Posted: 19th January 2017
The Band of Brothers Music Tour 2016 of Belgium, UK and France in June / July was a wonderful opportunity for the boys to not only take their music to the world, but to also take time out to honour and acknowledge the sacrifice of our TSS Old Boys.
Forty-three boys from Years 5 – 12 enjoyed this privilege and really impressed all audiences and communities with their music and outstanding sense of occasion and respectfulness. They performed in major cathedrals and churches and at such iconic sites as the Arc de Triomphe, but perhaps most special were the opportunities to conduct very special and personal ceremonies of remembrance for those TSS boys past, who made the ultimate sacrifice in the name of liberty.
The boys sang first at the Last Post Ceremony at Menin Gate, Ypres. Since 11 November 1929, the Last Post has been sounded at the Menin Gate Memorial every night and in all weathers. The only exception to this was during the four years of the German occupation of Ypres from 20 May 1940 to 6 September 1944, when the daily ceremony was instead continued in England at Brookwood Military Cemetery, Surrey. We were honoured to be given the opportunity to not only participate in the service by singing, but also to lay a wreath.
Following the ceremony, we headed upstairs to the outside of the memorial where we conducted our own special TSS Ceremony. The names of the TSS Old Boys who are acknowledged at the Menin Gate were read out, with some details about each of them and where they were from. A cross was laid as we took time to remember each of them and their loved ones. This was a touching and moving ceremony, and we were pleased that so many TSS families were able to join us for this.
A special TSS Commemorative Service was also held a few days later at the Australian War Memorial at Villers-Bretonneux. The Australian War Memorial is such a significant place for Australians who visit The Somme that we knew that there would be some Aussies there to join us and we were not disappointed. Our service was, as always, a reflective and solemn occasion. On this day we had to contend with the rain which started to fall. We had made the decision earlier, that anything less than a torrential downpour would see us push on with the service. In light of the sacrifice that so many young men had made here in the years of war, it seemed fair to accept a little discomfort in return. Our TSS boys were magnificent and held their resolve and respect to the fallen throughout.
Our final commemorative service was at the Australian War Memorial in Le Hamel, set in the golden wheat fields on the site of the final objective of the Battle of Hamel. Planned and commanded by Lieutenant General John Monash (later knighted), Australians of the 4th Division provided the bulk of what was a fierce but swift and successful battle in which two Australians won the Victoria Cross.
To conclude this service, the boys sang “Fields of Gold”. There was something pretty amazing about hearing this song drift across the golden fields where once the guns had roared.
At each TSS Service the Last Post was played by Year 11 Student James Rutherford and wreaths on behalf of the TSS Old Boys Association were laid.
It was a great tour and such a privilege to be able to take time out to remember our Old Boys and the sacrifice that they had made.
The boys grew in maturity and resilience, forged new relationships, developed musically and have been changed forever by this very special experience. They are good boys and will be great men.
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