Donington pupils hear about former teacher’s war experiences

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Pupils at Cowley’s Endowed Boys’ School at Donington heard a lesson they probably never forgot a hundred years ago.

Signaller C W Sylvester of the 5th Lincolnshire Regiment, a teacher at the school before the war, paid a visit to his old haunt.

Mr Sylvester took the opportunity of being at home recovering from wounds sustained in the trenches to visit the school.

At the suggestion of the headmaster, the old teacher took the class, and – according to the report in this newspaper – “with a piece of chalk, and the use of the blackboard, was quickly illustrating in a very vivid and interesting manner some of his own experiences in the trenches”.

It was reported that his words were listened to “with rapt attention – here was the real thing itself – and the boys’ eyes glistened with excitement and interest.”

The boys heard that their former teacher had been ordered by his commanding officer, along with two other men, to go and mend the telephone wire near the trench, which had become broken.

As they walked across to the wire, Mr Sylvester felt a piercing pain in his left arm and fell to the ground. His comrades bandaged him as best as they could until he reached hospital.

The reporter contrasted the scene at Donington with what had brought the former master home again.

The report said: “In the midst of devastating shot and shrieking shell, and all the horrors of war, now, in a quiet country school telling in a few commonplace words the story of Britain’s fight for freedom and justice for all.”

At the end of his lesson, Mr Sylvester received “a hearty vote of thanks” and the hope that he would speedily be restored to good health.