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Headmaster's Newsletter Friday 13th November 2020

Dear Parents,

Our main focus this week has been remembrance. Ordinarily we would all have been together in Chapel for our remembrance service, the roll-call of the fallen, our two minutes’ silence, and the last post. We hope that, even though we had to do this via our livestream, the dignity and significance of the service were still conveyed. One of the most poignant moments of the service remains the reading out of the names of NCS pupils who died during the World Wars: twenty-one from World War I and fourteen from World War II. It can be difficult to comprehend the scale of the loss when we talk of hundreds of thousands of people, but bringing it down to the local level can help us, and the boys, to understand that such individuals were not just numbers. As Mr Edward Hayter, Bursar of St Edward’s and former Navigating Officer in the Royal Navy, so eloquently pointed out in our remembrance service in chapel, they were real people who lived their lives in much the same way that we live our lives today, who learnt in many of the same classrooms that NCS boys still learn.

Virtual remembrance service; bunsen burners in Year 5; Andy Goldsworthy art in Year 2 Wild Learning; Last-minute rehearsals in Year 8; Link tag in Year 3 Games; Pre-Prep playtime
The Tempest

At this time of year I think of my great-uncle, Albert Timms, who fought and died in World War I. We have four family photos of Albert, three of which were when he was prep school age and attending school on George Street, just down the road from NCS. He grew up on Stratfield Road in Summertown, in a house a stone’s throw from where many of our current NCS pupils live. He worked at Underhill’s grocery store on the High Street, very close to New College. It is hard to look at those photos and not think about NCS boys who would have been in the same situation, and our own boys who mercifully are not being called off to war in just a few years. In early 1917, at the age of 19, Albert was stationed in Ablaincourt, just south of the Somme. He had just returned to France following a brief period at home on leave. Albert’s trench during the morning and afternoon of 28 February 1917 was ominously quiet. At 16.15 this tranquillity was disturbed by a bombardment of German grenades and mortar-fire targeting support trenches. Having checked the front line, Albert was able to report that, despite heavy German actions against the flanks, the wire had not been compromised and there was no sign of an attack. The bombardment subsided and quiet returned. At dusk, the situation turned dramatically for the worse. Rifle shots and shouts rang through the trench as a German raiding party threw bombs into Albert’s dug-out. Many of the bombs exploded before they reached the bottom of the trench stairs, and they were of a relatively small size, so Albert and others in the trench were not killed instantly. They were, however, thrown into a confused frenzy as the trench filled with gas.

One week later, on 7 March 1917, Matron Hills of No. 20 General Hospital, Dannes-Camiers, sat down to inform her patients’ families of their conditions. One of her patients was a young man named Albert Timms. During the German raid he had been ‘wounded in the face, the arm & the leg’. His injuries were causing her a ‘great deal of anxiety’, especially that to his face because his lower jaw had been fractured. This was confirmed by a telegram which was sent reporting Albert’s ‘dangerously ill’ condition. Matron Hills promised to update my great-grandfather daily with news of Albert’s condition. On 16 March 1917, she was called upon to deliver the worst possible news. At six o’clock that morning, Albert’s condition had begun to deteriorate rapidly. At 11.20, he passed away.

As I say, it can be very difficult to mentally process the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people. Bringing it down to the local, personal, family level makes it perhaps more understandable and more poignant.

With best wishes,

Matt Jenkinson

Person of the Week: Benjamin Banneker (1731-1806)

Artwork of the Week: The Royal British Legion Poppy

Word of the Week: exult

Thank you and well done to all those in Years 7 and 8/8S who took part in our rehearsals and filming of The Tempest. This has been a new experience for us all, following Covid-19 guidance, filming separate bubbles and editing the pieces together. I hope that the lack of live performance did not detract from the pedagogical benefits, and overall enjoyment, of the whole Shakespeare process. Thank you to Mr Cui who is currently working on putting all the filmed scenes together, and we are looking forward to seeing the final result. These plays are whole-community projects, so many thanks also to parents for helping the boys to learn their lines, and to my colleagues who helped out so nobly – especially Mrs Williams for her stellar scenery; Mr Mulford and Mr Bustin for putting the stage together; Miss Kilkenny for designing our poster; Miss Krebs and Mrs Hess for working on the costumes (and to Miss Krebs for operating a camera at rather short notice); Dr Gallagher for her help in rehearsals; Mr Morrison and Mr Hanson for helping with supervision during weekend rehearsals; and Mr Neal for composing and recording some bespoke music for the production.

We have received the following message from Jane Benyon at the Community Emergency Foodbank: ‘I would like to once again thank your school for the wonderful collection of tinned and dried food that the children donated to the Community Emergency Foodbank during your Harvest Festival celebration this year. The food will be given to families in Oxford who are going through a period of crisis and find themselves with not enough money to buy food for themselves and their children. This year has obviously been particularly difficult for so many families because of the financial difficulties caused by the COVID 19 pandemic. Would you be so kind as to pass on our sincere thanks to all those involved and assure them that every tin and packet donated will be much appreciated by the families that receive it.’ Many thanks indeed to all those families who made such generous donations.

While we have decimated the amount of lost property since changing our games kit routines (i.e. turning up to school in games kit on the relevant days and not changing in school), there are still a few occasions when named items of uniform go missing. Could parents please double-check at home that the uniform they have there most definitely belongs to them? Many thanks!

Due to an unforeseen commitment which has arisen at short notice, our school nurse visit for Years 6-8/8S has had to change to Tuesday 24 November.

Forthcoming Events

Monday, 16 November 2020

12.00 Deadline for video submissions for virtual junior concert

NA Anti-bullying week begins

Tuesday 17th November 2020

14.05 Judo taster session, Year 3 & 4, ends 3.30

Wednesday, 18 November 2020

10.00 School Service. Speaker: Dr Betheny Sollereder, Postdoctoral Fellow in Science and Religion

Monday, 23 November 2020

12.00 Deadline for video submissions for virtual senior concert

Tuesday 24th November 2020

School Nurse Lessons Year 6 P1 & 2, Year 7 P3 & 4 Year 8 P 7

Wednesday, 25 November 2020

10.00 School Service. Speaker: Hannah Barr, ordinand, Wycliffe Hall

Thursday, 26 November 2020

12.00 Deadline for video submissions for pre-prep winter concert

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