the Choir of St George’s Chapel”.
From this point lists of old boys serving in the war and of those killed, injured or POWs were made.  Old boys begin to write of life at the Front and of the fighting.  In the Easter 1916 magazine, J F B Northcott reports the arrest of a man wearing the uniform of a British Officer: ”he was spying for Germany to aid Zeppelins in finding their bearings and he will be shot”.  E H Cox writes of the gallantry of Harold Cox who had led an attack, initially successful , in taking and holding for a day, a line of German trenches, but was  outnumbered and only 60 of his 650 men survived.  An enemy shell had exploded near where Harold and 3 other officers were sheltering; he was badly wounded and no more was heard of him.
In the Spring Term of 1917 the boys had begun to create an allotment, planting mainly potatoes.  A year later the Corps was revived at the School.  The following year food rationing was apparently having no ill effects; there was less meat, but thanks to beans, lentils, potatoes and bacon, the quantity and digestibility of the food was good.
As teachers were enlisted, the number of forms was reduced to 4.  By 1918, with the school porter, Mr. Such, having been called up for munitions work, the servant problem became difficult and boys had to turn their hand to unaccustomed work.  A weekly rota was set up for waiting and clearing up and boys frequently made their own beds!
On hearing the news of the Armistice, on November 11th, 1918, the boys stopped work, the flag of St George was run up the flagpole, flags were bought and displayed and the “Home” and “New Room” were decorated.  On the following evening there was a fancy dress dance with refreshments followed by fireworks.
During the Summer Term of 1919 a memorial service was held in the Chapel for the 18 old boys who had lost their lives in the war.  The Dean spoke of the loyalty and devotion to duty acquired while a boy is at school which help to carry him honourably throughout his career.  Subsequently a memorial service was held each year on November 11th.  Two years later, in 1921, a memorial stained glass window commemorating old boys who had lost their lives in World War I was installed above the North Door of the Chapel and was dedicated by the Dean.

Jill Hume, Archives Volunteer

The King's Free Chapel. The Chapel of the Most Honourable and Noble Order of the Garter. The Chapel of the College of St George.