Belfast Telegraph

Campbell College VC hero remembered in exhibition

Edmund De Wind was honoured for his actions during the German spring offensive in France in 1918.

An Old Campbellian reads details about former pupils of Campbell College Belfast who fought in WW1 at the opening of The Men Behind The Glass exhibition at the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (Liam McBurney/PA)
An Old Campbellian reads details about former pupils of Campbell College Belfast who fought in WW1 at the opening of The Men Behind The Glass exhibition at the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (Liam McBurney/PA)

By Michael McHugh, PA

A former Campbell College schoolboy who won a Victoria Cross for bravely holding the line in a First World War trench has been remembered at a special exhibition in Belfast.

Edmund De Wind was honoured for his actions during the German spring offensive in France in 1918.

For seven hours he held Racecourse Redoubt, wounded and practically single-handed, his citation for Britain’s highest military decoration said.

He got out on top of the trench under heavy machine gun and rifle fire and cleared the enemy out.

It is a very high proportion of boys that went to war that did not come back Cathy Law

Campbell development director Cathy Law said: “It was very much engrained in the ethos of the college, service and leadership, those were their two key core identities from when it was founded in 1894.”

Second Lieutenant De Wind was among 126 former Campbell pupils who died during the conflict.

He was killed in action while serving in the Royal Irish Rifles at Grugies, Picardy, north of Paris, at the age of 34.

He was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions on March 21 1918.

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Cathy Law said the headmasters from the very beginning always instilled an idea of service and leadership in Campbell’s boys (Liam McBurney/PA)

Ms Law said: “The headmasters from the very beginning always instilled an idea of service and leadership in its boys. That is probably why many of them followed through.”

Campbell was the first school in Ireland to have an officer training corps, building their boys towards serving their country in the early 1900s.

Second Lt De Wind was born in Comber in Co Down but later emigrated to Canada.

He was among 126 boys and one member of staff who died in the conflict out of 400 who signed up.

Ms Law said: “It is a very high proportion of boys that went to war that did not come back.”

They became soldiers and sailors, medics, stretcher bearers and chaplains.

They fought on land and at sea, in the desert and the air.

Their theatres of war stretched from the trenches of the Western Front, the Somme and Ypres, to Gallipoli in the Dardanelles.

Campbell has always attracted a cosmopolitan mix of boarding students, from dozens of countries around the world.

Images of the war dead hung on Campbell’s walls for 90 years before the school sought expert help in preserving them from the effects of light and heat.

The photos were removed from the college’s Great Hall and brought to the Public Record Office for Northern Ireland (PRONI) for preservation.

A public exhibition on the subject, Men Behind the Glass, is being hosted by PRONI.

PA

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