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16th June 2016
July 2nd - 4th 2016
St John's History Society will be releasing its third installment of The Valour Still Shines range
Year 11 & 6th Form CYCLE CHARITY CHALLENGE, Gravesend/Ypres and return.
Donations can be made via https://crowdfunding.justgiving.com/Cycle-to-the-Menin-Gate-2016
Please see our Calendar for details
3 DAY BATTLEFIELD TOUR
Charlie Church & JP Lopes who were on the October 2015 Battlefield Trip are both on this trip and will be leading some activities, in particular those used as a template from the October trip.
4>6 students and 8 staff – 3 days with focus on the Somme and in Ypres area.
Ulster Tower with tour; sunken lane with use of pictures.
Colne Cemetery attendance when it will be rededicated – we have been asked by the CWGC to be the school involved.
Passchendaele Museum and In Flanders Field Museum.
Focus on football and Christmas Truce, 1914 with football match against Ashfield Boys School, Belfast at the Peace Centre, Messines.
Talk by Paul Foster on Boy Soldiers of the Great War. Visit graves and Memorials of Gravesend men killed in the war with view to placing a special Saint John’s cross on the resting/commemorative cemetery/Memorial.
In conjunction with Veterans Groups, RoyaL British legion and a Theatre Company, the student led initiative has Year 7 [180 students] involved in our annual HISTORY DAY.
The day begins with an assembly on World War 1 – brief background and a focus on the Battle of the Somme.
At 9:30am there is a visiting theatre company presenting a drama production on the Battle of the Somme.
From 11am students will be in classrooms working on poetry, prayer and art with a war theme being inspired by the drama production. They will be visited in class by veterans of World war 2 who will also be in school. The students will have a better understand of warfare albeit a different war.
Year 7s continue working through to the end of the day.
After a lunchtime wartime themed meal [World War 1] the veterans will be guests of honour at our History Society book launch – the VALOUR STILL SHINES, Volume 3 on those on the local main war memorial on Windmill Hill whose surnames end in the letter N to Y.
Two students - Charlie Church and J P Lopes led this initiative.
The planting of poppy seed was the initiative of the Mayor of Gravesham, John Caller who brought the poppy seed to be planted. He discussed the proposal to the History Society at the School and the above three students did the necessary organising and inviting and the necessary preparation of the ground suggested by the Head teacher to be so planted.
The planting was done after the ground was prepared with the Mayor leading the several dignitaries and students involved.
Prior to the sowing, the seeds were blessed at the school Chapel by the Deacon of the School, Michael Knight.
Having so incurred a blessing the poppy seed duly sprouted into fine examples of Flanders’ poppys and are now flowering in their first full season in the ground.
They will prove an attraction and a talking point for the years’ ahead.
The display attracts the attention of everyone at the school and coming to the school – 1,300 pupils and over 100 staff plus the many visitors to the school.
Members of the History Society conceived the idea of a charity cycle from Gravesend to Ypres and back to raise awareness of the Great War in the school and to raise money for Help for Heroes and the Royal British Legion. The first date scheduled had to be postponed due to terrorist outrages in Belgium but the event finally got under way over the first weekend of July, 2016.
Fund raising was all impotent and variety of activities were run off to raise money – a static cycle challenge, cake sales, car wash, a non uniform day and others. Even the Junior school got involved in the money raising through a non uniform day. There was even the special tour T-Shirt and Hoody for all to wear.
Some 16 students and 10 staff started off from the Windmill Hill Memorial on July 2nd on the first leg to Dover – 58 miles. The cyclists were supported by 2 cars and 2 minibuses which travelled with the group. Heavy rain did not deter the group which finally caught the ferry at 6pm.
The following morning it was a cycle from Dunkirk to Ypres – some 27 miles. There was a reception at 2pm followed by a Battlefield Tour. The return journey was on July 3rd.
COLNE VALLEY CEMETERY RE-DEDICATION
Colne Valley Cemetery was rededicated in late June, 2016 by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. It is a cemetery on the oustskirts of Ypres. St John’s was fortunate to be involved in the ceremony through the efforts of Mr Simon Louagie of the Peace Village Centre, Messines.
The travel involved leaving the school at 3am to ensure we caught the early ferry to be on time for the Ceremony which started at 10am.
The students certainly undertook their part of the ceremony so much so that they were singled out for special thanks by representatives of the CWGC and by the British Ambassador, Mrs Alison Rose, to Belgium.
