82 names appear on the King's School Honours Board to commemorate Old Vigornians (old boys) who fought and died in World War One. Over 450 OVs (including staff) were involved during 1914-18, and their progress is reported in the Vigornian (school magazine) of the time.

Some served as Officers, but others enlisted in the ranks rather than not go at all. One OV, Tom Wilmot, says in a letter 'It's the chance of a lifetime', and wrote to congratulate his brother after he was wounded, saying what 'jolly fun' it all was.

Two weeks later Tom was killed.

Like other independent schools, many of the pupils came from families who had sent boys to the school for generations, and so sometimes brothers who went to King's served at the Front together.

There are eight sets of brothers one or both of whom appear on the Honours Board, and in the case of the Wilmots, the three brothers who went to King's (there were five brothers in all) were all killed.

Henry, Robert and Tom all wrote let ters home from the trenches to their family, and they are a fascinating window on life in the billets, and in the firing line.

Our Year 8 pupils have been reading and transcribing them. Tom talks of watching aerial dog-fights 150 feet overhead, of sniping at the Hun who would put up a flag to signal a hit or miss, and of throwing grenades into enemy trenches less that 30 feet away.

Henry is reputed to have had a stammer, so was never made an officer, which probably meant that he survived the war, only to die of typhoid contracted in the trenches.

We have been contacted by many descendants to ask for information: one man visited from Dorset for information about his father; another family came from Australia to find information on a great-uncle -  a victim of so-called 'friendly fire'.

Our OVs were tunnelers, bombardiers, train drivers, pilots and seamen. We have photos of them as school boys, and photos of them in uniform: they are not forgotten. Recently some of our OVs travel  led to Ypres to unveil a commemorative plaque in St George's Church.

We are publishing Tom's letters, including two written at Christmas, on the Archives part of the school website here:  http://www.ksw.org.uk/old-vigornians/school-archives/the-first-world-war/the-wilmot-brothers

We are tweeting extracts from Tom Wilmot’s letters, from the school magazine of the time, and from the wonderful Wipers Times on Twitter@KSWArchive


By Pauline Baum

King's School Archivist