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Chelsea Pensioners visit Remembering 1916 – Life on the Western Front

On Wednesday 19 October, Remembering 1916 – Life on the Western Front, Whitgift’s major First World War exhibition, was privileged to welcome a group of the iconic Chelsea Pensioners.  

The renowned Chelsea Pensioners, retired soldiers of the British Army, were greeted by Whitgift Headmaster and Remembering 1916 Exhibition Director, Dr Christopher Barnett, and Exhibition staff. They began their tour with Exhibition Deputy Manager, William Wood.

The lively veterans were particularly intrigued by the French tunneller diorama, and how the team had managed to re-create such a realistic scene. They were also very taken with Alex Hamilton’s painting of ‘The Historic Dogfight’, depicting Old Whitgiftian, Lionel Morris, and the Red Baron in aerial combat.

Pensioner, Fred Rook, BEM, commented “This is a first-class exhibition; I’ve never seen anything like it.”

A short parade by the Whitgift Corps of Drums followed, in Founder’s Garden, adjacent to the Whitgift Exhibition Centre. As the oldest Corps of Drums in the country, it was a fitting treat for the guests. At the very end of the tour, they were met by members of Whitgift’s Combined Cadet Force (CCF), and enjoyed a cream tea in the Edwardian Café, where many jokes and tales were exchanged.

The Pensioners were thrilled that the boys had so many questions they wanted to ask, and remarked how charming they were and a credit to the School. Dr Barnett concluded the visit with a signed copy of the catalogue for each Pensioner. 

Mr Wood said “It was a delight to make their acquaintance, and it means a lot to Remembering 1916 and to Whitgift. It was a tremendous experience for both the staff and students; they loved every minute and I think it was reciprocal!”