|11 Jan 2023|
|Written by Heather Ayling|
Armistice Day was marked with a very poignant service at the Prep on Friday when pupils in Year 8 read the Roll of Honour and the Last Post and Reveille were sounded.
On Saturday evening, the School and Tavistock community came together to remember at St Eustachius Parish Church, for a concert in aid of the British Royal Legion. The Senior Prep Choir and the College Band performed in front of a packed church, and alongside other local musical groups.
Remembrance Sunday began with a service in the Chapel where we were privileged to hear the inspirational words of Danny Claricoates MC, who reminded us of the history and importance of the act of remembering. He spoke honestly and from the heart about losing friends when serving with the Royal Marines in Afghanistan and holding onto their memories whilst also looking ahead and moving forward.
Following the Chapel Service, the Act of Remembrance took place on the Parade Ground where wreaths were laid by the Head Master and Vice-Chair of Governors and David Lonsdale (OMK 1975-81), who was there on behalf of all fallen OMKs. Deputy Head Boy, Barnaby Reid, then read the obituary of one of our fallen (one to represent all):
Hubert Burrington Thornhill (OMK 1908-12)
A capable sportsman, Hubert played cricket and rugby at first team level for both his Sixth Form years, and appears as captain of the School’s 1st XV Rugby team in the team photograph for 1912, which can be seen on the main corridor of the College.
On leaving Kelly he headed to South America, from where he returned on the outbreak of war in 1914, and as a Devon boy, he joined his local regiment, serving with the 3rd Battalion of the Devonshire Regiment in France.
He was transferred to the 9th Battalion of the Devons in 1915 and though wounded in December, remained with them until he was wounded again on the first day of the Battle of the Somme on 1st July 1916, at Mametz Wood.
On recovering from his wounds, in 1917 he was given command of a Trench Mortar Battery and transferred to Mesopotamia, where he served for a further two years, as part of the Commonwealth forces engaged against the Ottoman Empire.
Captain Thornhill lived to see the surrender of Ottoman forces in early November 1918, but contracted diptheria shortly afterwards, and died at Basra Military Hospital on 26th March 1919, aged twenty-four. He was one of nearly 170,000 Commonwealth troops to die of disease in the Mesopotamian Campaign.
On hearing of his death, a brother officer wrote, “The men simply worshipped him, for at work or play he was always most energetic, often putting himself to great trouble to ensure the benefit of those under him.”
Captain Thornhill’s Sergeant Major wrote, “He treated me more like a brother than a subordinate”, whilst the Matron of the Basra Military Hospital wrote, “He was such a cheery, dear patient. I often said, “How can you smile and be so cheery, when you must be feeling so seedy?” The doctors and sisters were utterly devoted to him.”
Captain Thornhill is buried in the Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery just outside Basra, in Iraq, and is also remembered in a memorial plaque in the chapel, erected by his parents.
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