Remembering anniversaries

The cargo of history weighs heavily this week, with the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz and the 50th anniversary of Churchill’s funeral. In addition, two talks give us different perspectives on war: at Jaw John Bradshaw’s powerful talk on courage and humility in the light of his experience in Zimbabwe as a young man in the 1970s – being wounded whilst defusing a land mine and subsequently losing his sight; and Sir Hew Strachan’s shrewd comments in his talk to our history society, The Green Ribbon Club, about the way that our perspective of the First World War has been changed by the Second World War experience – that of  “the good war” vs the futile war. (Lucky Block 3s having such a talk, tailored around Ieper/Ypres, which will be the centre of their forthcoming visit to the WW1 battlefields.)

50 years ago, watching that little black and white TV and Churchill’s cortege, even as a very little boy (shorts, cross-legged in my parents’ sitting room), I could not but be aware of the weight of adult emotion in the room – the sense that this was the end of an era which I could not understand – and the sense of a great man’s passing.

40 years ago, as an early Inter-railer, I went to Dachau, an experience I recounted to some rather stunned Californian students I was teaching in the late 80s. The context was their collective inattention (rudeness in my book) to a Holocaust survivor who had come to talk at their (generally idyllically situated) school. They looked at me rather slack-jawed when I told them that I thought we all had a responsibility to visit such sites. I feel that even more now.


Bedales School is one of the UK’s top independent private co-education boarding schools. Bedales comprises three schools situated in Steep, near Petersfield, Hampshire: Dunannie (ages 3–8), Dunhurst (ages 8–13) and Bedales itself (ages 13–18). Established in 1893 Bedales School puts emphasis on the Arts, Sciences, voluntary service, pastoral care, and listening to students’ views. Bedales is acclaimed for its drama, theatre, art and music. The Headmaster is Keith Budge.