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July 24, 2014
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St George’s College chapel centenary and memorial service

By Andrew Graham-Yooll

For the Herald

Nearly 500 students from just one school in Argentina volunteered for the two World Wars. The figures were remembered yesterday at St. George’s College, in Quilmes, when the centenary of the school chapel was marked with a memorial service for volunteers who served in the two wars.

The figures were read out by the Scottish headmaster Derek Pringle, who on a grey and chilly morning opened the service from a wheelchair with a broken leg resting on a chair in front. Mr Pringle said that 138 students from the college went to World War I, and 13 died in action. During World War II, 338 young Argentines and Anglo-Argentines and resident Britons volunteered for action, 48 were killed. The names of the killed were read out by three students, Joaquín Cáceres, María Lombardi and Julio Speroni.

The overall numbers were 4,852 resident Britons, Argentines and Anglo-Argentines who volunteered for service in the Great War. After September 3, 1939, when World War II was declared, 1,739 men and 541 women volunteered from Argentina 197 men and seven women were killed in action. A greetings message was sent from Canada by a former student and World War II veteran now aged 96 who joined the college in 1926.

The Anglican Bishop Gregory James Venables led the service which was attended by representatives of other English-language education centres such as St. Andrew’s, St. Hilda’s and St. Albans, among other institutions. The Argentine British Community Council (ABCC) was represented by John Hunter, the president, along with other members of the committee and offices. St George’s College opened in 1898 with six boys.

Veterans and the families of veterans were at the service at the end of which the British ambassador to Argentina, Dr John Freeman, unveiled a plaque to commemorate the centenary of the chapel which was inaugurated just before World War I was declared.

The service had some quite moving moments, such as when schoolgirl Carla Benedetto sang the lines of We’ll Meet Again, the 1939 song made famous by wartime performer Vera Lynn, with lyrics by Ross Parker and Hughie Charles. Student Elias Whitney read Rupert Brooke’s poem The Soldier and Ignacio Méndez, who read Wilfred Owen’s poem Dulce et Decorum Est.

The service at the chapel was followed by a talk by military historian Claudio Meunier, from Bahía Blanca, who later this year will be launching a book about the World War II volunteers.

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