Published on November 10th, 2014 | by St Peter's College


Simon Murray, Headmaster reflects for Remembrance Day 2014 – St Peter’s College, Adelaide.

179 Old Scholars of St Peter’s College made the supreme sacrifice during 1914-1919.

Today, in the year that marks the 100th anniversary of the start of the Great War, and the 96th anniversary of the Armistice that ended it, St Peter’s College pauses to remember these men. This Remembrance Day, I would like to highlight two simple yet forceful sentences inscribed on the interior of our Memorial Hall. They were written by the School’s 7th Headmaster the Rev’d Julian Bickersteth MC (SPSC 1920-1933).

Unlike his predecessor, Bickerseth saw the Great War at first hand in the trenches. He served at the Battles of Gommecourt, the Somme, Arras, Ypres, Cambrai, Bullecourt, Valenciennes and Mons. He was “Mentioned in Despatches” twice and won the Military Cross in January 1918 for an act of exemplary gallantry during active operations against the enemy on land.

Bickersteth’s commanding sentences of dedication have been read by countless generations of Saints boys probably unaware of the author’s experience spanning both Empire and Australia:

These are the names of the sons of this school who at the call of King and Country left all that was dear to them, enduing hardness, and faced dangers in many lands during the Great War 1914-1919.

These men strove to uphold the honour of the British Empire throughout the world and
helped to establish a name for Australia than will live as long as the deeds of brave men are recoded in the history of mankind.

Bickersteth’s Headship was a turning point in our School’s history. A graduate of Christ Church, Oxford University and Wells Theological College he was a man of vision and action. His Commanding Officer at the time wrote “Bickersteth has been a great asset to the division since its formation, he has never spared himself in his devotion to the welfare of all ranks with whom he is exceedingly popular. He leads an active outdoor life and is always moving among the troops, sharing both their pleasures and their hardships. He has shown himself to be capable organiser in everything pertaining to the welfare of his troops, both spiritually and otherwise. He has also displayed courage and endurance of a high order in the performance of his duties.”

As Headmaster Bickersteth introduced our English-styled House-system, compulsory sport and was a strong spiritual influence at St Peter’s College. He organised the first of the Headmasters’ conferences for the independent schools in Australia and was pivotal in helping to found St Mark’s College, Adelaide’s largest university college. After his Headship Bickersteth became Archdeacon of Maidstone and a residentiary Canon of Canterbury Cathedral. From 1953-1958 he was a Chaplain to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

As we pause and recall those who made the supreme sacrifice Bickersteth’s powerful sentences of dedication remind us that real democracy belongs not to nations but to the people on whom they, in the last resort, always depend

Lest we forget.

Simon Murray


11 November 2014

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