Rupert Talfourd Cook, whose great great grandfather was killed in action, took part in the poignant service at Tyne Cot Cemetery in Belgium on 31 July.
The 100th anniversary of the third Battle of Ypres – The Battle of Passchendaele – was marked on 31 July.
During the heavy fighting, an estimated 245,000 allied casualties fell in 103 days. A commemoration service was held amongst the graves at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) Tyne Cot Cemetery in Belgium on 31 July at 11am, the exact time that the battle started a century ago.
Descendants of those killed during the battle were selected to speak at the service. Old Canfordian Rupert Talfourd Cook, who completed his Upper Sixth year and left the school this summer, was chosen as one of only six relatives from over 2,000 applications. Descendants of the fallen as well as members of the British and Belgian Royal families and politicians were present, including the Prince of Wales and Prime Minister Theresa May. Rupert spoke live on BBC One TV about his great great grandfather, Rifleman Stanley Durrant of the King’s Royal Rifle Corps who was killed in action on 24 August 1917.
His son, Rupert’s grandfather, was just three years old at the time. Rupert first discovered Stanley’s grave during a history trip to Belgium when he was in the Fifth Form at Canford.
Rupert travelled to Belgium several days before the event, and took part in broadcast training with drama specialists from RADA, as well as a number of technical rehearsals with the BBC.
Speaking of the experience, Rupert commented, “The service was extremely moving and very emotional. A lot of effort had gone into making the event stunning through the combined contributions of the BBC, CWGC and participants. It was a great honour to play a part in this service and pay our respects to all those who died for our freedom.”
Ben Vessey, Canford’s headmaster, added, “To be selected to represent his family from among so many was a wonderful achievement for Rupert. The service was extremely moving and he read beautifully with genuine pride and respect for his great grandfather and all those who lost their lives.”
The full service, including Rupert’s speech, can be viewed at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-40669719
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