A Triumphant Legacy To Ensure We Never Forget…
Canterbury City Council, Beach Creative, Herne Bay Historical Records Society and Fields in Trust Centenary Trail Project Official Opening Ceremony of the WWI Centenary History Trail
The Educational Life team were honoured to be invited to a special event to mark the Centenary held in Memory Park, Herne Bay. The Centenary Fields project was a three-year labour of love between Canterbury City Council; Herne Bay Historical Records Society and Beach Creative as part of the Fields in Trust initiative to protect green spaces in memory of the millions who lost their lives during WWI.
To personalise the project for the Canterbury District, the team researched the archives to find local residents who served in The Great War and honour them and their families for their service.
The WWI Centenary History Trail was designed by the project coordinators to navigate the park and share historical facts and information about WWI as you wander around. Sgt Harry Wells has one dedicated to him, as do The Royal British Legion, the meaning of the Poppy and a brief history of The Great War (to name but a few… please go and walk the trail. It’s a terrific way to get out and about and immerse yourself in local, national and world history.)
Sgt Harry Wells, was a local hero who fought in The Great War and was celebrated with a Victoria Cross posthumously, for his heroic efforts. To ensure Sgt Harry Wells’ legacy is not forgotten, a tree planting ceremony was arranged with Harry Wells’ family planting the tree in his honour.
The commemorative tree was planted behind the War Memorial and will be a fitting tribute for people to visit and learn about Harry Wells and The Great War for years to come. By being placed behind the War Memorial it also means that it is a poignant conclusion to the WWI Centenary History Trail.
Herne Bay in Bloom planted Crocus bulbs with nursery school pupils from Avenue Nursery and Forest School for the twelfth year. A fitting memorial and way to show the life cycle of plants to children, as well as the way they need to be cultivated and nurtured to bloom. The importance of nature is clearly pivotal to the project, not only because of the involvement of Fields in Trust, but also as a stark reminder of the way The Great War was fought. It was a muddy, cold and oppressive war of trench warfare. Giving colour to the landscape by planting flowers demonstrates the importance of celebrating the beauty of the earth despite the destruction wrought upon it; of showing hope and as an emblem of peace. The nursery pupils also made a giant red poppy which they laid on the War Memorial for inclusion in the Remembrance Day ceremony.
Having different generations of the community present showed the integrity of the project – the legacy we are leaving for those to continue. Nursery students, still too young to understand the meaning of Remembrance, now have a concept of celebrating with new life – the seeds we are planting and hoping to nurture; Junior School students, the saplings learning more with each year and understanding more.
Beach Creative held workshops for students of Herne Bay Junior School to create Poppy Art.
Local artist, Mandy Troughton designed and made the individual elements of each poppy and a simple system for the children to assemble each poppy for the display at the War Memorial alongside the There But Not There figures. The workshops proved a fundamental element of the inter-generational education, opening up conversations and giving pupils the opportunity to ask “Why?” What does this mean?” and the power of emblems to give messages and spread hope.
Whilst proudly showing us the poppy that she made, a pupil told us that she was glad to be involved and thought that the ‘soldiers were very brave.’ When asked why it is important to remember she said simply, ‘So it never happens again.’
TheTen Million Grains of Sand exhibition at Beach Creative, was a poignant reminder to re-humanise those who lost their lives. Each individual grain of rice represented a person who died during WWI across the world as a direct result of military action – civilians and military; allied or otherwise. The sheer scale of the losses can mean that we desensitise ourselves from the tragedies that took place, forgetting that each person had a story, people who loved them and dreams they aspired to. The exhibition sought to focus each work of art on a person and it was fascinating and enriching.
“I was astounded to learn that a local resident took place in an event that we wax lyrical about now – The Christmas Day Truce of 1914. L/Sgt Archibald Nelson Griggs 1896 – 1916, from Herne Bay, fought in the Great War and took part in the Armistice Day football match in no-man’s land on Christmas Day 1914.
I have always been fascinated by that event and astounded by the break in fighting for a kick around with the same people who were the enemy hours before, and would become again mere hours later. The juxtaposition of civility with the brutality of the situation has always struck a chord with me. A brief and I imagine, somewhat awkward kick around with the same people you will be forced to slaughter hours later. An event that had never happened before or would happen again… it just seemed so distant, a fairy tale of war; not an experience that my friend, brother, partner could have been involved in, had I been born in another time. ” Anna, 30.
The exhibition was a roaring success and a great conversation starter between the generations, who were engaging in story telling and natural question and answer sessions as they toured the Beach Creative Studio.
We would like to take this opportunity to thank Canterbury City Council for the invitation to attend this special event. Not only was it delightful to see all of the project coordinators’ hard work being unveiled, but it was testament to everything fought for in the first place. The community answered when called, volunteering their time to support one another and make the world a better place. The event was a real celebration of local heroes. Shaking the hand of Sgt Harry Wells’ relative and thanking him for their sacrifice felt important. Watching as local young people stood sentient, well behaved and respectfully listening to proceedings made us proud. A gaze across those gathered showed friends welcoming one another and strangers sharing stories, eager to ensure we never forget…
Click here to read Canterbury City Council’s official press release
If you are looking to attend memorial events locally, please consider The Poppy Proms in the Park (it is a ticketed event but free to attend.)