A historic North East school has taken a leading role in a film examining the region’s role in the First World War.
The Wear at War, follows the stories of men and women from the region who lost their lives in the conflict.
Among them was former Durham School pupil William Noel Hodgson, who won the Military Cross during the Battle of Loos and was later to become one of the best known of the war poets.
In the days leading up to the Battle of the Somme, he wrote the poem, Before Action, which is a prayer for courage in the face of death – he was, as he had anticipated, killed in the opening minutes of the battle.
Now, 100 years after his death, current Year 11 Durham School pupil, Dylan Fleming Jones, narrates the last verse of Before Action, in the film, which was produced by Durham-based Lonely Tower Film & Media.
Between 1914 and 1919, over 98 former pupils of Durham School, known as Old Dunelmians, lost their lives on active service. In 1926 the School Chapel was consecrated as a permanent tribute to the fallen with the names of each casualty engraved in its stone pillars.. Today, it remains one of only a handful of non-military war memorial chapels in the UK.
Ninety-eight steps lead up the chapel – one for each Old Dunelmian who lost his life in World War I – and they feature prominently in the film, along with footage of the names of the dead, which are carved into the Chapel’s stone pillars.
Former Durham School pupil, John Gillette, is also filmed, recalling his years at the school and explaining its dedication to keeping the memory of the fallen alive in the minds of current pupils.
“The school was incredibly accommodating,” said Lonely Tower film maker, Mark Thorburn.
“And, as its exterior remains virtually unchanged, it was very easy to imagine Noel Hodgson and his school friend and fellow war poet Nowell Oxland – who was also killed in action – walking, laughing and studying here, totally unaware of the horror that was to come.
“Although the men and women featured in the film came from very different backgrounds, the war brought them all together in a common purpose – and the price they paid and the lives they lived still echo through their communities.”