Dorking British School pre-1914
Dorking British School © Dorking Museum

The Dorking British School’s 1914 annual report commented confidently on the role of education in preparing boys for the challenges that they would face. In an article entitled Pro Patria, congratulations were extended to the nation’s schools, the editor claiming that the rapid fitness attained by recruits was down to excellent physical training in schools. (In fact, a not insignificant proportion of men enlisting had to be rejected from service on being found to be in poor physical shape.)

School curricula subtly changed to reflect the increasing military influence on society; at Dorking High School military drill replaced physical education, and at Mickleham School the end of year prize-giving saw infants demonstrating drill and reciting ‘The Battle of Mons’ and ‘Little Tommy Atkins’.

The Dorking British School journal editor praised schools for teaching pupils to understand the struggle between might and right, of national and personal honour, of fidelity to promises made, and of protection of the weak. However one former pupil , contacted in a drive to create a roll of honour, wrote to the headmaster of a more prosaic virtue learned in school: ‘One has very little to do in hospital but read, write and think, and my mind has often gone back to the very happy days I spent at the dear old British School. I have often wondered how many soldiers have realised that it was at the School where they obtained (or at any rate where they ought to have obtained) that quality which is so essential to a soldier – obedience’

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