Students and staff from a New Forest school gathered in their hundreds to pay a very special tribute to the local men who lost their lives during the Great War.
The Arnewood School in New Milton has dedicated the last weeks of term to the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I – culminating in a special parade and service. This event – which raised £1,000 for the Royal British Legion – was a fitting finale to weeks of study and trips dedicated to learning about the war.
The school even gave 14 of its students’ special roles as First World War ambassadors so they could help spread the word to all their peers.
Those First World War ambassadors spent two days visiting the actual battlefields and trenches in France and Belgium. They also bore witness to the thousands of graves of British and Commonwealth soldiers who lost their lives on those battlefields, when they visited the largest British military cemetery in the world. The students penned letters to some of those soldiers and left these at the gravesides – including the grave of New Milton soldier Dennis J Bressey, who was killed when he was just 19.
One of those letters was then read out at The Arnewood Remembers service, which was held at the New Milton War emorial and attended by more than 500 members of staff and students.
Student, Josh Dew, said: “It was an honour leading the school down to the memorial and walking the same route the soldiers would have done as they were going to war.”
And flag bearer, Rafferty Hussey, added: “I felt that the ceremony was very good, and I felt privileged to hold the flag and to be able to read at such a fantastic event.”
During the service, students and staff read out the 62 names of local people who lost their lives during the First World War and who are featured on the War Memorial.
The Chair of Governors, Elizabeth Cook, read the poem ‘In Flanders Field’ and science teacher, Rob Williamson, ended the service with a very poignant note.
Mr Williamson read ‘We Shall Remember Them’ as a tribute to his own great uncle Alexander Williamson who was the first teacher to die in action in the First World War.
Headteacher, Chris Hummerstone, said: “The students have dedicated much of this term to learning about the Great War and our remembrance service provided an opportunity of reflection, remembrance and thanks.
“Our First World War ambassadors have really been able to bring history alive with their evocative experiences in Ypres and Somme, where they toured the actual battlefields and trenches where so many of our young men lost their lives.
“Remembering the events of 100 years ago has truly been a humbling experience for us all.”