When the Queen Mary 2 arrived in Southampton on Wednesday 8th October she brought home a very special cargo. It was the final sandbag of soil brought back from the First World War cemeteries in Belgium and we were invited to attend the ceremony as part of the centenary Remembrance events. Captain Oprey handed over the sandbag of sacred soil to the Mayor and it was transported to the Civic Centre before completing the onward journey to London.
It was a very moving experience and we were honoured to take part in such a momentous event. Last year we saw the cemeteries where the soil was gathered and helped to load the sandbags on a gun carriage at the Menin Gate and it was good to see the soil come home. We were interviewed by the local news who were interested in the project and our own personal links to relatives involved in the war. My grandfather’s brother, ‘Uncle Jim’, died on the Somme a year to the day after he arrived in France. He had joined one of the Pals Battalions in 1914 and was killed in action trying to rescue a group of soldiers who had become encircled after pushing forward in November 1916. Two cousins, aged just 18 and 19, also died. But every family was affected and some were devastated by their huge losses.
We will remember the Southampton war dead and any relatives in our Remembrance display and Field of Poppies at school on November 11th. Thank you for the information about relatives that we have already received. If you have any copies of photographs that you would like to contribute to the display please contact me at Jo.Laybourne@ushschool.org. Personal links and connections to the World Wars are becoming more and more distant, but they help to make Remembrance so meaningful to the younger generations.
Also, if students currently have dads, uncles, brothers, mums, aunts or sisters serving in the armed forces we would like to include them in our display.
Over the next week your son or daughter will dedicate a poppy to a soldier from Southampton or relative who was killed in World War 1 for our Field of Poppies. If you have any personal links please give these to your son or daughter so that they know the names to write on the poppies. Their regiment, place and date of death would also be good to include.
Please also remember to get in touch if you know of any relatives who died in the First World War and would like a wooden cross to be laid in their memory. You can contact me by email at the above address with the soldier’s name, regiment and date of death so that I can arrange for the crosses to be inscribed. We will lay them in London with a wreath on behalf of the school and their names will be added to the school’s Book of Remembrance.
Jo Laybourne, Humanities department, and Lizzie Laybourne, Year 11