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WWII Anniversary

Saturday 15 August marks the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II in the Pacific – VP Day. Over 27,000 Australians lost their lives in the war. The service honour board in the Great Hall records the names of 2332 BGS Old Boys who enlisted. Of those, 252 made the ultimate sacrifice.

To mark this anniversary, two new displays have recently opened in the War Memorial Library. Oliver Martin (Year 11) has curated a display of WWII artefacts from his collection, including German helmets, Russian mess tins, shrapnel from a Stuka dive bomber and a deactivated 1941 Lithgow No.1 (Lee-Enfield) .303 rifle. BGS Archivist, Ms Vivien Harris, has curated a display centred around the Distinguished Flying Cross won by Old Boy Frank South with artefacts from other DFC winners featured.

In addition, a new database recording the school and service records of those 252 boys who died is nearing completion. The information has revealed some interesting statistics and stories. For example, BGS Old Boys who died on active service came from all branches of the forces and all theatres of conflict: 

  • 168 served in the Airforce, 78 in the Army, 10 in the Navy
  • 101 died in Europe, 90 in the Asia-Pacific, 31 in the Middle East and Mediterranean, the remainder in Australia.
  • Over half of all deaths occurred across 1942-1943 and 57 of the boys who died were aged 21 or younger.

Many Old Boys were part of bomber crews who flew raids over occupied France and into Germany, while some flew Spitfires in the Battle of Britain. Six of our Old Boys who died were awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. Some were at the fall of Singapore and others fought in the deserts of North Africa. Four Old Boys were killed when HMAS Sydney II was destroyed by the German cruiser Kormoran on 19 November 1941; three were killed when the Hospital Ship Centaur was sunk in Moreton Bay in 1943; seven died as prisoners of war on the Thai-Burma railway, while four perished in the Sandakan death marches. Others perished in U-boat attacks and in the defence of Darwin.

We hope that these displays and research will help pay quiet tribute to all those young men from the BGS community who gave everything.  

Pictured above are the co-curators of the WWII display in the War Memorial Libary, Oliver Martin (Year 11) and Ms Vivien Harris (School Archivist).

Chris Price
Associate Dean – Curriculum

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