Students at the JCB Academy have created a unique roll of honour for the fallen of the two world wars to launch the 2016 Staffordshire poppy appeal.
The youngsters have been researching the heroic exploits of servicemen who died in the two conflicts – many of whom were members of their own families.
Now their study has led to the names of the fallen and some who served and survived being honoured in a moving and striking display at the JCB Academy. The names have been laser cut on to red acrylic- shaped poppies and suspended from 35 wires in the Rocester-based school’s reception.
Today JCB Chairman Lord Bamford officially opened the display by hanging the final palm-sized poppy on the display to honour his grandfather’s cousin, Captain Oswald Bamford, who died aged 38 in the Battle of Loos more than 101 years ago. On the day he died 15 other Uttoxeter men also perished in the battle.
Moments after the opening, poppies fell from two balconies overlooking the reception as JCB Academy student Joe Hey played the Last Post.
Lord Bamford said: “The JCB Academy students have created a very moving display. It’s a wonderful tribute to the servicemen who gave their lives for our freedom.”
JCB Academy Principal Jim Wade said: “I’m extremely proud of what our students have achieved with this display. It’s important that our young people remember the sacrifices of the past and this wonderfully engineered piece of artwork ensures their memory lives on in a very vibrant way.”
The Royal British Legion’s Director of Fundraising Claire Rowcliffe, who attended today’s event said: “The Poppy Appeal 2016 is encouraging the public to recognise the service and sacrifices made across all generations of the British Armed Forces and the JCB Academy students encapsulate this message through a moving and very striking display that acknowledges the sacrifices made by those during both World Wars.
“Service can come in many forms from being parted from family and loved ones for long periods of time, to physical and mental injury, and sadly making the ultimate sacrifice. The Legion’s role remains as contemporary and as vital as it has ever been supporting today’s generation of Service personnel, veterans, and their families whether living with an injury or illness, coping with bereavement or finding employment.
“We’re encouraging people to dig deep for this year’s Poppy Appeal to help us raise £43 million. The Legion’s work is entirely dependent on the public’s generous support – so please wear your poppy with pride, knowing that you are helping the Armed Forces community to live on.”
Among the soldiers honoured was gunner Albert Jesse Wright, the great-great uncle of Academy students, twins Ozan and Yunus Bozkurt, of Rugeley. Albert was a gunner with the Royal Field Artillery and after service in Ireland was posted to France where he died aged 20 in March 1915.
Ozan said: “While my great-great uncle was serving in Ireland he posted home to his parents a piece of Irish Shamrock in a matchbox. They planted it next to their greenhouse and it grew all over it which ensured he was always remembered.”
Brother and sister Ciaran and Shannon Selwood, of Uttoxeter, who are both students at the Academy, have four family members honoured in the display – all of whom died in WW1. The brother and sister’s great-great grandfather William Robert Selwood was killed in September 1915 at the Battle of Loos and their great-great-great uncle Albert Frederick Harris was killed in August 1915 at Gallipoli.
Their great-great-great uncle, Royal Navy seaman William Thomas Sapey, perished at the Battle of Jutland aboard HMS Defence in May 1916. The vessel was one of 14 British ships sunk at the battle and the wreck is the final resting place of Able Seaman Sapey and around 900 others who were on board.
William Sapey was one of four brothers who fought in WW1. His brother Frederick John Sapey, of the Coldstream Guards, died of wounds in Flanders just four days before Christmas 1915. The two other brothers who went to war Walter and Leonard, Ciaran and Shannon’s great-great grandfather, survived.
Ciaran said: “Knowing that I had a distant connection to the Battle of Jutland made the research into the events of the battle more interesting. I am very proud to know that so many members of my family fought and even more grateful that some came home.”
Amelia Capewell, of Uttoxeter, is among the students who have researched family links with World War One. Her great-great-great uncle Lance Corporal Ernest Simmonds, of Clifton, Ashbourne, died in battle on July 1st, 1917, hit by piece of shrapnel which killed him instantly. He was 23.
Ernest’s two brothers Herbert and Richard, Amelia’s great-great grandfather, also served in the war. Herbert was wounded in battle and Richard was injured in an explosion which killed nine local soldiers in 1915. Richard was later awarded the Military Medal for showing “great courage” in a raid on German trenches in November 1917. He is commemorated on the JCB Academy’s unique roll of honour.
Amelia, 15, said: “I can’t imagine how frightening it must have been to have been in the war and being shot at. I am very, very proud that members of my family were so brave and for what they did for our country. My great-grandma use to tell me the stories of my ancestors in the First World War and I was fascinated by them. It’s something I have always been interested in. It’s very important to keep these stories alive because we really don’t know what it is like to be in a war and we need to know what it is like.”
JCB Academy student Joe Haynes, of Swadlincote, has commemorated his great-great uncle Walter Haynes with a poppy. Private Walter Haynes, of the Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry, died in WW2 in Italy in January 1944 aged 25. He was part of an attack in which 600 soldiers died.
He said: “I didn’t know anything about my great-great uncle Walter until this project began and it has been really interesting to find out about him. I’m also really pleased to have been able to honour him with a poppy.”
Josh and Charlotte Wright, of Stafford, have honoured their great-grandfather Joseph Bryden in the unique display. He served in WW1 in France with the Highland Light Infantry from 1914 and received the Distinguished Conduct Medal.
His citation records: “For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. On his battalion being driven out of the position captured on four occasions, he showed the greatest gallantry and coolness in rallying and reorganising the men for further attacks in the face of very heavy fire. The final success of the operation was largely due to the splendid example which he set.”
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