Remembrance Day this year saw the students of Biddick join with the local community to commemorate the fallen soldiers from the Great War.
Sixteen pupils from Years 9 and 10 attended the Harraton Memorial on Bonemill Lane, taking part in a silence which was begun and ended by a local lone bugler playing The Last Post and Reveille. Prior to the service the names of the local soldiers who gave their lives in the Great war and World War 2 were read aloud, along with a short description of the men’s lives. Each soldier was commemorated by a named poppy which was laid beneath the Cross of Remembrance, and also by a knitted poppy swaying gently in a nearby tree.
The students then walked across a poppy-themed clippy mat to attend the premiere of a film which charts the lives of five of the Washington soldiers killed during the war, showing why they joined up, what life was like in Washington during the war, how they met with their deaths, and how it affected those around them. The film was a poignant reminder of the ultimate sacrifice made by men and women, many of whom lived in the same villages, roads and houses, and share a blood-line with our current students. The film, ‘Wad thou gan? Aye, Aa wad’, was made by Lonely Tower Film and Media and funded by HLF. It was based on research done by local Historian, Peter Welsh and members of the Wessington U3A. Peter and Margaret Welsh visit the school in November to deliver memorial assemblies. Peter has researched and detailed the lives of all but a handful of the Washington soldiers listed on the town’s War Memorials, many of whom bear the same surnames of our students.
Our students again gave an exemplary display of decorum and respect throughout the day. Some of students involved will now take some wooden crosses and a wreath with them on their trip to the Belgian battlefields on the 9-12th December. Individual crosses, bearing the names of local soldiers will be placed at the memorials and graves where their names are now inscribed in Ypres, the Menin Gate, Thiepval, Tyne Cot and the Somme. The students will also participate in a ceremony at the Menin Gate, where they will recite Laurence Binyon’s famous poem ‘For the Fallen’ and lay wreaths from the Washington Social Clubs and communities.
As a memory to the soldiers, you may see a bronze poppy adorning certain houses in the streets of Biddick, Usworth, Springwell, Harraton and Washington. Each one represents a fallen soldier, or a fallen soldier’s family, who lived in that house. It serves as a stark reminder that these young men (and one young woman) were just like us: ordinary people with ordinary jobs, and families who loved them. Our students felt that finding out about the lives of an individual helped then to realise the scale of the heartache and sacrifice of our ancestors, and reminded us how lucky we are. One of our Y9 students, Leanna Hill, explained, “The service and the film brought to life what it was really like for the soldier and their families, and how much we should appreciate the sacrifices made for our freedom.” As Stalin said, “One death is a tragedy; one million is a statistic.”
Sadly, there are still a few names on our memorials which have no history: no records or documents help us to know who they really were – ‘Known Unto God’. Maybe you could be a relative? Should you wish to know more about these soldiers, Peter has just released a book, ‘Washington in the Great War’; or if you have any information which would add to our knowledge of any of these soldiers, you can contact Peter by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.