Next time you are in the upper school hall take a closer look at the rear wall. Below the roll calls of former pupils who have given their lives in the service of their country is a small brass plague. It commemorates former Brynteg pupil Sgt Cyril Stephens who was killed in action when his Blenheim L1448 aircraft crashed on the night of 8th August 1940 and was presented to the school in 2011 by the Battle of Britain Historical Society. Sgt Stephens was ‘one of the few’ to whom Winston Churchill referred when he gave thanks on behalf of the nation to all those who had played a part in the Battle of Britain. ‘Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few’.’
On 18th September, Battle of Britain Sunday, I was privileged to be one of a rather different few when I attended the Service of Thanksgiving and Rededication at Westminster Abbey. In what was expected to be a moving experience , I was truly humbled as Battle of Britain spitfire pilot Jeffrey Wellum escorted the colours of 17 Sqn through the nave to be laid upon the alter. At ninety five years old, I wondered what thoughts were going through his mind and how he had felt when he had taken to the skies in 1940 as a nineteen year old to defend Britain against the Luftwaffe. He was a similar age to our year 13 pupils and Cyril Stephens was not very much older at just twenty four.
A short walk from Westminster Abbey, on the Victoria Embankment of the River Thames is the Battle of Britain Memorial. Despite being in the shadow of the London Eye on the opposite bank, it is still an imposing memorial. Twenty five metres of granite set with bronze sculptures depicting the lives of the people involved; pilots, ground crew, the observer corp, gunners and even the WRVS handing out much needed tea to returning crews. Around the base of the memorial are the names of all those who are credited with having flown during the battle. I was thrilled to find Sgt Cyril Stephens’ name and as I stood in the fading light on the Victoria Embankment I felt that it was absolutely right that at Brynteg we take the annual act of Remembrance so seriously.