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This week Wenona marked the 99th anniversary of the Armistice that ended the First World War (1914-18), honouring all those affected by war.
At the Principal’s Assembly on Tuesday, Wenona cadets mounted a Catalfaque party, with four cadets facing outward from the stage, their heads bowed as a symbolic form of respect for the fallen.
In a moving personal reflection, Caitlin (Year 12) took us back to the Western Front, where sons and fathers, brothers and uncles lost their lives in the hell and the mud of brutal battles like the Somme, Verdun and Passchendaele. Reading excerpts from her great-grandfather’s diary, which has since found a resting place at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra, Caitlin put a human face on the misery and suffering of war. During the recent Ancient and Modern History Tour to Europe, Caitlin was brought to tears by the sight of her great-uncle’s grave, a terrible reminder of his courage and sacrifice.
Elise and Grace in Year 10 brought home the horrors of the trenches with a powerful rendition in English and in French of Wilfred Owen’s poem Dulce et Decorum est, and Kate and Montanna performed a hauntingly beautiful Pie Jesu from Requiem.
Flags outside the School were lowered as the Last Post played and at the end of Assembly, our cadets marched solemnly to the Cenotaph at St Leonards Park where they laid a wreath.
The symbolic significance of the poppy was brought to life by the Junior School this week, with an insightful presentation at Assembly by the Service Learning Prefects.
They explained that during the First World War, the verdant countryside turned to fields of mud where little or nothing could grow. Yet there in the middle of the devastation and chaos, thousands of bright red poppies flourished, a life force continuing in the most difficult of circumstances. The flowers inspired John McCrae, a Canadian physician and artillery commander who died in January 1918, to write his now famous poem In Flanders Fields. It begins: “ In Flanders fields the poppies blow; Between the crosses, row on row”.
Today a field of poppies bloomed at Wenona, the handiwork of every girl in the Junior School. It was incredibly moving to see our garden flourishing in all its crimson glory, a powerful symbol of remembrance and hope. Lest we forget.