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News > School News > Bury Grammar School Remembrance Assembly

Bury Grammar School Remembrance Assembly

Bury Grammar School Remembers
11 Nov 2022
School News

Over October half term the 29th Bury Grammar School Battlefields Tour visited the area of Ypres in Belgium. Taking place since 1994, and only interrupted by the Covid pandemic, the BGS Battlefields Tour is one of the longest-running school trips of its kind in the country, if not the world. As always, one of the main themes of the tour was remembrance and we took the opportunity to commemorate former pupils of the School and people connected with members of the tour party. This year, these included William Appleby, an original member of the Bury Grammar School Cadet Corps (now the CCF) when it was founded in 1892. William Appleby was the Corps’ first bugler and appears in the earliest known photograph of the BGS Cadets. After school, William Appleby became a professional soldier and in the early months of the First World War was commissioned as an officer in local regiment the Lancashire Fusiliers. In July 1915 Captain William Appleby was seriously wounded by an exploding shell near the canal bank just outside the city of Ypres. He was blinded. After treatment at the famous St Dunstan’s Hospital for Blind Soldiers and Sailors (now Blind Veterans UK), he became one of the founders of the Royal British Legion and worked as a local organiser for many years. He was awarded the CBE for his services to Charity by King George VI. William Appleby died in 1952.  On our tour, we were delighted to be joined by William Appleby’s grandson, Mr Anthony Dix, for a visit close to the site where he was wounded. The current BGS Cadet Bugler played the Last Post in honour of her predecessor from 130 years ago.

William Appleby. The Last Post was sounded across the Ypres Canal towards the spot where he was blinded in 1915.

Located in the centre of Ypres is the Menin Gate, one of the most famous war memorials in the world. The Menin Gate Memorial, opened in 1927, lists the names of 54,000 soldiers from Britain and her former Empire, now Commonwealth who were killed in the Ypres area during the First World War but have no known graves. They include two former BGS students, Private Denis Lauria of the King’s Royal Rifle Corps, son of the Vicar of Ainsworth, and 19-year-old 2nd Lieutenant John Jackson of the Manchester Regiment. Both were former BGS Cadets and by coincidence their names are listed not far from each other on the vast memorial. The Menin Gate also acts as the focus for commemoration of all those who died and suffered during the four years of terrible fighting at Ypres. Since 1928 members of the local volunteer fire brigade have sounded the Last Post under the great arch of the memorial every evening, 365 days a year. This event has become world famous and we have been privileged to take part in it on 17 occasions during the years of our Battlefields Tour.

Another member of the BGS Cadet Corps in its early years was our 1914 School Captain John Hartington. John, two of his brothers and all three of his sisters attended Bury Grammar School. He was a member of Derby House and an outstanding sportsman, Captain of the 1st XI Football and Cricket teams. As a Platoon Sergeant in the Cadets, he was responsible for setting up a band for the contingent, now the Corps of Drums. John left school in December 1914, mid-way through his school captaincy year in order to volunteer for the army. Initially an officer in the Lancashire Fusiliers, he was seconded to the newly formed Machine Gun Corps. He won the prestigious Military Cross for his bravery during the Battle of the Somme in September 1916. In July the following year, only a few weeks after receiving his award of the MC in person from HM King George V at Buckingham Palace, John was stationed with his unit in the fortified ramparts of Ypres, not far from the Menin Gate. What happened next is recoded in a letter sent to John’s parents by his Commanding Officer, Captain Clifford Nichols:

My Dear Mr and Mrs Hartington,

 It is with mingled feelings of grief and pride that I take up my pen to write to you. Grief at the loss of my 2nd in command and close friend, pride at being the company commander who had your son serving under him. Words quite fail me to express what a loss your son is to one and all here. Although so young he was looked upon by the Brigadier and others in authority as one of the bravest and most efficient officers in the Brigade. And time after time he has justified their confidence. On that dreadful night when he met his death he was continually outside the dugout looking after others whom he thought might be in need of help. The cause of his death was not enemy shell but an ammunition dump in very close proximity to our headquarters exploded and a piece of brass from a 4.5 inch cartridge case penetrated his stomach. We immediately took him to the dressing station, he was in the doctor’s hands 5 minutes after he was hit and everything possible was done, but, as you will have heard without avail. He passed away the following evening about 9 p.m. in the Casualty Clearing Station.  He was buried at Lijssenthoek Cemetery. Your son’s kit has all been packed up and despatched to the base and you will no doubt receive it in due course. I regret I have not written you earlier, but I myself, have only just returned from Hospital, having been gassed the same night. Assuring you of my deepest sympathy - I shall ever hold your son in proud memory.

- Captain Clifford Nichols

John was 21 years-old. We visited his grave at Lijssenthoek Cemetery this October, 105 years after John’s death, as we have done on several previous tours. The current School Captain placed the School Captain’s medallion, presented in 1911, which John himself wore, on the headstone. His Military Cross, kindly donated to the school by his family, was also laid on the grave.

Eight Bury Grammar School Old Boys are buried or commemorated at Tyne Cot, the largest British war cemetery in the world. It is located on the slopes of the Passchendaele Ridge, a few miles outside Ypres. Nearly 12,000 soldiers are buried here, the majority of them unidentified, most lost in the terrible fighting for Passchendaele in the Autumn of 1917. 35,000 names are inscribed on the Memorial to the Missing at the rear of the Cemetery. The one former BGS student definitely known to be buried at Tyne Cot is 19-year-old 2nd Lieutenant Jack Binns. The son of the Landlord of the Fernhill Tavern in Hornby Street Bury, former BGS Cadet Jack Binns initially joined the infantry, but soon volunteered to train as a pilot in the Royal Flying Corps, the predecessor of the RAF. Military flying in the First World War was a glamorous but highly dangerous world, in which the life of a new pilot could often be measured in weeks. Jack was posted to No 29 Squadron, stationed near Ypres, in the Summer of 1917. On 4th September 1917 he was on patrol over the village of Zonnebeke when he was engaged in a dogfight by German air ace Kurt Wusthoff. Jack’s plane crashed behind enemy lines. He died in a German military hospital and was initially buried in its grounds. After the war, his body was moved to Tyne Cot Cemetery. It was fitting that a wreath was laid on Jack’s grave by the first Senior Cadet of the recently formed CCF RAF Section, Katie, Year 13.

Our special thanks to Mr Hone (Teacher of History and Politics) for this article and for his ongoing dedication and hard work.





Bury Grammar School
Tenterden Street, Bury
Lancashire, BL9 0HN



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