Dulce et Decorum est Pro Patria Mori. Horace’s infamously haunting words hang looming over this list of honours once published in The Student, where hundreds of staff and students whose lives were lost in the First World War are laid to rest. Translated into English, “It is sweet and proper to die for one’s country”.
This archive both mourns and honours the soldiers who reached the frontlines of the war before their own adulthood. The list of honours spanning nine pages, presents us with a sombre moment of remembrance, accompanied with the more overtly celebratory account of Lieutenant Samuel Wallace’s undeniable display of bravery and valour on the frontline.
When enemy fire took the lives of almost his entire battery, Wallace maintained the firing of guns, covering all positions as well as assisting infantry detachments. At the age of just twenty six, he was presented with the Victoria Cross – the highest award of the British honours system, for his display of bravery in the face of the enemy. He acted with the highest courage and bravery in a moment of danger that most of us can barely even begin to fathom.
The cobbled streets of George Square that today find themselves flooded with students, were much quieter between 1914 and 1918, with nearly 8000 students and graduates serving in the armed forces. With so many staff and students missing, the university faced extreme financial difficulty; not only were they not receiving tuition fees, but in many cases they were paying absent staff the disparity between their previous salaries and the military pay that they were receiving. Such cuts in funding forced the university to suspend numerous courses, and buildings that needed renovation became neglected.
But a university can recover from financial loss. The loss of 946 lives from a community, however, leaves a much deeper scar.
In a time of such national wartime loss, the University of Edinburgh was no exception, and it is imperative that we do not allow those who sacrificed so much, to be lost in the past. Today, we can look back at this list of honours and celebrate both the staff and students, without whom, we would not have all that we do today.
Image: The Student archives from the First World War