|8 Nov 2022|
|Written by Jos Hollington|
Friday is the 11th November, the day we pause as a nation to remember those who have fought and died in wars across the ages in the service of our country including, of course, those Old Brentwoods who made the ultimate sacrifice.
At this time of year, we often hear and read about the number of people who have died as a result of warfare, and the sheer scale of the figures can make it difficult to fully understand the impact of such loss. Every single person who has died in conflict had their own history, their own family and their loss meant a life cut short before its time.
In Monday's School assembly, students heard about one family and one young Old Brentwood.
'Edwin Richard Lloyd Maunsell was born in 1891, one of four boys in his family. His eldest brother died at the age of just 9 but the other two boys, John and Ernest, survived.
Edwin joined Brentwood School in 1905 along with his younger brother Ernest - they were aged 14 and 10 respectively. The Headmaster was also called Edwin - Dr Edwin Bean, in whose memory we have the Bean Library and Academic Centre, and whose portrait can be seen in Mem Hall.
Edwin made the most of the opportunities available at Brentwood - at 6 feet 2 inches tall he was a keen sportsman, representing the school at cricket and football (top row, second from the left, in the picture) and he was also a talented actor, playing the lead part in Shakespeare’s Henry IV and two different parts on consecutive nights in Twelfth Night.
His time in the CCF left a permanent mark on him and when he left Brentwood he went to Sandhurst to train as an officer, following which he was sent to Africa. When the war broke out in 1914, he saw active service in Cameroon, where he was injured in 1915, but by 1916 he was in France, having joined the Royal Dublin Fusiliers as a Captain.
His regiment was on the front line the day the Battle of the Somme began, on 1st July 1916. It was the worst day in British military history and it was to be Edwin’s last.
After a seven-day-long bombardment of the enemy positions, the theory was that there would be no one left to oppose the British advance. That assumption was to be proven false within minutes, and very few of Edwin’s men even made it through their own barbed wire, let alone to the German trenches. Captain Maunsell did, but was killed as he reached the German parapet, one of so many lives cut short on that fateful day. He was 25 years old.
Alongside Edwin’s name on the regimental casualty list was that of John Maunsell, his elder brother. The two young men had been together in what was to be Edwin’s final few days alive.
Edwin was just one of millions who was denied the chance to live a long life, each of them with their own hopes and dreams and so many of them with talents and abilities that were never fulfilled. Such is the tragedy of war.'
During Edwin’s time at Brentwood it was customary for students to etch their name into their desk lid. At some point in the decades that followed, those desk lids were used to make window sills in Old Big School, and his name can be found alongside those of his predecessors and peers. No doubt, he will have carved his name with the idea of coming back to see it in later life. Sadly, he did not have the opportunity to do so. His body was buried at Auchonvillers Military Cemetery, where his gravestone bears the inscription ‘Honorantes Me Honorabo’, the Maunsell family motto, which means ‘I will honour those who honour me’
The Great War was known at the time as the war to end all wars and yet, there has been conflict somewhere in the world every year since 1918. Hundreds of millions have died as a result. Every one of them had their own story and war denied all of them the chance to live a long life.
At a time when we see yet another war unfolding with all of the loss and suffering it has caused, this year's Act of Remembrance perhaps carries even greater significance.
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