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“A reminder and an inspiration”: Queen Elizabeth’s School remembers its fallen

The Combined Cadet Force remembered QE’s own war dead in an act of remembrance at the School, before then playing their part in Sunday’s commemorations in High Barnet.

One hundred and thirteen old boys of the School died in the First and Second World Wars, while others have been injured and killed in conflicts since.

Headmaster Neil Enright said: “On this important day, we remember all those lives lost in conflict, reflecting upon the sacrifices they and others made to secure our freedoms and security.

“We honour the Elizabethans killed in the two world wars, and think, too, of all those affected by conflict around the world.”

On Friday, the School day closest to Armistice Day this year, the whole School paused for a two-minute silence at 11 o’clock.

The act of remembrance was led by the School’s CCF. The boys marched to the School’s World War I memorial in the Crush Hall before laying a wreath, demonstrating funeral drill they had learned for the occasion.

They were overseen by Staff Sergeant Rhys Peto, the CCF’s School Staff Instructor, who is a member of QE’s Facilities Team.

There was a reading from Laurence Binyon’s poem, For the Fallen, from which the Ode of Remembrance is drawn. The Last Post was played by Joel Swedensky, of Year 12, on the trumpet.

On Remembrance Sunday, 24 cadets turned out, joining High Barnet’s Remembrance Sunday parade, marching from the Army Reserve Centre in St Albans Road down the High Street to St John the Baptist Church, where all attended the church service. Wreath-laying at the war memorial there was carried out by Shubh Rathod and Chinthn Santhalingam, both of Year 13.

The School has recently fielded a number of enquiries from the families of Old Elizabethans killed in the two world wars and has been able to use QE Collections to provide them variously with images and information about their relatives from the digital archives.

Among the thousands of artefacts in QE Collections is the speech made by Headmaster E H Jenkins (1930–1961) in 1948 at the dedication service for the School’s World War II memorial. Of the 65 who died in that conflict, 52 had been his own pupils, and, he told the congregation, he remembered them all.

“Their graves are worldwide. In the Far East, in Burmese jungles, on the Western Desert, in the waters that wash around Crete, among the Guards on the Tunisian frontier, in Salerno’s bay, beneath the flak of Berlin, in our own seas… in our own dear homeland, on Normandy beaches, at the crossings of the Rhine – to all of these they have borne, and left to eternity, a part of our Elizabethan heritage. They are gone from us.

They will not grow old, as we that are left grow old,
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn,

but we will remember them: we will take up the charge they have left to us, the service of our country and the cause of tolerant freedom which they loved, and for which they died. God helping us, we can do no other. And to masters and boys of this school, as they pass it upon their daily vocations, this bronze, which is now to be dedicated and unveiled, shall be at once a reminder and an inspiration,” Mr Jenkins concluded.

From ambushes and a massed attack to first-aid training, cadets relish their summer camp

QE’s Combined Cadet Force headed into East Anglia for their longest and most ambitious field exercise yet.

The five-day summer camp at the Barnham Training Area close to the border of Suffolk and Norfolk featured a wide variety of activities, from attacks on ‘enemy’ cadets to weapon-cleaning and administration.

Contingent Commander Mev Armon said: “This was a fantastic exercise, organised by QE staff, supported by Army Cadet Force (ACF) instructors, and with maximum effort and enthusiasm shown by all cadets involved.

“The sheer numbers of troops from the three schools involved made this the largest exercise for us since COVID, with a total number of 124 cadets and adult staff on the ground.”

The first two days consisted of further development of section and platoon-level tactics for those cadets who had already had training, together with a ‘recruit cadre’ for those who had not had field craft and tactics training. This brought the latter group up to speed for the 24-hour ‘tactical phase’ that began one night and continued through to the following evening.

It was during this phase that the QE group, (1 Platoon), and two rifle platoons from Forest School, Walthamstow, (2 Platoon) came together to form a ‘composite company’ and performed a ‘company attack’ on multiple enemy positions. The enemy platoon came from St Ignatius’ College, Enfield. The attacks were supported by the ‘recruits’, now trained, who formed ‘Fire Support Group’.

