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Visiting the Ascham St. Vincent Memorial Arch, Eastbourne, England: remembering some of the fallen WW1 generation

Updated on January 4, 2013
Flag of England
Flag of England | Source
Ascham St Vincent Memorial Arch, Carlisle Road, Eastbourne
Ascham St Vincent Memorial Arch, Carlisle Road, Eastbourne | Source
Abandoned German trench during the Battle of the Somme, France, 1916
Abandoned German trench during the Battle of the Somme, France, 1916 | Source
Map location of Eastbourne, East Sussex
Map location of Eastbourne, East Sussex | Source

A poignant reminder of the loss of a generation

I first had my attention drawn to this fine and poignant structure in Meads, Eastbourne, England, while visiting in the neighbourhood. Until 1977, the Ascham St Vincent Memorial Arch formed part of a set of school buildings. 51 of this school's former students (often referred to as 'pupils' in England) left to fight in World War One and never returned.

Something of the profound effect that this sense of loss must have had on the school may be reckoned when one learns that as late as 1905 the small school had only 7 students.

Founded in 1889 (1) as Ascham's School (2) and uniting with another school in 1908, Ascham St Vincent's School survived (with temporary closure during World War Two) until 1977, when it merged with another institution.

The Ascham St Vincent Memorial Arch is situated in Carlisle Road, in the Meads suburb of Eastbourne, in England's East Sussex. It is executed in a pleasing combination of red brick and stone. The names of the fallen are inscribed on the memorial.

Developers have demolished and built residential units in the vicinity of the Memorial Arch, but the visitor may be glad that the Arch at least was spared. A program of restoration was being planned in recent years.

Alumni of the school include Oxford professor of philosopher A J Ayer (1910-1989), Admiral Sir Angus Cunninghame Graham (1893-1981), and linguist and London university professor Robert Pynsent (whom I happened to meet many years ago when we were giving papers at an academic conference).

Interestingly, British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan (1892-1986) was a contemporary of many of the 'lost generation' of young men who perished in World War One; of those students who matriculated with him at Balliol College, Oxford before World War One, very few were to survive. Canadians will recall the lively debates which have raged about the conflicting generalship of World War One military leaders such as Field Marshall Earl Haig, who favoured sending infantrymen exposed over the trenches, and Canadian General Sir Arthur Currie, who was noted for his attempts to minimize casualties by a series of measures often taken at night.

If there is an abiding reflection to be drawn from this monument, it is of the insanity of the willingness of politicians and military leaders to sustain regular losses of hundreds of thousands of men during World War One for the sake of a few square kilometres of mud and barbed wire on the Western Front.

The Ascham St. Vincent Memorial Arch is situated on Carlisle Road, near to the junction with Meads Road, Eastbourne, East Sussex, England.

(Sources for these comments include: J. Massey and Meads Digital Arts.)

January 4, 2013


(1) The School was named for Roger Ascham (c.1515-1568), tutor to Princesss Elizabeth, later Elizabeth I (1533-1603). He also wrote a much read treatise The Scholemaster , issued in 1570, the popularity of which is said to have been hastened by his relating of an encounter with Lady Jane Grey (1536/37-1554), regarded as one of the most educated women of her era, which reinforced his treatise's view that respect and encouragement formed a better educational method than the harsh coercion, often widespread among teachers in his day. (Lady Jane Grey was also a convinced Protestant, and a claimant to the English throne, and she met an untimely death in 1554.)

(2) Founder William Willis, and his son Arthur Willis, were consecutively long-serving headmasters of the School.

Also worth seeing

In Eastbourne , itself, other visitor attractions include the Beachy Head cliffs; the Martello Wish Tower; various fine church buildings, including the Church of St Mary the Virgin in Old Town, dating from the 12th century; the Redoubt fortress; Eastbourne Pier; the 19th century Town Hall; and many others.


How to get there: United Airlines flies from New York - Newark to London Heathrow Airport, where car rental is available. (Distance from London Heathrow to Eastbourne : 146 kilometres.) For access by road, take M25/M23/A23/A27. There are rail links to Eastbourne from London Victoria railroad station. Some facilities may be withdrawn without notice. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.

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