Remembering the Dilworth old boys and staff who defended our nation

1st Lieutenant Eric AncellWhen the hostilities of World War 1 began in 1914, there were 40 Dilworth boys who graduated from school and began their various careers. Of these young men, 16 were old enough to be enlisted and served in the war. Two of these boys (Eric Ancell -  No. 9, 1906-1914 and William Dunwoody – No.12, 1906-1922) tragically lost their lives.

Eric Ancell was Dilworth’s first Head Prefect and an outstanding scholar and sportsman who was training to be a solicitor when he enlisted. He was killed by a sniper’s bullet at Armentières in France, shortly after arriving to join the conflict. Dunwoody was the first Irish boy to join the school.


    1st Lieutenant Eric Ancell

Memorial.jpgAfter the tragedies of World War 1, the Dilworth Trust Board commissioned an architect to design and build a fitting memorial tablet, modelled on a reredos screen in Pisa, Italy. It was fashioned in kauri and was inscribed with the names of the war dead as well as “these also served”. Included in the dead was the name of a Dilworth teacher, Lawrence Collins. Those who served in WW1 and returned were: George Allen (No. 17, 1906-1911), Robert Anderson (No. 25, 1907-1910), Noel Barrow (No. 22, 1907-1908), John Bushe (No. 11, 1906-1912), Frank Halyday (No. 20, 1907-1912), Stanley Halyday (No. 3, 1906-1911), George Heard (No. 10, 1906-1911), Alfred Hooker (No. 42, 1909-1916), Eric Matthews (No. 23, 1908-1915), John McLeod (No. 31, 1908-1913), Joseph Murray (No. 32, 1908-1913), William Page (No. 5, 1906-1909), Edward Thwaites (No. 7. 1906-1913). The dates show them to have been among the very first boys enrolled at Dilworth. The memorial tablet was mounted at one end of the dining room. Every ANZAC Day it was shrouded in a Union Jack flag as the school paid tribute to its war heroes in the annual commemorative service.

Unfortunately, the World War 1 memorial tablet has been missing since the school renovations in 1960 which saw it removed whilst demolition and construction work was being carried out.

One name that is also likely to have been included on the memorial list is that of the first Headmaster, Colonel Arthur Plugge. After six years in charge, he left Dilworth in 1914 to command the Auckland Regiment, serving with distinction in Egypt and at Gallipoli.

Just 20 years after the conclusion of the war, the world was again plunged into global conflict. By this time, the school had grown and now had a total of 600 old boys. Around 80% of those who were eligible joined up and served in various capacities overseas. More than half of them held leadership roles in navy, army and air force units. Many won high honours for distinguished gallantry and courage. Twenty-six made the final sacrifice, on land, sea and in the air. Typical among those who did not return is Brian Gilmour (No. 368, 1928-1936). At school he was a brilliant scholar and sportsman and displayed a special talent for art. Just three years into his studies to become an architect after leaving Dilworth, he found himself training as a pilot for the RAF in Canada. His abilities and leadership skills soon saw him promoted to squadron leader in command of a Lancaster bomber and his gallantry saw him awarded the prestigious Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC).


Fourth from left Squadron Leader Gilmour with his Lancaster crew

One of “The Few” who defended Britain and led its raids on Germany, Gilmour was commander of a sortie over Germany in April 1944 when his flight was reported missing. His Lancaster was hit by enemy fire as it completed a bombing raid over Munich and crashed a few kilometres outside the city with the loss of all on board. A man of great potential who was lost to the world, to his family and to Dilworth.

Picture4.pngThanks to the Dilworth Old Boys’ Association (DOBA), the first memorial for the fallen Old Boys of WW2 was in the form of a rose garden planted just outside the Headmaster’s office at the top of the old drive from Great South Road. When the old buildings came down and new ones replaced them, DOBA financed the move to its present position beside the chapel. But the main memorial to fallen Old Boys is the tablet that is installed in the chapel. Given that the WW1 tablet was missing, it also records the names of all Old Boys who fell in two world wars.

Every year the school continues to honour its war dead as well as those who served their country. In a solemn service of remembrance on ANZAC Day, or a day close to it, the names of the fallen are read out by the Headmaster and the words of the remembrance ode are recited. Today as we face a less obvious enemy, and stay within our bubbles, may we pause on ANZAC Day to remember especially those from Dilworth who served and died for the freedom we enjoy. At the going down of the sun, and in the morning, we will remember them. We will remember them.

Thanks to Murray Wilton for his assistance with putting this story together and sharing the historical images from The Dilworth Legacy

April 24, 2020