BATTLE OF THE SOMME COMMEMORATION
In conjunction with the local Royal British Legion and Gravesham Council, the commencement of the Battle of the Somme was commemorated through the blowing of [World War 1 vintage] whistles at 10:30am on July 1st  at the main War Memorial on Windmill Hill, Gravesend. There are 565 names listed on the Memorial several of whom were casualties of the Battle of the Somme [July though to November, 1916].
The Commemoration was be in the presence of the Mayor of Gravesham, representatives of the Royal British Legion and other dignitaries.
Commodore Ian Dunkley supervised the arrangements on the day which commenced with an introduction by Mr Colm Murphy, i/c History St John’s School. Some 51 soldiers listed on the Memorial were killed as a result of the Battle; students from St John’s School, Mayfield Grammar and the Boys’ Grammar laid a rose for each soldier as above.
The Commemoration at the Windmill Hill Memorial was followed up back at St John’s School with a two minute silence and reflection at 11am. The silence will commence with a loud shrill of a whistle used earlier that morning at the earlier Ceremony.
With the presence of the Media the impact was be magnified. It is difficult to give a figure of relevance for this Commemoration.
The two minute silence at the school impacted the school population – 1,300 students with 100 plus staff.
The whole school Assembly [30 minutes duration] – June 28th - the preceding Tuesday focused on the Battle of the Somme with an explanation to students [and staff] of the significance and importance of the Battle.
NATIONAL SOMME COMMEMORATION
St John’s was fortunate to be among the schools selected to be present at the National Commemoration of the Battle of the Somme at Westminster Abbey on June 30th / July 1st, 1916.
Some 5 students were selected – Manisha Kalsi, Emilia Vine, Emily Colfer, Charlie Church and Joel Williams-Modeste to be present. Accompanied by Mr Murphy the group arrived at the Abbey in good time and took their seats at 7pm on June 30th. The Service with the Queen and Prince Phillip in attendance as well as the Prime Minister began at 8:30pm. T was a thrill t be there.
The first reading by St John’s personnel took place at 9:15pm with Mr Murphy in the spotlight. Shortly afterwards four members of the group practised the routine of being honour guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. With Joel now doing a reading the other students stood for 15 minutes with personnel from the R.A.F. from 11:30pm.
It was quite the honour to be present at such an auspicious occasion.
THE VALOUR STILL SHINES
The students created biographies of the 565 servicemen listed on the main memorial in Gravesend using a variety of sources with help from descendants and local historians. Each biography is accompanied by a photograph of their headstone or name on a Memorial if in France/Belgium/ England – these being visited by the students as part of the project.
The books have 220 biographies each; A4, colour, softback, heavily illustrated. Funded by Gravesham Council and the Heritage Lottery Fund.
Each book is launched at the school with various dignitaries – Mayor, Lord Lieutenant, Head teachers etc in attendance.
5 more Volumes planned to cover the other Memorials in the area.
Volume 1 – Published March 2015
Volume 2 – Published December 2015
Volume 3 – Published June 2016
A copy of each book to every school in the Borough and locality = 36 schools at between 300 and 1,500 pupils; 12,000 – 20,000 students!
Copies of the book given at book launches and to descendants = c100
Copies of books to Residential Centres and Care Homes = 16 centres x 12 to 36 residents; 500 plus residents
Copies of the books to BOOK Repository – British Library, Oxford Uni, Cambridge Uni, National Library of Scotland, St Andrews Uni, National Library of Wales, National Library of Ireland, Trinity College, Dublin and the National Uni of Ireland.
5 copies of each book to the Library in Gravesend.
WORLD WAR 1 STATUE
Charlie Church, George Johnson and J P Lopes - seniors in the History Spcoiety, conceived an idea whereby the school would have a [small] statue of a ‘Tommy’ soldier on display to commemorate the declaration of War in 1914. They developed this plan into one where money would be raised for a relevant charity in addition to covering the costs of the bronze figure.
Staff, students and parents were invited to name the figure paying 50p a time for the honour. Some 1,820 tickets were sold.
The figure was unveiled in the presence of Veterans of World War 2 and other distinguished guests on June 23rd, 2015, by the Mayor and Headteacher of St John’s.
The figure is now on display at the school and is named Riv[ersdale] Tommy John.
The money raising -
St John’s Catholic School – 1,300 pupils
Staff - 114
Parents – 1,300 x 2
St John’s Junior School - 700
Staff – 32
Parents – 700 x 2
1,820 tickets sold = 1,212 individuals buying
£960 raised less costs [of statue etc]