John Duncan Stubbs was just 15 years old when he was killed on active service in the First World War.
The eldest of three children he was top of the class at school and described by his head teacher as “one of God’s perfect little gentleman”.
But on September 22, 1914, still a child himself, he lost his life when the ship he was serving on, the HMS Aboukir, was torpedoed by a German U-boat.
Today, more than 100 years later, the teenager was among 103 Old Boys and staff who lost their lives during the First and Second World Wars, honoured at the Sir William Turner’s School Service of Remembrance.
The annual service brings together Old Boys from the historic Redcar school with members of the community alongside Public Services students and staff of Redcar & Cleveland College to remember the fallen.
An ex-serviceman himself Redcar & Cleveland College Principal Jason Faulkner said: “We must never forget those who lost their lives for our country. They gave their lives for the freedom that we have today.”
During the ceremony 103 small wooden crosses were laid by the congregation, each bearing the name of a former pupil or teacher lost in the conflicts and each with their own story to tell.
Among them was Frederick Clarkson Walker. Noted for his “good humour, friendship and bravery”, Frederick joined staff of the then Coatham Grammar School as a schoolmaster in December 1913.
Originally from Bolton and graduating from Magdalen College, Oxford, he taught maths and physics and his first salary at the school was £100 a year with a residence allowance of £45.
Frederick volunteered for service in August 1915. A lieutenant, he died aged 26 during the Battle of Passchendaele on September 20, 1917. While it is known that he was buried near to where he fell, the grave was lost in the chaos of the front line.
Building on research by Peter Chester and Brigadier Philip Norris OBE, two former pupils of the School, and commissioned by the Sir William Turner Foundation, two Books of Remembrance at the College and a website detail brief histories of each pupil, bringing a real life to those names.
He said: “By remembering the 103 Old Boys of Sir William Turner’s School who lost their lives in the two world wars through telling their individual stories, we underline their humanity. We remind ourselves that they and their families were real people with whom we can identify. Victims of war are real people, not distant images or names on a headstone.”
Chair of the Sir William Turner Foundation Peter Sotheran MBE said: “These were young men in their prime who, like hundreds of thousands of others across Europe, gave their lives to defend their country.”
Some 350 pupils and teachers from Sir William Turner’s School fought in the First World War, 48 of whom died on active service. During the Second World War, there were 650 who served in the armed forces, and 55 of them lost their lives. They are commemorated on two War Memorials at the college.
In its 96th year the Sir William Turner’s School Service of Remembrance was held at Redcar & Cleveland College with prayers led by Reverend Paul Peverell from Great Ayton, an Old Boy of the school himself.
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