Reigate St Mary’s Remembers Choristers lost in the World Wars

200 pupils of Reigate St Mary’s commemorated the loss of Godfrey Searle choristers in both world wars at the Garden of Remembrance within the school’s grounds. The school archives contain poignant letters received from choristers on the front line.

In 1898, Godfrey Searle, then a young stockbroker and son of a former Mayor of Reigate, was invited to become “Superintendent” of the Choristers of the choir of St. Mary’s Reigate.

The young men of the choir were called up to fight in both world wars. They were deployed all over the world and regularly wrote to Godfrey Searle about life on the front-line. The letters came from Europe, India, Singapore and beyond. and Godfrey Searle kept each one in a box in the choir room where they remain today. The letters form a fascinating archive of information about the contribution of the choristers to the war effort. Many were killed in action and their names are engraved on plaques in the Garden of Remembrance at Reigate St Mary’s School. Each year, the school’s Remembrance Service focuses on the part played by the young men of the choir in both world wars.

This year, to mark the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War, the whole school had a two minute silence next to the Garden of Remembrance to commemorate the choristers who fell in action.

Head of Choral Music, Mrs Glynne-Jones says” Remembrance always feels like a powerfully emotional time for the choir. The choir room has changed very little over the years and the snapshots of the choristers’ lives in the form of photos and touching hand written correspondences bring home the reality that these were boys not unlike the ones fortunate enough to sing here today. Remembrance holds a special place in our calendar”.

Headmaster, Marcus Culverwell says, “Standing in our school Garden of Remembrance with 200 children and our choristers silently remembering the fallen and recognising what they did in paying the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom is so important in this fast paced world where we can so easily forget gratitude for those who have paved the way for the peaceful and democratic society in which we live. The children behaved with such respect I was, as always, very proud of them”.”