A poignant reminder of their great sacrifice

editorial image

Leighton Buzzard Writers’ weekly column. This week by Mike Moran ...

Beaudesert School was originally established through the initiative of the Bassett family and, when it was opened in 1813, was run as a Lancasterian School (so named after Joseph Lancaster of the British and Foreign Schools Society).

He was one pioneers of the Monitorial System of teaching, using senior pupils to instruct those who were younger. In 1894 the school was taken over by the newly-established Leighton Buzzard School Board, received money from a locally-raised Education Rate, and was rebuilt as a boys’ school.

In 1903 Bedfordshire County Council Education Committee replaced the School Board. The school celebrated its centenary in 1913.

During the Great War 617 Old Boys from the school enlisted in the armed forces, of whom 90 were killed (that represented 14.58 per cent of those who joined up and does not include those who were wounded).

Even by the standards of the Great War, such a casualty rate from the alumni of one school in a small town (according to the 1911 Census Leighton Buzzard had a population of 6,782) was very high.

At the end of the war a subscription was raised for the construction of a war memorial to the those who had fallen and the architect was Paul Waterhouse, whose father had designed the then Bassett’s Bank in the High Street and completed in 1919 and housed in the school.

The memorial was 5ft in height, had three panels, and with the centre panel dominated by a figure of a youthful crusader modelled in coloured alabaster.

Beaudesert School moved premises in 1958, though the old buildings were used as a primary school until their demolition in the early 1980s, afterwhich the memorial was placed in the Chapel of Rest at Vandyke Road Cemetery.

Thanks to the efforts of Beaudesert Old Boys the memorial was restored, costing £7,000 and moved to the Royal British Legion in West Street, where it was re-dedicated by the Rev Grant Fellows, Vicar of All Saints on October 21, 2004, and where remains to this day.

To me the Old Boys Memorial of Beaudesert School remains a very poignant remembrance of the sacrifice the town made during the Great War.