The Harefield Flag, a Union Jack which was draped over the coffins of Australian Soldiers during World War 1 and which has been a treasured artefact at Adelaide High School since the end of the war, is currently under restoration at Artlab.
In 2010 the school received a grant from the Premier’s Anzac Day Fund to help restore the flag and the school is currently looking at raising additional funds to allow this to happen. When Artlab began the restoration they found that:
“at some point in its life the Flag has undergone restoration with sections of the blue and cream replaced. Since then it has been displayed with the back to the front as this side is less faded. It was decided not to remove the previous restoration and leave it displayed as is. The repairs are very much part of its history and reflects the effort and care taken to look after the Flag by the school community.” (Artlab: The Harefield Flag from Adelaide High School)
The Flag has a long and interesting history, and during World War 1 it belonged to the Harefield Council School in Harefield, a little village about 27 kilometres north-west of London in Middlesex, England.
During the war, each of the Anzacs who died at the Harefield Hospital received a military funeral. Ceremonial cortèges with flag-draped caskets passed down the main street of the village of Harefield to their final burial place in the Australian burial ground at the Harefield village church, St Mary’s Church.
Mr Earnest F Jeffrey, who was the headmaster of the Harefield Council School at the time, reported that “when the first death in the Hospital occurred, the school’s Union Jack was borrowed to cover the coffin at the burial, and throughout the war it was borrowed whenever the sad need for it arose. After the Armistice, it was thought that the children of Australia would treasure the flag because of the use to which it had been put.”
In early 1920, Mr Jeffrey presented the Union Jack flag to Lieutenant Colonel Yeatman, the last Officer Commanding the Hospital, with a request that he would hand it to an Australian school willing to send its own Union Jack in exchange. On his return to Australia, Yeatman handed the flag to the Schools’ Patriotic Fund which considered Adelaide High School had earned the honour of receiving it because of the work it had done for this fund during the war by sending relief parcels to Harefield. The Schools’ Patriotic Fund later arranged for a British Union Jack to be sent to Harefield and Adelaide High sent Harefield an Australian flag which they still have hanging in their chapel.
Whilst traditions surrounding Anzac Day continue in Harefield, the significance of the “Harefield Flag” has been an enduring feature in the history of Adelaide High School. Past scholars remember school assemblies where the school displayed the Harefield Union Jack, and the connection with Harefield School continued, not only on Anzac Day, but through correspondence between students of the two schools. The flag hung in Price Hall at Adelaide High School in Grote Street until the amalgamation of Adelaide Girls’ and Adelaide Boys’ High Schools in 1977, when it was transferred to the Honour Roll Foyer at Adelaide High School, West Terrace. Here it was hung next to the Honour Roll Board containing the names of students from Adelaide High School who served during World War I, together with those who gave their lives in service for their country. The Lady Galway (Red Cross) banner, presented to Adelaide High School by the Schools’ Patriotic Fund at the end of World War I, is also displayed in the Honour Roll foyer.
Whilst the original flag is still in the possession of the school, over the years constant display has made it fragile and faded and in 1995 it was treated by Artlab to prevent further deterioration. At the time, the school was unable to afford the cost of fully restoring the flag so it was then stored in Adelaide High School’s archives, being too fragile to continue to display. A replacement Union Jack, provided by the RSL at the request of the school, currently hangs in the Honour Roll Foyer in place of the Harefield flag.
The Harefield Flag provides a real historical link to South Australia’s involvement in World War I as it is the actual flag used to honour servicemen who gave their lives for their country.
It is hoped that following its restoration the school will once again be able to display the original Harefield Flag for the centenary of Anzac Day in 2015. Adelaide High School is also looking at the possibility of taking a group of students to Gallipoli or France for the centenary celebrations and is hoping to visit Harefield.
Please contact Adelaide High School if you would like to make a donation towards the restoration of the Harefield Flag.
Phone: 61 8 8231 9373