Belfast Telegraph

Stories of sacrifice at Campbell College which lost 126 pupils in war

 

Cathy Law, development director at Campbell College, with The Men Behind the Glass exhibition at the Proni in Belfast
Cathy Law, development director at Campbell College, with The Men Behind the Glass exhibition at the Proni in Belfast
The 1914 rubgy team picture from the Campbell College exhibition at Proni in Belfast
Richard Hemphill (23)
William Moore (24)
William Edwin Davey (22)
Edmund De Wind (34)
Allan Preston

By Allan Preston

The story of former Campbell College pupils who fought and died in the First World War has been brought to life for a new exhibition in Belfast.

Titled The Men Behind the Glass, the display at the Public Records Office of Northern Ireland (Proni) in Belfast shares archive material of the 126 former pupils and one teacher who lost their lives in the conflict.

The Heritage Lottery-funded project began with a group of Campbell alumni who wanted to preserve over 100 fading framed pictures displayed in the school's Central Hall for decades.

Most of the pupils died on the Western Front in either France or Belgium, with 12 serving in the air forces and one in the Royal Navy.

Among them was William Moore (24), from the Albertbridge Road.

He played on the Campbell rugby and cricket teams and would later write home to his wife Mary and parents about life on the front line.

His time in the war lasted just three months. He died on August 16, 1917, during the Battle of Langemarck in Belgium.

Edmund De Wind (34), from Comber, died on March 21, 1918, while serving as a second lieutenant with the Royal Irish Rifles near Grugies in France.

He survived many battles before his death and was posthumously awarded a Victoria Cross.

Flight commander Richard Patrick Hemphill (23), from Dunmurry, served in France and Flanders before joining the Royal Flying Corps in Egypt.

He was accidentally killed in February 1917 after falling out of his aeroplane and is buried in Old Cairo Cemetery.

One of his former commanders wrote: "I can honestly say I never knew a more conscientious, capable or pluckier soldier."

Private William Edwin Davey (22) grew up in the College Park area of Belfast and was one of three brothers to attend Campbell College.

He was reported to have been killed in action on October 7, 1916, while serving with the Royal Fusiliers.

A brother recorded he was lost on the battlefield, never seen or heard of again after going over the top at Gueudecourt, France.

Two divisions were virtually wiped out at the time before the position was taken from the Germans.

Today he is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial in France.

Cathy Law, development director at Campbell College, led the project and said it had helped pupils relate with the experience of the soldiers.

"The project was really about trying to tell their story - they were boys who ran along the corridors and lived in east Belfast," she said.

"Making it relevant was very important to us. Why would a 15-year-old boy today relate to what happened 100 years ago?

"One example was when our rugby team recreated a photograph of the 1914 rugby team.

"There was great chat and banter, but then we asked them to hold a portrait of the seven members of the team that passed away during the war and to think about that for a moment.

"A silence descended on the group as they looked at a boy in a rugby kit 100 years ago and realised it could have been them.

"There's also so many emotional and beautifully written letters from the front.

"When you hear about the lives of these boys, you understand the loss of what they could have been.

"These were boys who had dreams to be doctors, to be lawyers, to work in construction, so it's been quite an emotional journey."

The exhibition will be on display at the Proni headquarters until September 27. For more information, visit www.menbehindtheglass.co.uk.

Belfast Telegraph

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph