Sandbach Grammar School at War
"The Roll-Call of King Death"
The Story of a School Engulfed by the Great War
Initially prompted by the publication of a memorial book written by the late Frank Rogers and Marjorie Newton (The Men Who Marched Away - Sandbach Remembers the Fallen), I decided to look more closely at those whose names appeared in both the book and upon the School's memorial. Interested to know more, I decided to dig a little deeper into one or two of the names in the hope that it might satisfy my interest. As one story revealed itself after another, any chance of this remaining a small, personal project was gone - it was then I realised that all 36 stories would have to be told in as great a level of detail as records permit and what started as nothing more than an expression of school-boy intrigue grew in to what it is today - a account of an ordinary school in the most extraordinary circumstances.
Having since been in contact with a number of descendants of the fallen, I made a promise that their stories would be physically recorded for posterity. This book in not only the logical conclusion of more than half a decade of research, it is also the medium through which that promise will be kept.
As my research into the fallen intensified, the scope of the project further widened when I chanced upon archival material that helped to build a picture of the institution and local community, as well as the individual.
As the United Kingdom and its empire stood on the edge of armageddon, its people knew not yet what that would entail. In schools across the length and breadth of Britain, pupils had been both knowingly and unknowingly, preparing for war, far even before the Balkan troubles in the Summer of 1914.
Records show that Sandbach Grammar School, or 'The School' as it was affectionately known, was no different. Like many grammar schools, Sandbach modelled itself on the great public schools of England. Its curriculum was varied, focusing as much on a boy's character as his academic ability, many of the skills which were instilled in Old Sandbachians would be displayed later in life and on the field of battle. Students debated the great military, political and moral questions of the day which provides a fascinating insight into attitudes found in an Edwardian schoolrooms of Cheshire.
The School stands as testament to the phrase 'total war', for it remains an example of how every single part of life on the Home Front was engulfed by the flames of war. From staff changes, new societies, changing attitudes and even sporting arrangements, the school operated within the grander narrative of the conflict in which the country was involved.
Though the Old Boys of The School met varied fates, for there were accidental deaths, illnesses, shell and bullet wounds, their stories in life are no less unique. Some excelled at school whilst others went through the motions. They held multiple professional, social and political identities. Whilst one left for the great public schools or ancient universities of the country, another might go on to work in the Post Offices, banks, greengrocers and schools of Cheshire. Of all the numerous and intersecting identities that these men held, they were united by their common claim to that of an 'Old Sandbachian'.
The Roll-Call of King Death tells the story of a school at war and the former pupils and staff that, when their country asked, answered the final Roll-Call in the service of their loved ones.
"Their Name Liveth Forever More"
The Roll-Call of King Death
Alfred John Haughton
Tom Whitfield Houghton
Frank Moss MM
Alfred Stanhope O'Dwyer
George Edward Talbot Poole
Frank Molineaux Reaney
Frederick William James Redfern
Frederick Alvin Sproston
John Frederick Tanner
William George Upton
Cyril Richard Ward
Joseph St. John Watson MC, DCM
Rutland Villiers Wheatley
William Clarke Wheatley