Letters discovered in the Godfrey Searle archives…

On Friday 10 November Reigate St Mary’s Prep and Choir School held their annual Remembrance Service which included the playing of the ‘Last Post’ and a beautiful rendition of ‘Abide With Me’ by the RGS Godfrey Searle Choristers. The school was founded by the Choirmaster Godfrey Searle, and the choristers still play a central role in school services at St Mary’s Church.

This year the service had added poignancy for the choir following the discovery of a letter dating back to 1915 in the archives. It was written to Godfrey Searle by George Garton, a chorister, explaining his absence from an Old Boys event. It begins:

‘I am very sorry I cannot be present on Old Boys’ Day at Reigate. I should like very much to be there but it is impossible. All weekend passes are stopped now except very special ones indeed. We are getting close to the time when we go abroad as we expect to be in France by the end of March. The rumour is about that we are leaving this district for Aldershot about the 20th of this month’

George was on his way to the Western Front and the letter goes on to describe in detail his training and despatch to France. It is beautifully written and a wonderful piece of history in itself.

Sadly, a further letter was uncovered, received by Godfrey Searle just three months later, from George’s Mother which included an extract from a letter sent to her by the Chaplin of 37th Brigade.

‘I am indeed sorry to say that George has been killed in action but in a most famous Charge of the Buffs, one that was really heroic – one company after another went up over the parapet in waves and alas were stricken. Nine out of ten officers were killed but it can with truth be said that everyman who took part in that charge knew they would almost certainly be killed – yet never hesitated. Your son was such. I knew him well and knew what an influence for good he was. He helped my colleagues and myself in many ways and was a noble example of a Christian life. He lies with his comrades near Vermelles.’

Today the whole school community remembered those who have fallen but particularly the sacrifice George made all those years ago.

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