CYMDEITHAS HANES LLEOL RHUTHUN
RUTHIN LOCAL HISTORY SOCIETY
Old Boys of Denbigh County School and the First World War.
Dr. Paul Evans, October 2019.
Denbigh County School was openmed in 1903 to serve the more academically-minded boys of Denbigh, Ruthin and the surrounding area (The girls were catered for at Brynhyfryd School Ruthin).
By the outbreak of the First World War there were no more than 100 boys on roll, with 6 teachers. The Headteacher was Mr. D.A. Davies.
A plaque in the school commemorates 35 former pupils who lost their lives in the conflict - a distressingly high number for such a small school.
However the main thrust of the talk was the amazing discovery in a storeroom of an envelope containing over 30 letters, handwritten by old boys on fighting duty, and sent to the Headmaster of the school from the trenches, hospitals, and prison camps. These letters were generated by an initiative of pupils in the school to write to their predecessors serving in the forces, and to send to each of them a postal order for four shillings and sixpence - a very welcome sum for those receiving them, but more importantly the letters from Dyffryn Clwyd would have been a huge boost to morale for the recipients. The letters discovered in the school were, therefore, the 'Thank you' letters acknowledging the generosity and thoughtfulness of the schoolboys, but also giving some clues, as far as censorship would permit, as to the front-line experiences of these men.
Interestingly, the Postal Orders were funded by a money-raising initiative in the school - no less than the collection and recycling of waste paper!
It would appear that the letters were sent in two batches, in 1917 and in May 1918. Unfortunately, the original letters sent by the schoolboys, and the identity of the boys who sent them, have, unsurprisingly, not been found, though some of the Thank You letters did acknowledge an individual by name.
The difficulties of communications reaching their goal was highlighted by one correspondent who was so impressed with the envelope which eventually reached him that he returned it to the school, complete with seventeen postmarks from different army mail sorting stations in France and Belgium.!
After the discovery of the letters the school's history club spent some time researching the story of each of the soldiers. Dr. Evans described some of the personal stories they uncovered, and the tragic end that befell a number of these men after sending their letters to Wales. Of the 35 men remembered on the plaque, 8 were among the letter writers. One lost his life on the hospital ship Llandovery Castle, sunk by an infamous U-boat attack.
Subsequently the History Club visited several battlefield sites in France and Belgium, and discovered the graves of a number of the fallen Old Boys, and the named memorials of those whose bodies were never found.
Also discovered in the school was thew old minute book for that period of the Governing Body. This too is a historical document in its own right and contains many recordings of the deaths of these Old Boys.