All the platoons then conducted ambushes on enemy patrols to complete the exercise.

The final day featured the battlefield first aid training and weapon-cleaning as well as general administration.

Cadets set up their own shelters and ate a mixture of operational ration packs and fresh food provided by nearby RAF Honington during the camp.

“The cadets administered themselves well in the field, maintaining their cleanliness and hygiene. We were very fortunate in not having the extreme weather conditions often found during UK summers,” said Major Armon, who is a Biology teacher.


Friends and enemies both! QE’s cadets forge new alliance

After a successful joint camp with the Beds and Herts Army Cadet Force, members of QE’s CCF are now looking forward to working with their near-neighbours again.

The School is planning a series of exercises so that QE’s Combined Cadet Force can try their hand against the local ACF.

The initiative follows a weekend camp in February, where cadets including those from both cadet forces received training in fieldcraft and personal development.

CCF Contingent Commander Major Mev Armon said: “The joint training at the camp was very successful. Our boys got to meet cadets from other places, collaborating and teaming up with new acquaintances, and adapting to new strengths and weaknesses in their units. This all led to a better and more realistic overall experience.

“Our boys found that they and the ACF cadets had a like-minded approach. New friendships were made, and there are now plans to work with them again. ACF will play the enemy in QE exercises, creating more realism – as our cadets don’t necessarily know how they will think.”

The half-term camp involving ten Sixth Form CCF cadets took place at the Cadet Training Centre Bassingbourn Barracks, Royston, north Hertfordshire.

During sessions on fieldcraft and tactics, some 3,600 rounds were fired among the QE group.

“Crucially, they also focused on how to communicate with each other under pressure and stress,” said Major Armon, who is a Biology teacher. “Cadets had to make small leadership decisions, learning quickly that these have consequences in the field.”

Another key element of the camp was the opportunity for cadets to try using a Dismounted Close Combat Trainer, which employs very advanced technology.

It is essentially a screen that plays out like a video game, yet allows users to try real weapons with the correct action, recoil, and so on. The trainer reacts to the user’s decisions and execution, thus demonstrating the impact of his actions.

The boys used it for range work competitions – such as practising marksmanship using digital glass bottles and plates.

The trainer can, however, be extended to full-battle scenarios, involving field combat, urban combat, and terror attacks, with different outcomes based upon the user’s inputs.

Royal visit to herald 450th anniversary: from ancient roots to robotics, HRH The Duke of Gloucester enjoys a taste of life at Queen Elizabeth’s School

HRH The Duke of Gloucester today visited QE, as the reigning Sunday Times State Secondary School of the Year prepares to celebrate its 450th anniversary early next year.

Members of the School’s Combined Cadet Force flanked the main entrance and the senior rugby team provided a sporting backdrop as the Duke arrived for his visit, during which he marked the anniversary by planting an oak tree and by presenting a specially embroidered banner to Headmaster Neil Enright.

The visit had an eye to the future as well as the past: the Duke was given a demonstration of VEX Robotics – QE is a multi-time UK champion and was the first UK school to win a World Championship title – and even tried out driving the robots himself.

He came to QE almost exactly 90 years after another royal visit, by HRH The Prince George, Duke of Kent, who opened the new buildings – still in use as QE’s Main Building – following the School’s relocation from its historic Tudor Hall site in Wood Street, Barnet.

Following the visit, Mr Enright said: “It was a tremendous honour and my great pleasure to welcome HRH The Duke of Gloucester today. With the anniversary fast approaching, there was much to show him, including the School’s original 1573 Charter signed by Elizabeth I, our Ties through Time installation of 232 School photographs from the 1880s until comparatively modern times, and, to bring things right up to date, the robots and our new Music building, opened in May.

“The Duke showed a keen interest in everything, and I know our roboteers will be especially delighted that he was brave enough to try his hand at the controls of two of their creations.”

On his arrival, the Duke was presented to the Headmaster by Martin Russell, Representative Deputy Lieutenant of the London Borough of Barnet and a former QE parent.

