Sons of This Place
26 May 2008 (collegiateway.org) — Today is Memorial Day in the United States, the American counterpart to Remembrance Day in Britain and the British Commonwealth. Small-town parades are making their way along hundreds of Main Streets this morning, and thousands of flags are decorating soldiers’ graves all across the country. On this occasion I want to recommend again a remarkable little book, Sons of This Place: Commemoration of the War Dead in Oxford’s Colleges and Institutions, by Patricia Utechin (Oxford: Robert Dugdale, 1998; ISBN 0946976074). It is a compilation, with photographs, of the memorial inscriptions—most of them from World Wars I and II—that can be found in the chapels, libraries, common rooms, and gardens of the Oxford University residential colleges. Latin and Greek inscriptions are translated, and some historical notes are included on the designs and locations of the individual memorials.
In Oxford’s New College, for example, a wall of the chapel bears this inscription:
In memory of the men of this College who died serving their country during the five years of war 1914–1919, by land, by sea and in the air, in Flanders and France, in Italy, in Macedonia, in Gallipoli, in Palestine, in Mesopotamia, in all places to which they were called, men worthy of all they learned here and an example to all whose who came after them.
Below the inscription appear the names of 218 men, grouped by the year of their death—218 from a small college that today has only 400 undergraduates, in a university that itself had barely more than 3000 members in 1914.
A portion of the World War I memorial on the south wall of the ante-chapel at New College, Oxford. Photo courtesy of Flickr user Terry.
Nearly every older university and independent liberal arts college in the United States also has its war memorials, but I am not aware of any residential colleges within American universities that have such memorials. There were no residential college systems in the United States at the time of World War I, and only Harvard and Yale Universities had established collegiate systems by the time of World War II.
If there are any collegiate memorials of this kind in the United States, I would be pleased to learn of them.