St Andrew’s College commemorated the Centenary of the start of the Battle of Delville Wood on 15 July 2016 with a sunrise Chapel Service, Clock Tower Parade and Planting of the Delville Oak. Have a look at the breath-taking footage of the Chapel Service here and the Clock Tower Parade and Planting of the Delville Oak here.
The Headmaster addressed the congregation on the importance of keeping this history alive and relevant to our boys, so that they will not have to suffer the same horrors in order to fight for a world of peace and justice. In a most beautiful and touching way, the Headmaster described the College careers of three of the boys who died at Delville Wood, and it struck home that they could have been any three Matric boys at College this very morning.
The music was carefully chosen to connect the past to the present. Daniel Erasmus, accompanied by Ms Salomie Rocher, played “The Swan” by Camille Saint Saens, a piece that Mr Guy Nicolson played in the final concert in College’s second Chapel in 1914. Mr Nicolson went on to be the founding Headmaster of The Ridge School in Johannesburg.
During the service, 18 guests and descendants of OAs from Delville Wood placed 18 red roses in a cross, essentially creating the wreath that would be laid at the Clock Tower.
After a moving military parade at the Clock Tower, with the sun just rising in the East, The Pipe Band, Guard of Honour, Servers and congregation marched to Crossways to plant the Delville Oak. Mr David Wylde, 17th Headmaster of St Andrew’s College, planted the Oak and the Bishop of Grahamstown, The Right Reverend Ebenezer Ntlali, blessed the plaque and the tree. Summing up the whole morning’s commemoration, Mr Wylde said that the planting of the Delville Oak is symbolic of bringing our boys home.
The story of the Delville Oak
In November 2008, Mr David B Wylde (17th Headmaster of St Andrew’s College), accompanied by Dr Marguerite Poland, the College Historian, and a group of Old Andreans spanning many decades, dedicated a Plaque in St George’s Chapel in Ypres to the memory of the 125 Old Andreans who died in the Great War (1914 – 1918).
They then visited the Delville Wood Memorial and Museum at Longueval where they laid a wreath. This Memorial was designed by Herbert Baker, who also designed the College Chapel. The Memorial was unveiled by Sir Percy Fitzpatrick, whose son, Nugent Fitzpatrick (OA), had died in the war, and Lady Lukin, the wife of General Sir Henry Timson ‘Tim’ Lukin, who had commanded the troops at Delville Wood. 3032 South African soldiers and 121 Officers went into the battle with the order to ‘hold the wood at all costs’. Only 140 soldiers and 3 Officers survived and Lukin was heard to say, with tears streaming down his face: “Is this all that is left of my brave boys?” General Lukin was invited to unveil the Clock Tower in 1923.
The Oak trees that now shade the Memorial at Delville Wood were grown from acorns from Franschhoek in the Western Cape. Mr Wylde selected a sapling in Delville Wood during that pilgrimage in 2008 and it was brought back to South Africa in Sam Wells’ (OA) bagpipe case. The Delville Oak has been lovingly nurtured by Mrs Jenny Wilkinson for the past eight years, and will finally be planted at Crossways to replace the giant oak tree that recently died.