Students of St John’s College have been learning about former students who gave their lives fighting in World War One thanks to local English literature lecturer, battlefield guide and historian, Ruth Ross.
Over the past few months students and staff at the Southsea-based college have helped Mrs Ross uncover the effects of the war in the community.
As a member of the college’s politics society, she was already familiar with St John’s, so decided to use their records as the basis of a research project.
After identifying names of fallen soldiers by delving into the college’s records, Mrs Ross decided to focus her research on two former pupils.
Dr Goodlad, head of government and politics, and teacher of history at St John’s, said: ‘The sense of connection across the generations, which the crosses on these graves give us, reminds us at a deep level of the debt we owe those who gave their lives a century ago.’
Basil Jones attended St John’s from 1911 to 1914.
He first joined the services as a motorcycle dispatch rider, but later transferred to the Royal Flying Corps and served for three years.
In this time he gained multiple promotions, resulting in being awarded the rank of Lieutenant. Lieutenant Basil Jones died aged 20.
Thomas Gerald McCormack went to the college from 1913 to 1914.
Mrs Ross found that he had signed up with an Irish regiment in 1917, but died on the second day of the Battle of Messines, shortly after enlisting.
The junior school pupils were invited to hand-write messages onto poppy crosses, which Mrs Ross would later lay upon the graves.
She said: ‘It’s nice to think that as we sit here today, the poppy crosses with hand-written messages are still on those boys’ graves for others to see, showing they are not forgotten.’
Year 5 pupil Melissa Riggs, who wrote on a cross, said: ‘I think it’s important to remember them because they were very brave.’