At Saturday teatime the prefects came round each table and gave us our Saturday Sixpences. It was a custom from sometime back in the past that ensured everyone had some pocket money. You could put your sixpence (the equivalent of today’s 2½p) in the Sunday morning chapel collection, spend it on a Mars bar, or pay for the Saturday night feature film put on by the school during the winter months.
Our secondary school careers started only a matter of ten years after the second World War had ended, so films featuring the War were common. The Colditz Story showed us how the clever British POWs outwitted the German guards and camp staff by putting on a show, while the escapees climbed and crawled through the previously created escape route. ‘My wife’s gone to the West Indies.’ ‘Jamaica?’ ‘No she went of her own accord!’ Such were the jokes accompanied by raucous laughter, that covered the escape.
In The Dam Busters, tension built up as the scientists experimented with the idea of the ‘bouncing’ bomb and then put it into practice, destroying the Möhne and Edersee dams and flooding the Ruhr and Eder valleys with much loss of life. The march, composed by Eric Coates, was certainly stirring and it has made its way into our hymn book.
We knew all about marching and drill. We dressed in uniforms and did it twice a week. We had a Regimental Sergeant Major permanently on our staff. Field Marshall Viscount Montgomery of Alamein was chair of Governors. Our housemaster had been a tank commander under him and most of the rest of the staff had fought in the War.
So what has all this got to do with anything? The answer is ‘remembering’. This past two weeks we have been doing a lot of remembering at St. George’s, both of beloved individuals and of historic events, through Heritage Day and Battle of Britain Memorial Day. When we remember we ‘re-create’. We don’t merely recall. We re-create and reconnect emotionally with people and events. It may mean that we look back with nostalgia, or that we go forward with gratitude. It may mean that we simply re-affirm things and stay where we are. At best it will mean that we reflect, re-assess and renew our resolve to live out the message of the Gospel.