Last Friday a quiet, poignant and significant event in the history of Bloxwich took place at Blakenall Village Centre: the launch of a new book about the men on the Elmore Green School Great War Memorial.
Sorrow into Pride tells the story of the social and military history of the ‘old boys’ of Elmore Green School, Bloxwich, who went off to fight in the First World War. Written by two retired teachers and local historians, Barry Crutchley and Ken Wayman (pictured, above, at the launch), the book reveals the search for a ‘lost’ war memorial, the stories of the commemorated lads and its re-adoption by the original school.
Elmore Green School Old Boys’ Association war memorial was unveiled in the school hall in 1922. It commemorated the sacrifice made by former pupils of the school in the Great War of 1914-18, listing sixty-seven ‘old boys’ of what was then Elmore Green Central School, later High School, who gave their young lives in “the war to end all wars”, some not passing away until 1919. It had been moved from the school in 1958 when the secondary functions of Elmore Green High School were transferred to the new T.P. Riley Comprehensive, not far away in Lichfield Road.
The memorial quietly became part of the life of the new school until, in 2001, T.P. Riley was demolished and replaced by the present Walsall Academy, which opened in 2003. It was around this time that the finely carved marble sculpture by Bloxwich-born Frederick T. Perry “disappeared” from the public eye. In fact, it had been put into storage because it was not required by the academy, but for a long time this was forgotten.
Over the following years, various people including Bloxwich local historians Edna Marshall, Barry Crutchley and ex-T.P. Riley history teacher Ken Wayman, had tried to find and raise the profile of the missing memorial and eventually, following convoluted enquiries via the Academy and within Walsall Council departments, in late 2010 it was tracked down to the premises of monumental masons A. Walker & Sons of Cannock, who had been storing it safely since the demolition of T.P. Riley years ago.
Following work done by Walsall Council officers Mike Gaffney and the now late Elaine Box, funding was found from the Council to have the memorial returned to its original home in March 2011, when it was mounted on the wall of the school hall by the masons who had preserved it. On Armistice Day that year, a special service of re-dedication was held at the school, truly bringing the memorial home.
Now, Sorrow into Pride traces the families and experiences of the lads named on the alabaster memorial, as well as one Old Boy who for some unknown reason was omitted from the list. In addition, the events leading to the deaths of ten servicemen closely related to those commemorated are examined, showing how the war affected their wider families; moreover, a number of related servicemen who fought in the Great War have been bound into the tale.
Now re-adopted by the school community from whence it came, the war memorial has re-invigorated the local community and brought forward numerous descendants of the Old Boys, furnishing invaluable information, precious photographs and memorabilia.
The authors owe a debt of gratitude to the present school community and its enthusiastic head-teacher Jane Humphreys, staff and pupils – following the hard work of local historians and council officers, they gave the war memorial’s story an unexpected happy ending.
New Horizons Community Enterprise, which runs the Blakenall Village Centre and a number of local projects and activities, is proud to have sponsored the publishing of the new book, which adds an important chapter to the history of Bloxwich and its people.
Friday’s launch was hosted by the Chair of New Horizons, Tom Perrett MBE, presented by the authors and attended by descendants of the Elmore Green ‘old boys’ and other contributors, including Stuart Williams, Editor of The Bloxwich Telegraph, who wrote the Foreword and a special dedication to the late Elaine Box of Walsall Council, who was instrumental in returning the memorial to its rightful home.
The 458-page profusely illustrated softback book is published by Tommies Guides under the Reveille Press imprint with the ISBN: 978-1-908336-44-6, and is available to order via New Horizons at £18.99 plus postage.
For further information and to order Sorrow into Pride, please contact Terri Wall, Service Manager of Blakenall Village Centre – email firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone 01922 714900.
For more pictures taken at the book launch, check out our Flickr Album.