WHEN THE BLAST OF WAR SWEPT THE WORLD: BERKSHIRE AND WWI
In 1917, the year the US officially joins the War Effort, (the last nation to join the Allies) this is what Berkshire School looked like. The School has eight full-time teachers including Mr. Eipper, Mr. Dean, and, of course, Mr. Buck as an English teacher. There are over 70 students. A record number. By the time the year is over, five teachers (over half the faculty) will leave to enlist.
Jack Jewett and Friends, 1916
Jack Jewett, Class of 1919, his first year at Berkshire.
Glenny House, 1917
Front view. This picture captures how Glenny House must have looked when the Bucks first rented Glenny Farm from Mr. Wilson in 1907.
Opening of School Faculty, 1907
First picture of the opening of school. Included in the photo are Mr. and Mrs. Buck and Mr. and Mrs. Gibson. Gibson later went on to be Headmaster of The Gunnery.
Glenny House, 1917
In 1917, there were only two academic buildings at Berkshire: Glenny House and Allen House. Half the boys lived in Glenny along with the Bucks and some of the other teachers.
Football game, 1916
Varsity football game. Photo taken by Jack Jewett '1919
Cartoon, 1916 Dome Magazine
This cartoon, drawn by students in the 1916 Dome, captures school life. In the top picture, you can see the arrival of the wooden guns and a teacher trying to teach the boys military drills. In the lower-left is a picture of the boys roughhousing. So much so that there were injuries, and they couldn’t play in the Green and Gray games that week. On the right is a drawing of Mr. Eipper out on his daily walk to Sheffield to get the mail.
Plane on baseball field, Jack Jewett's scrapbook
War Fever, especially an interest in flying, was evident at school. In the 1917 yearbook, there is also mention of James Chapel and how he was recently injured in an attempt to fly a monoplane he had himself constructed. Although they said only his “feelings were hurt” when he was picked up off the ground.”
Military Drills Lower Fields
In May of 1917 after a trip to Washington DC, Mr. Buck started military drills on campus with himself as the commander. There were two platoons of students, led by seniors.
Military Drills WWI
Student 17th Regiment, Company A lined up along the Glenny House driveway with their uniforms and wooden guns for the daily drill. At the time of WWI, Berkshire had 123 alumni; all but two served in WWI.
Cartoon, 1917 Dome
The school editor in the May 1917 Dome told his fellow students that this might be the last time they get to go to school and to make the most of it so they can become good soldiers who can think for themselves. The school schedule changes too and becomes more military in tone. There is reveille in the morning at 6:40 and taps at night at 9:30. There is a new class schedule too with more emphasis on French and German classes. The Riflery range becomes a lot busier. A group of boys was taught signaling which was one of the best communication techniques during the war because radios were undependable. Miss Dunbar the school nurse sewed the flags for the SIgnallers. The school also applied to the NRA to get rifles and they hoped to have enough at school for one squad.
Cartoon, 1917 Trail Yearbook
The cartoon on the right is from the yearbook and shows how it was assumed all seniors were headed to war.
Glenny House Fire, 1918
In November of 1918, the school was burning wood (boys chopped it down from the hills) in Glenny House for heat to save coal for WWI. Ted O’Hara, a third former wrote to his aunt and uncle: “My God! What a time we have had! Never in my life have I really had so much excitement. Everybody is well and nobody is hurt, everybody is determined.” He went on to describe how Mr. Buck had come in the door of his first-period French class and instructed the boys to get fire extinguishers. They had tried to put the fire out with hand-held extinguishers and garden hoses but the water pressure gave out. Everything was saved from the inside; even the uncooked turkeys saved for Thanksgiving. The boys were instructed to run in the building and throw everything outside: beds, radiators etc.
Edward McClure Peters pictured in the 2nd Company's Machine Gun Battalion in the 1st Brigade of the American Expeditionaly Force, France
Five boys died in WWI from Berkshire. The alumni base wasn’t very old, and almost all of the 118 who served were in college or younger. Even the oldest was barely in his twenties.
Edward Peters, Class of 1912, was the first Berkshire alumnus to die in WWI. Peters was sent to France in the summer of 1917 and was eventually promoted to First Lieutenant in the 16th U.S. Infantry. Peters was killed in action at Seicheprey in the Lorraine Region of France on March 11, 1918. He came to Berkshire the first year it opened in 1907.
Mrs. Buck, Memorial Hall Dedication
The war was over, but not the difficulties. Mr. Buck was short on faculty and getting food for the school was difficult. There was also a coal shortage. After the Glenny House Fire in 1918, a new school building was the immediate need of the school. In its ashes, the school built Memorial Hall to honor the students who had died and all that served in WWI.
Button for WWI Virtual Event, February 25, 2021
Hosted by Bebe Bullock '86, archivist, and history teacher, Jason Gappa, our virtual evening looked at what happened at Berkshire from 1915-1919 and understand the broad impact of WWI more deeply.