Falklands war veteran delves into history of Sudbury headteacher for TV documentary
PUBLISHED: 19:00 13 March 2017
The tragic story of a former Sudbury headmaster who lost his life in the Battle of the Somme during the First World War is to be retold as part of a TV documentary which will be shown this weekend.
The programme will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Imperial War Museum and will focus on a number of artefacts from the museum’s collection including the wallet of Captain Robert Smylie, who was headteacher at the old Sudbury Grammar School.
For the documentary, Falklands War veteran Simon Weston visited the school which has since become Ormiston Sudbury Academy – part of the Ormiston Academies Trust.
Mr Weston suffered horrific burn injuries during the 1982 Falklands conflict and endured years of reconstructive surgery including more than 70 major operations and surgical procedures. He become known and admired throughout the country for his subsequent recovery and extensive charity work.
Mr Weston visited the Sudbury academy with a BBC film crew to interview director of humanities David Grocott, about Cpt Robert Smylie. Cpt Smylie joined the army in 1914 aged 40, leaving his wife and three children in Sudbury.
He was killed on the 14th day of the Battle of the Somme in 1916 while leading his men in an attack against German lines.
Remarkably the bullet that took his life pierced his wallet containing images of his family – the same wallet that has subsequently been on display in the Imperial War Museum and formed a highlight of the BBC documentary.
“It’s an incredibly touching artefact of loss, duty and wasted life,” Mr Grocott said. “Mr Weston was charming and extremely inspiring. Our students loved having the opportunity to talk to him about his personal experience and the incredible story of our former headmaster.”
The academy’s principal, Caroline Wilson, said: “He (Mr Weston) was tremendously kind and warm and spoke with our students at length about my predecessor - and his own experiences. I think it’s a visit and an experience that will last in our students’ memories for a lifetime.”
The BBC documentary entitled Britain at War: Imperial War Museums at 100 will be screened at 7.30pm on BBC2 on Saturday, March 18.