Poppy memorial dedicated at annual dinner

Poppy memorial dedicated at annual dinner

A permanent poppy memorial to all alumni who died in the First World War was formally dedicated as part of this term’s Old Elizabethans’ Association Dinner.

The evening also saw the return to the School of a group from the 2006 leavers and an entertaining speech from special guest, Dr Kamran Baig (OE 1984–1991).

Proceedings started as usual with a sherry reception at 7.15pm, but before the dinner at 8 o’clock, the dedication ceremony took place. Forty-nine ceramic poppies from the art installation last year at the Tower of London were bought for QE by the Trustees to the Foundation of the Schools of Queen Elizabeth using funds from a bequest from the late Dennis Nelms (OE 1934-1941) and his wife, Muriel. The number represents one flower for every OE who died in 1914-18, together with one in memory of Mr Nelm’s brother, Gordon (OE 1927-1932), who died in the Second World War.

The poppies have been specially fixed and illuminated high in the School’s entrance hall, so the dedication party gathered there, while other guests assembled in the corridor nearby. The party comprised: the Headmaster; one of the Nelms’ executors, Mrs Alison Mihail; OE Association Chairman and Foundation Trustee Martyn Bradish, and Clerk to the Foundation Neil Kobish.

Martyn began with a few words setting out how the memorial came about. He then invited Neil Kobish, a former teacher at the School, to read out the names of all those whose sacrifice is commemorated by the poppies.

At the end of the roll call, the Headmaster recited the famous verse from the poem For the Fallen by Laurence Binyon:

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

In his speech, the Headmaster paid tribute to Mr and Mrs Nelms for their generosity: “We are, of course, immensely grateful to them, and I would like to thank their dear friends and executors, Alison Mihail, Julia Ladds and Pat Sharpe, who are represented here tonight by Alison – herself the daughter of a notable Old Elizabethan, Ron Orton, who attended many of these dinners and was Chairman of the Foundation’s Trustees.”

Mr Enright revealed that when Dennis Nelms left the School in 1941, Headmaster Jenkins wrote of him: “….bordering first class, deserves a very good recommendation, had a good sense of style in his English, History and modern Languages; efficient and business-like as full Prefect and an excellent editor of the Elizabethan Magazine; admirable public spirit and good leadership qualities; Manners, appearance and character – very good.  A fair rugger forward, scrum leader and captain and a bit of a wicket-keeper. Would make a good journalist or schoolmaster.”

And Mr Enright added: “Dennis did in fact have a successful career in teaching, becoming headmaster of Littlegrove Primary School in East Barnet. He retained strong links with QE and became Chairman of the Foundation Trustees in succession to Alison’s father.”

The Headmaster welcomed back the leavers from 2005–2006 and also honoured Kamran Baig, “a distinguished surgeon, having performed more than 2,000 heart operations, published 30 papers and delivered numerous international presentations, as well as lecturing at some of the world’s leading medical schools”. During his time at QE, Kamran was a cross-country champion, representing Barnet in the All London Championships, and was Chess Captain, as well as representing the School at cricket.