After the War of 1914-18 the Revd CA (Chuck) Macvicar, the School Chaplain, produced with commendable speed a splendid memorial book commemorating those Old Birkonians who had given their lives in that War, most of whom he had known personally. Published in 1920 it contained short biographies of all those who died, together with photographs of all but one.
When the Second World War was over all that was published, in 1947 again compiled by 'Chuck' Macvicar, was a small booklet entitled 'War List, 1939-1946'. In 1995 the national preparations for the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the end of the war inspired one Old Birkonian World War II veteran to suggest that a similar commemorative book be compiled to honour the memory of those Old Birkonians who gave their lives in World War II.
Whilst every effort has been made to supplement the information in the 1947 War List, the delay of 50 years has made it impossible to trace the relatives or close friends of many of those commemorated in the Roll of Honour. Consequently there will be many omissions and, maybe, errors of detail and the compilers will gratefully acknowledge any further information that the reader can supply. All additional information will be carefully recorded and inserted in the School Archives.
In compiling the Roll of Honour, the Archives team have tried to extract and record all available information in order to help to give a picture of the whole man. Inevitably this has produced an imbalance between those for whom no personal contact has been achieved and those for whom relatives or close friends have been traced and interviewed. The team trust that this imbalance will not give offence or cause distress.
No fewer than 96 Old Birkonians gave their lives between 1914-1918. By 1918 the school had only been in existence for 58 years and it was still a small school. By 1945, however, it had been going and thriving for 85 years and there were many more Old Birkonians living. Yet the casualties in the Second World War were mercifully lower than in the First as far as the armed forces were concerned although there was , of course, a high number of civilian casualties in the United Kingdom, particularly in London and the larger cities. The army was spared the tremendous waste of life that had resulted from trench warfare in the First World War but casualties at sea, both in the Royal and Merchant Navies, remained high and the loss of airmen was considerable. Nine hundred and sixty-seven Old Birkonians are recorded as having served in the forces between 1939-1946 and 86 of them lost their lives.
Families, though normally smaller than in 1914-1918, were not so badly hit. In World War I no less than three Ashcroft brothers and three MacSwiney brothers were killed and four other families each lost two sons. In 1939-1946 only the Radcliffes and the Kerrs lost two sons. In 1914-1918 large numbers of O.B.s served in the same battalions - particularly in those of the Cheshire Regiment and the King's Liverpool Regiment . Although in 1940 one battalion of the Cheshire Regiment had as many as eight O.B.s serving as officers, this was unusual.
Again in World War II the Radcliffes of Bidston were exceptional. All three brothers who had been to the school were commissioned in 9th Gurkha Rifles of the Indian Army, of which JR Morris (O.B.) was a senior officer (and eventually Brigadier, CBE DSO and Bar). At one time JR Morris, MD Radcliffe and PD Radcliffe were all in the 1st Battalion, while DC Radcliffe was in the 2nd Battalion, 9th Gurkha Rifles.
The researchers decided that, in addition to compiling the Roll of Honour, the War List should
be brought up-to-date, with the additional information received, and incorporated in this book.