He was then introduced to:

  • Barrie Martin, MBE (Chairman of Governors and Chairman of the Friends of Queen Elizabeth’s)
  • Nick Gaskell (Vice-Chairman of Governors)
  • The three Deputy Heads: Anne Macdonald (Academic); David Ryan (Pastoral) and Tara O’Reilly (Operations)
  • School Captain (head boy) Theo Mama-Kahn, and Senior Vice-Captains Ansh Jassra and Antony Yassa, all of Year 13.

The Duke was shown the charter and Royal Seal, together with original artefacts from the 1932 royal visit drawn from the School’s archives. The materials were introduced by Jenni Blackford, Curator of QE Collections and Head of Library Services, and two Year 13 boys involved in the work with the archives, Ishaan Mehta and Gabriel Gulliford.

The Headmaster then gave a formal welcome to the Duke in front of 100 selected pupils in the Main School Hall. He said: “Your Royal Highness, it is my honour and privilege to offer you the warmest welcome on behalf of the Elizabethan community…2022 has been a year full of accomplishment at the School. We have had our status as an outstanding school confirmed by Ofsted, been named State Secondary School of the Year by The Sunday Times, and opened The Friends’ Recital Hall and Music Rooms – the latest enhancement to our campus, built from the generosity of our School community. You could say it has been our annus mirabilis.”

QE’s Senior Barbershop group sang the hymn Abide with Me while the new School banner was brought into the hall by a representative of the CCF. Commissioned in advance of the 450th anniversary service being held in Westminster Abbey on 24th March 2023, the banner was passed to the Duke, who presented it to the Headmaster.

After visiting the Ties through Time photographic installation and enjoying the robotics in the School’s Conference Centre, the royal party headed to the new Music building to watch rehearsals for this Thursday’s Winter Concert under the watchful eye of Director of Music Ruth Partington.

Then it was back to the front of the School before the Duke walked down the drive, lined by Year 7 pupils, stopping close to the gates to plant the anniversary oak tree. It is intended that the tree, which has been marked with a commemorative plaque, will come into full leaf for the first time at the School in the spring of 2023.

The tree will also form part of The Queen’s Green Canopy project inaugurated to mark Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee. Senior Vice-Captain Antony Yassa read a short extract from the wording of a new anthem composed for the anniversary year by internationally renowned composer, Howard Goodall, which is to receive its debut performance in Westminster Abbey in March: “Let us fill this place with hope. Face fate and fortune in our stride. That like an oak, we draw our strength from ancient roots spread deep and wide. From ancient roots spread deep and wide.”

Pupil representatives from the School’s Eco Network and its six Houses placed soil at the base of the tree, with the Duke invited to complete the process.

Remembering our war dead, honouring their sacrifice

QE held its traditional act of commemoration on Armistice Day, while members of the Combined Cadet Force took part in High Barnet’s Remembrance Sunday parade.

Through the two events, today’s Elizabethans remembered the 113 old boys who lost their lives in the 20th century’s two world wars and those who have been injured or died in wars since.

The ceremonies followed some ten days of poppy-selling within the School and a History trip during which Year 8 boys had the opportunity to see the World War I display at Hampton Court Palace, which focuses on the Indian regiment who camped there after taking part in the conflict.

Headmaster Neil Enright said: “By collectively commemorating and honouring Elizabethans of the past who have fallen in war, we recognise their ultimate sacrifice while also encouraging the present generation of pupils to reflect on the School’s tradition of service.”

QE’s traditional 11.00am act of remembrance took place at the School’s World War I memorial in the Crush Hall. It was led by representatives of the School’s Combined Cadet Force, who were joined by Colour Sergeant Rhys Peto, the CCF’s School Staff Instructor, who is a member of QE’s Facilities Team.

Wreaths were laid on behalf of the School and the Old Elizabethans, the Last Post played on the trumpet by School Captain Theo Mama-Kahn, of Year 13, and the poem, Taking a Stand*, read by Mithil Parmar, also of Year 13. There followed the national two-minute silence, which was observed around the School. Those out of earshot of the Crush Hall could watch a video featuring the Last Post which used images from the National Memorial Arboretum. At 11.02am, Theo played the reveille and the cadets fell out.

