It was a great pleasure and privilege yesterday for us to welcome guests to Sarum College to mark the centenary of the award of the Victoria Cross to one of our former students ( The Reverend William Addison )
William Addison Addison’s Medals (VC far left)
Here are my opening remarks
Memory and Meaning in the Commemoration of the First World War
Padre Addison VC
A warm welcome to you all this afternoon and especially to those of you who are visiting Sarum College for the first time.
The 2014–18 Centenary Commemoration cycle has given us rich opportunity to develop public knowledge of the First World War. The events that have surrounded the commemoration have captured our imagination. And so it should. In this place of learning we might bear in mind that factual knowledge of the wider history of the war among the broader population of the United Kingdom remains problematic. A survey reported in the Daily Telegraph in November 2012 found that only 46 per cent of respondents aged 16–24 were able to correctly name 1914 as the year that the First World War started, and only 40 per cent knew it ended in 1918. This surely has changed as a result of our resolve to remember the people and events of the Frist World War?
In our modest way, as part of remembering, we gather here at Sarum College to commemorate Padre Addison, and his award of the Victoria Cross one of just three awarded to army chaplains in the history of the medal. William Addison became an army chaplain in WW1 shortly after he trained for the priesthood at Salisbury Theological College in these buildings. He is one of our most distinguished alumni.
I should like to express my gratitude to Padre Addison’s grandson, Tim Addison, for bringing us this medal to make this a very special commemoration and for his presence with us. Gratitude is also due to Allan Mallinson, a military historian and friend of the College for his support and encouragement too. We shall hear from Tim in a moment and see the original VC but just also to remind you that there will be a permanent display of the replica VC, and thank the Army Museum Ogilby Trust for this
After a Curacy here in Salisbury William volunteered as a Chaplain. He accompanied a number of army regiments landing in Basra in March 1916. He experienced at first hand the human price of war and in April over five days endured the horror of hundreds of men massacred in appalling conditions. On April 9, 1916 Padre Addison carried a wounded man to cover and assisted others to safety under heavy fire. His Victoria Cross citation reads: ‘by his splendid example and utter disregard of personal danger, he encouraged the stretcher-bearers to go forward under heavy fire and collect the wounded.’ Padre Addison was awarded the VC by King George V at Buckingham Palace on August 3, 1917.
In remembering William Addison what reflections might we have on the nature of Christian Ministry? Though his story of valour is exceptional, it reminds us that Christians – and especially the clergy – are called to stand alongside their fellow human beings in all circumstances of life – and especially in times of extremis- sickness, injury and death.
Also Christian ministry takes on practical shape – it is not sympathy expressed from afar, but involvement in concrete way. This can come at great cost, and requires sacrifice. We should reflect therefore that this award for valour is expressed in the form of a cross – the emblem of suffering and salvation of Christ.
The ultimate message of the commemoration of War and the sacrifice, bravery and courage of such individuals like William, Tim’s grandfather, is that we must both learn lessons for the future – the shape of tolerance, the meaning of justice and reconciliation, as well as lamenting the vast cost of War in the tragedy of lost lives.
At Sarum College we are proud to have William as one of our former students and we shall continue to remember his life and legacy.