There are some days you know you’re simply never forget; I know I speak for all who were present that today was, without a scintilla of doubt, one of those days. On a wet, grey and unpromising afternoon we welcomed Martin Barraud, the creative force behind the There But Not There project, John Nichol, former RAF officer navigator of ‘Tornado Down’ fame and Father Philip Smith, army priest attached to the xxx regiment, joining us after three weeks on exercises with the troops on Salisbury plain!
They came to take part in a short service of prayer and dedication of our ‘Tommy’, now standing sombrely outside the College and then to talk and discuss the There But Not There project and share their own experiences of what it means to serve in the military, what it means to remember and how important it is to keep alive the individual stories of those who have given their lives in service of their country.
Proceedings began at midday with the arrival of our guests and the first stop was to show Martin Barraud, on his first visit to St Edmund’s, the Barraud mural painted by his great great grandfather Mark Barraud in 1871. A beautiful piece of art in itself, it depicts a number of religious characters from Adam and Eve onwards, but is also a war memorial of sorts; if you go the Chapel end and look at the bottom of the mural you will see a caricature of Otto Von Bismarck as a lizard, referencing the precarious situation of some of the Barraud family caught in the 1871 siege of Paris during the Franco Prussian War. We then proceeded to the chapel and discussed in a bit more detail how we will install, this November, eighty two Perspex silhouettes, inspired by Martin Barraud’s original 2014 installation in his village church, to remember all the Edmundians who fell in WWI.
After that’s the product attention by our Tommy on the pill in the rain help this to remember the awful conditions in jawed or disorder and I will have given their lives for service as well as keeping our hearts those who continue to put their lives at risk to protect the freedom as we try not to take the granted.
We then proceeded to a packed Myers Room where well over 150 students and staff from Form Six upwards listened with rapt attention to short introductions from Martin Barraud and John Nicholl before openign up to questions from the floor. Martin Barraud showed some examples of his incredible work as an advertising photographer as well as showing examples of his artistic forebears xxxx and Cyril Barraud. Mr Barraud spoke with great passion of his desire to remember the fallen by ‘taking the names off the wall’ and ensuring that we look at the carved names on stone memorials and try to recreate and imagine the life and ‘story’ of each individual. The There But Not There project has already made an impact and raised significant funds and we look forward to seeing and hearing more news as this project develops.
John Nicholl spoke with great passion about his experiences in the Gulf War, of the excitement and the dread of going to war and in particular of his and his co-pilot’s experiences when they were shot down over enemy territory, captured and brutally interrogated by Iraqi forces. He spoke with no rancour towards those he fought against and stressed repeatedly that each and every soldier was as normal and unique as any of us; he spoke with great pride of a soldier’s pride in serving and also of the sorrow and horror of war. It was one of those moments are you generally could have heard a pin drop.
The panel was impressed and challenged by the quality and range of the questions asked. Father Philip was asked to talk about his experiences what led him to be won’t let him to be a priest what it is like to be a priest in the armed services. Harry Gledhill spoke about the importance of chaplains in their ministry to serving soldiers. John Nichol answered some difficult questions about his own experience as a prisoner of war and we also touched upon current situation in Syria and what is meant y a ‘just war’. It was particularly inspiring to note the impact John Nichol’s story had had on Martin Barraud at the time of the first Gulf War and how in particular the image of his bruised face on newspapers and media across the world was one of the impulsesto create the iconography of the There But Not There project.
Over refreshments students had some time to talk to our guests in person and it was a really really wonderful moment see your students of all ages handle themselves with such composure and asked so many interesting questions.
Our thanks to our guests and to Harry Gledhill, Jo Beatty and Melanie Burke for making this all possible.
We will remember them!
Avita Pro Fide