Two days later, 36 of the School’s cadets and CCF staff representatives participated in High Barnet’s Remembrance Sunday events. After assembling at Barnet Army Reserve centre in St Albans Road, they paraded down Barnet High Street and joined the church service at St John the Baptist Church, where there was the playing of the Last Post and a wreath-laying ceremony. Events concluded with a march-past, where Martin Russell, the Representative Deputy Lieutenant for the London Borough of Barnet (and the parent of an Old Elizabethan) took the salute.

In the run-up to Armistice Day, pupils had visited form rooms with poppies and cash tins. For the first time, boys and staff could also make donations via contactless transaction in reception and via Parent Pay in the School Shop.

During the same week, Year 8 visited Hampton Court Palace for a history trip. In addition to exploring Tudor life at the palace, they enjoyed finding out more about the Indian soldiers who camped there for two months in the summer of 1919. They had returned to Europe by ship from Mumbai (then known as Bombay) and were brought to the UK to join in the national peace celebrations with soldiers from around the British Empire who had fought alongside each other.

Helen Edmunds, Head of History & Politics, said: “Hampton Court provides excellent contemporary sources, including a display of diaries and letters written by the soldiers who were there just over a century ago. This links in well in with the work our pupils will do next year when they enter Year 9 on the role and importance of Empire troops during World War I and World War II.

“We enjoyed lovely weather and, despite traffic hold-ups, we made it in time for a good visit and were able to enjoy a picnic lunch in the sunshine and a visit to the gift shop, which always goes down well!”

Year 8 made the trip over two days. With the M25 shut on one of the days because of the Just Stop Oil protests, the group instead went via the North Circular, giving the boys the opportunity to take in some extra sights along the way – Wembley Stadium, Kew Gardens and Twickenham Stadium.

* This is the poem that Mithil read:

Taking a Stand

I ask you to stand with me
For both the injured and the lost
I ask you to keep count with me
Of all the wars and what they cost
I ask you to be silent with me
Quietly grateful for our lot
As I expect you’re as thankful as me
For the health and life we’ve got

I ask that you wish them well with me
All those still risking their all
And I ask that you remember with me
The names of those that fall
I expect that you are proud like me
Of this great nation of ours too
So enjoying all its freedoms like me
Support those upholding them for you

I hope that you are hopeful like me
That we’ll soon bring an end to wars
So you’ll have to stand no more with me
And mourning families no different from yours
‘Til then be thankful you can stand with me
Thinking of those who now cannot
For standing here today with me
At least we show they’re not forgot

By John Bailey

We will remember them: Armistice Day at QE

QE’s Combined Cadet Force led staff and visitors in a ceremony of remembrance for Elizabethans who have fallen in conflict, including the 70 who died in two world wars.

The cadets paraded into the Crush Hall, the area just outside the Main Hall, at 10.55am to take up their positions ahead of the 11am silence. They were led by Cadet Staff Sergeant Lucas Lu, of Year 13, who gave the commands and laid the wreath at the World War I memorial on behalf of the CCF and School.

Boys throughout the School observed the silence, with a three-bell advance warning at 10.59, followed by a single bell to mark the start and finish of the two minutes.

This year’s 11th November event took place shortly after last month’s ceremony at the School to mark the centenary of the unveiling of this memorial in October 1921.

It comes as the Royal British Legion celebrates its own 100th anniversary and also marks 100 years since the nation’s collective remembrance traditions were first brought together – the poppy, two-minute silence, Armistice Day, the service for the Unknown Warrior, and the march-past at the Cenotaph .

Headmaster Neil Enright said: “We attach great importance to commemorating all our old boys who have fallen in war.

“In saluting th0se Elizabethans from generations past who gave their lives for a cause greater than themselves, we firstly pay tribute to their sacrifice and secondly encourage our current pupils to reflect on the School’s long and continuing tradition of service.”

The ceremony included a short reading by Anubhav Rathore, of Year 12, while Theo Mama-Kahn, also of Year 12, played the Last Post and the Reveille on the trumpet either side of the silence.

The message on the wreath laid by Lucas read: “We commemorate those who gave their future to protect ours.”

Teachers of classes too far away to hear the trumpet at the ceremony were given the option of playing a video from the National Memorial Arboretum.

