Notes from trenches reveal ‘school at war’

Rossall School deputy head teacher Anton Maree with the book where the letters were hidden.
Rossall School deputy head teacher Anton Maree with the book where the letters were hidden.

A glimpse of life at a Fleetwood school during the First World War has been pieced together through letters from former pupils serving in the trenches.

The chance find revealed how Rossall School faced the Great War and lost more than 280 ex-students in battle.

Anton Maree, deputy head of Rossall School in Fleetwood, came across a stash of letters by accident while looking through the archives for information about life at the school between 1914 and 1918.

The find led Anton to delve even further into the school’s history to uncover the fascinating story of a school at war.

Anton said: “I came across the letters completely by 
accident. I’d found the information I was looking for and something made me have a look in the back of one of the books.

“Piecing together the 
story of school during the Great War has been a privilege. Rossall lost more than 287 former pupils between 1914 and 1918, with some pupils going to the front line straight from school.

The letters, written to 
students by soldiers who had attended the school, reveal the ‘stiff upper lip’ resilience of serving British officers of the time. One letter apologises for a late reply as ‘we are 40 miles east of the canal 
absolutely cut off from the world’, while another observes that while ‘shelling continues… at all times of the day 
and night’ on the whole ‘the Hun gets back more than he gives’.

Along with the letters, 
Anton’s research uncovered details of how Rossall’s Officer Training Corps prepared its pupils for war with rifle practice, digging trenches on school grounds and regular route marches through Fleetwood, to the alarm of the local community.

The letters, 16 in total, will now be preserved as part of the school’s archive.