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News > Christ College Archive > The OB community weaves its magic

The OB community weaves its magic

Two priceless artefacts find their way home
1914/15 Christ College XV. Christ College Archive.
1914/15 Christ College XV. Christ College Archive.

All Old Breconians know the extent of the interconnectedness of the Old Breconian community. Less to do with old school ties and more to do with the shared experience that links former pupils across generations, it will often spring an unexpected surprise. Earlier this term, it worked its magic to help a precious pairing of artefacts find their way ‘home’.

On a chance visit to an antiques centre in Cardiff, Nic Hanson (SHB 1976-1981) and his wife spotted a familiar ‘h’ on a green velvet cap. Alongside was a photograph. “It was my wife who saw them first”, says Nic.

They had just been put on display after being bought by the dealer the previous Thursday at an auction in Devon. The dealer believed originally from Merthyr area. He didn’t know about their origins, nor did he know about the ‘h’.

A phone call from Nic to Huw Richards led to them being held, awaiting a decision about purchase. In the meantime, the dealer – who is the godfather of a current pupil – turned down a higher offer from another dealer. Such was their popularity, there was another person ready to buy just in case they changed their minds.

The original owners of the items, identified by the signature on the photograph and the initials inked on the lining of the cap, were already well known to us as they are both on the Christ College Roll of Honour in the antechapel. Very quickly the items were purchased on behalf of the OBA for the Archive.

The photograph is of Euan Edward Arnott (School House 1913-1915) and the cap belonged to David John Thomas (School House 1912-1916). As well as being in School House together, they played in the 1914/15 XV and remained team-mates in the XI (1915).

In the 1914/15 XV team photograph (above) E E Arnott is first left at the back on the steps. D J Thomas is standing directly in front of him. 

In the Summer Term of 1915, Arnott left school as soon as he was old enough to enlist. He began his Officer Training in the middle of what would have been his final cricket season. Second Lieutenant E E Arnott of the 2nd Battalion, Welsh Regiment was soon one of thousands of young men who were sent to France in preparation for ‘the Big Push’. Within a few weeks of his arrival, on 23 September 1916 he died of wounds sustained at the Somme. He was 19 and a few weeks.

D J Thomas, known as ‘DJ’, captained the XV in 1915. A talented sportsman who inspired confidence in his team, he led the XV to a notable 20-6 victory when Christ College played at home against Monmouth for the first time in 1915. He played his last season for the Cricket XI before joining the 2nd/5th Battalion, Loyal North Lancashire Regiment. Private David John Thomas arrived in France on 9 February 1917 and reached the front line on 25 February. He was killed the next day by a shell which landed on his trench. He was 19 and a few months.

It is easy to imagine Arnott purposefully signing the photograph of him in his ‘football togs’ for his friend before leaving school to enlist. That the photograph was kept with DJT's cap is perhaps not unexpected. From the historical point of view, the two items together are an extraordinary pairing. Second Lieutenant E E Arnott and Private D J Thomas were the two youngest Old Breconians to be killed in the First World War.  

Their XV boards in the Pavilion. Also on the tablet in the antechapel are D J Thomas, E E Arnott, E T Akrill-Jones, F James and S E Lewis. Photo credit: Paul Edgley for Christ College Archive.

There is something deeply moving about the way the connectedness of Old Breconians helped these two artefacts find their way home in time for us to post their story in time to commemorate DJT on 26 February. 

We are very grateful that Nic and his eagle-eyed wife were in the right place at right time, and even more so that they enthusiastically committed to arranging their purchase. Particular thanks goes to the OBA for the generous donation that enables the Archive to hold these precious items. 

 

 

A few copies of The Toll of War Christ College, Brecon 1914-1918 by Dr Glenn Horridge, are available for purchase from the OB office. Widely researched by Dr Horridge, it tells the stories of EEA and DJT, as well those of all those on the WW1 Christ College Roll of Honour.

If you would like to buy a copy (£15 incl. p&p), contact JS Freeland to arrange purchase and delivery. 

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