A range of resources was also provided to tutors so that they could explain the event to their tutor groups.

Back in action! QE’s cadets on exercise at last

QE’s Combined Cadet Force headed off to camp and pitted their skills against each other in their first exercise since March 2020.

Cadets from Year 10 to Year 12 travelled to the camp in Hampshire and battled it out in an inter-section competition designed to test their abilities in activities ranging from archery to drill.

Contingent Commander Major Mev Armon has kept the boys active during the pandemic through specially designed programmes held at QE. But Major Armon, who is a Biology teacher, said the cadets nevertheless relished the chance to get away.

“For both the students and the team running the sessions, it was a welcome return to something close to normality and a fantastic chance to flush out any rustiness built up over the last two years, re-honing some of the fundamental CCF skills,” he said.

The event – formally the Londist CCF Army Central Camp 2021 Ex Cockney Fire Light – was held at the Frimley Park Cadet Training Centre near Farnborough.

The intersection competition included four elements, or ‘stands’.

These included the strictly regimented Queens Guard Drill and the “rather more chaotic archery tag”, where the boys enjoyed the chance to fire rubber arrows at each other – “with varying success”, as Major Armon reports.

A third stand was Patrol & Observation, where the boys put their skills into practice in a mock operation behind enemy lines. There was also the Mine Search, in which cadets worked together to mine-sweep an area of land using state-of-the-art military technology.

At pre-pandemic camps, the more senior CCF members would lead the younger team members through the activities. On this occasion, boys had to stay within their year group ‘bubbles’.

“This, however, did not diminish the leadership on display,” said Major Armon, “and with the three year groups in direct competition, there was plenty at stake, particularly for the more senior Year 12s keen not to be shown up by the fledgling Year 10s. By the end of the day, however, much to the dismay of the senior CCF members, the Year 10 section emerged triumphant, showing a real flair for the Queens Guard Drill.”

Overall, because it gave the cadets the long-awaited opportunity to apply the skills they have been developing every week in training, the camp was extremely motivating, said Major Armon.

For the fallen: Remembrance Day 2020 at Queen Elizabeth’s School

The School observed today’s Armistice Day two-minute silence with a ceremony that was adapted this year because of Covid-19 restrictions.

When boys fell silent at 11am on 11th November it was in their classrooms, while a smaller-than-usual wreath-laying ceremony took place at the World War I Memorial outside the Main School Hall.

The event is an opportunity for all today’s pupils and staff to reflect upon the service and sacrifice of those killed, injured or impacted by military conflicts, including the 113 Elizabethans who lost their lives in the 20th century’s two world wars.

Headmaster Neil Enright said: “While the size of our commemoration here at the School had to be reduced this year and there was no QE Combined Cadet Force representation at Barnet’s scaled-back civic Remembrance Sunday event either, the importance and solemnity of the occasion was undiminished as we collectively marked the sacrifice of Elizabethans from generations past.”

The bugler who played the Last Post and Reveille at the School ceremony was Theo Mama-Kahn, of Year 11, who is studying GCSE Music. The cadet laying a wreath was Lucas Lu, of Year 12.

CCF Contingent Commander Major Mev Armon said: “Due to Covid, drill words of command cannot be given indoors, so Lucas represented the contingent, saluting the memorial on my behalf.”

Among current CCF cadets, Lucas stands out for his prowess in the field, added Major Armon, who is a Biology teacher.

Since not everyone was in earshot of the bugle, three short bell rings sounded at 10:58 as a signal that all boys should place their work aside to stand and prepare for the 11:00 bell ring marking the beginning of the silence. There was a final short bell at the end of the two minutes.

To ensure boys of all ages understood the significance of the occasion, a PowerPoint presentation detailing the history of the day was sent to form tutors to spark discussion among the pupils. It explained the importance of poppies – the first flowers to bloom on the World War I battlefields of Belgium and France – and included the famous poem they inspired, John McCrae’s In Flanders fields. Boys were also invited to watch a video featuring the Last Post.

House representatives throughout the School were involved in selling poppies to the year-group bubbles, including Leicester’s Victor Angelov (Year 11, pictured). The representatives brought the poppies round to the forms, giving everyone a chance to buy one in time for Remembrance Day.

