Children of county’s armed forces personnel gather to remember

This story was published 13 November 2021

Children of armed forces personnel stationed in North Yorkshire gathered at Ripon Cathedral today (Friday, 12 November) for their own special service of Remembrance.

Children at Ripon Cathedral

Throughout the service, the children’s songs, poetry and art celebrated 100 years of the poppy as the symbol of remembrance.

Highlights included a performance of 100 Years of the Poppy, a new song written by members of Wensleydale School choir, as well as performances from the Northern Military Kids Club Choir. Children read poems they had written and students’ poppy art was displayed in the cathedral.

Around 200 Service children took part in the service at the cathedral, fewer than on previous occasions because of Covid-19 precautions, but many more watched through a livestream.

The service was organised by our Service Children’s Champions, who support the county’s large number of Service children.

County Council chair Cllr Stuart Martin attended the service. He said: “Being back in the cathedral after the pandemic forced last year’s service online enabled those present to experience the full vibrancy of the children’s voices and art in this wonderful setting. I’m sure this heartfelt act of remembrance was appreciated by all those in the cathedral and the many more who watched online. We must always remember those who paid the ultimate sacrifice in service of our country.”

County Councillor Patrick Mulligan, Executive Member for Education and Skills, added: “This event gives us all an opportunity to understand better the experience of Service children and the challenges life as part of a military family can bring, especially during active deployment and at times of transition, as well as recognising the service given by their parents and guardians.”

The Service Children’s Champions worked closely on preparations with the Never Such Innocence project, a charity that gives Service children a creative outlet.

The charity ran poetry and art workshops in schools, including with Wensleydale School choir, who worked on their song with Bethzienna Williams, a finalist on TV singing competition The Voice.

“I have thoroughly enjoyed working with the children at Wensleydale School,” said Bethzienna. “It was fantastic to see so many making the most of the opportunity.

“The students spoke up about their experiences of conflict and resolution and discussed what Remembrance Day meant to them, individually. This was a great outcome as the purpose of Never Such Innocence is to give children and young people a voice on conflict and allow them a platform to express themselves. I am very pleased with the finished song that we were able to create.”

Lady Lucy French OBE, founder of Never Such Innocence, attended the service to see the fruits of the charity’s work with schools.

She said: “To be marking Remembrance week at Ripon Cathedral with the inspiring voices of service children, fills me with great pride. These young people have a unique perspective on remembrance and it is important that we listen to what they are saying.

“Never Such Innocence and our Voices of Armed Forces Children programme encourages such voices to be heard through poetry, art, speech and, of course, song! The young voices echoing through Ripon Cathedral represent all service children. A very special occasion.”

The work of the schoolchildren around 100 years of the poppy is closely linked to this year’s centenary of the Royal British Legion.

Major General Michael Charlton-Weedy, County President of the Royal British Legion, said: “After 100 years, we remain firmly focused on the needs of the service community and their families. The need is not diminishing. People’s requirements are more complex and long-running. People we are looking after today may still depend on us 50 years from now and the Legion will be there for them. In recent years, we have spent more than £70m annually on welfare, and the money raised in the Poppy Appeal is vital for our activities.

“The Royal British Legion began with groups of people coming together after the Great War to provide support and comfort at a local level. It has always been about family and community from the bottom up and that is the link to the young people, such as those attending today’s service at Ripon Cathedral. It is their family and community that are at the forefront of generating these networks at a local level to carry the Legion into its next century.”

The Dean of Ripon, the Very Rev John Dobson DL added: “This is such a worthwhile event with which we always love being engaged. This year, it has a special added dimension as we celebrate the centenary of the British Legion and of the poppy being used as a symbol of remembrance.”

Schools that took part at the cathedral were: Alanbrooke; Bedale High School; Bolton on Swale; Great Ouseburn; Hipswell; Holy Trinity; Hunton Arrathorne; Le Cateau; Leeming RAF; Moorside; Outwood Ripon; Ripon Cathedral School; Ripon Grammar; Richmond; Risedale; Romanby; St Francis Xavier; St Wilfrid’s and Wensleydale.

Find more about Service Children’s Champions.