Wesley College Melbourne Australia
Wesley College Melbourne

Reflection on Remembrance Day

Posted 11 November 2016

Remembrance Day poppy

On Friday 11 November, Remembrance Day is observed in many parts of the world.  It was on this date in 1918 that hostilities formally ended "at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month" with the German signing of the Armistice ("at the 11th hour" refers to the passing of the 11th hour or 11.00am). “The day was specifically dedicated by King George V on 7 November 1919 as a day of remembrance for members of the armed forces who were killed during World War I.” The red poppy would become the notable emblem of Remembrance Day due in large part to the poem In Flanders Fields. Poppies bloomed across some of the worst battlefields of Flanders in World War I. The red colour symbolised the blood spilled in the war. 

The impact of World War I on Wesley College is graphically revealed by Philip Powell in Come on Lads - Old Wesley Collegians and the Gallipoli Campaign when he records of World War I that “since 1866 about 4,725 boys had attended Wesley. Over 1,000 former students would join the Australian, British and New Zealand military services. One hundred and fifty-seven of them would die as a result of service and many others would be permanently injured and/or mentally affected.”

Over the last couple of years, as we mark the centenaries of key events during WWI the College has worked to commemorate in a lasting way the service and sacrifice of the members of the Wesley College community. Monday 2 May 2016 marked the one hundredth anniversary of the dedication of the four marble lions at St Kilda Road.  Initially located on the main stairway outside Adamson Hall, in 1983 they were relocated to the campus’ war memorial forecourt. The lions were dedicated to the memory of the OWs who died in WW1.

This year the centenary of the lions has been marked with two special projects - the return of the marble tablets bearing the names of those died in WWI and the installation of commemorative plaques at the St Kilda Road, Glen Waverley and Elsternwick campuses. The response from the members of the Wesley community and visitors has been truly wonderful. Two Old Collegians were instrumental in making these plaques a reality - Philip Powell (OW1973) for his research and vision and Dr Ross Bastiaan AM RFD (OW1968), who designed and sculptured the beautiful and large-scale plaques featuring informative text and etched imagery. The plaques were supported in part by the Victorian Government through the Victorian Veterans Council and the Federal Government through the Anzac Centenary Local Grants Program.

Last year the community focused on commemoration of the one hundredth anniversary of the Gallipoli campaign and now over the next few years, attention will be focused on the anniversaries of the horrific and drawn out Western Front campaign. There was a shocking toll in wounded and dead at places like Fromelles and Pozières, to mention but a few, battlefields.

We remember the service and sacrifice of so many in WWI.

Lest we forget.

Kenneth Park, Curator of Collections

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