At the double! Covid-safe competitive training returns for cadets

Queen Elizabeth’s School’s popular and long-established Combined Cadet Force is back in action, with boys competing against each other in a new programme specially adapted to keep them safe from the coronavirus.

The cadets will be battling it out for the rest of the term in a series of activities focused on refreshing their basic skills in field craft, weapon-handling and drill.

Contingent Commander Major Mev Armon, who is a Biology teacher, explained that the activities are being run on a two-week rotation, with older pupils alternating with younger boys, all split into their year-group bubbles. The first session, involving Year 11 and Year 13 boys, went well, he said. “They got wet, muddy and pushed themselves to achieve more than they thought possible.”

QE’s CCF, one of relatively few to be run in state schools, was established in 1992 and is sponsored by the Corps of Royal Engineers, with the Regular Army providing support in training and administration. Open to pupils in Years 9-13, it provides a training framework in which boys can develop a range of physical abilities, including endurance and co-ordination.

Mr Armon has devoted more than a quarter of a century of service to the contingent.

In response to Covid-19, the normal vertical structure of training with senior cadets instructing junior cadets has been replaced by adult-led training for the contingent’s Monday evening sessions, which are being run for the Autumn Term as a competition.

The first two weeks are focusing on Battle Field PT [physical training], including a ‘basic fitness test run’, ‘casualty drag’, ‘fire team fire-and-manoeuvre stand’ and a ‘jerry can carry stand’. This is being run by 2nd Lieutenant Richard Scally (Head of Cricket & Head of Aquatics), assisted by Physics teacher Jonathan Leigh.

The next stage will be History teacher 2nd Lieutenant Akhil Gohil’s military skills assessment, which will include target indication, shelter-building and field observation stands.

Other sessions will focus on ‘skills at arms’, and on drill and turnout.

London livery company salutes Captain Mev Armon’s contribution to CCF

The leader of QE’s Combined Cadet Force has been named the Best Adult Volunteer at the Tylers and Bricklayers 2020 Craft Awards.

The ancient livery company’s prestigious award recognises a quarter of a century of service to the CCF by Captain Mev Armon, who is a Biology teacher.

He received his award at a special luncheon at Carpenters’ Hall in Throgmorton Avenue, an event attended by the Master of the Company, Dr Michel Saminaden, and the Principal Guest, Lt Col Mark Stephenson, RE – Commanding Officer 1 RSME Regiment.

Capt. Armon has been a constant presence in the force since joining the School in 1994.

In his recommendation for the award, Headmaster Neil Enright said: “Mev has provided outstanding and inspiring leadership during his time at the School. Such an active and oversubscribed CCF remains rare in the state sector, but the energy and organisation that he has brought to his role has meant that it continues to go from strength to strength.”

The Worshipful Company of Tylers and Bricklayers received its first Royal Charter in 1568, although its roots go back to the 15th century. Its monopoly within the City was broken after the Great Fire of London in 1666, when a Royal Proclamation led to a requirement for tiles to be used in the place of thatch. This led to an influx of tilers and bricklayers into the capital.

Despite the diminution of its role in the tiling and building sector, it has continued to play a part in the life of London, pursuing an active charitable, educational and social programme. As part of its link with the Corps of Royal Engineers, the company each year makes awards to London’s Best Cadet and Best Adult Volunteer in the Royal Engineers Army Cadet Force.

“Under Mev’s tutelage and preparation, QE’s CCF has received very strong inspection reports and has been a frequent contributor to local civic events,” added Mr Enright. “His combination of high expectations, strong teaching skills, and personal warmth and charisma, have made him a role model to generations of cadets.”

In addition to his role at QE, Mr Armon has also led outreach work with other schools, for example, supporting The John Lyon School in Harrow with the development of its programmes.

“A number of QE boys have chosen to pursue careers in the military, but many more have simply enjoyed the unique opportunities for personal development that participation in the CCF has afforded.

“As Contingent Commander, Mev continues to be the driving force behind the success of our CCF and continues to be generous with his time a quarter of a century after joining us,” Mr Enright concluded.