WALHAMPTON School recently hosted a special service to mark the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Arnhem, fought in Holland in September 1944.
The service, attended by 400 pupils and adults, included five Arnhem veterans who are all close to 100 years old. John Bosley (94), Jeffrey Noble (95), Arthur Bailey (95), Jim Hooper (97) and Victor Gregg (99) all attended along with other relatives, including John Grayburn, son of Victoria Cross winner Jack Grayburn, who died of his wounds at Arnhem Bridge aged 26.
Over the last decade, the school has developed a unique relationship with the veterans and the stories of Arnhem. Headmaster Titus Mills has been taking parents and pupils to the battlefield every year and it is the only UK school regularly attending the commemorative service in the cemetery, during which Walhampton children join hundreds of Dutch youngsters to lay flowers at the graves of fallen soldiers.
Titus said: “We want to preserve the powerful stories of those brave men and women who endured the battle of Arnhem. We want to be guardians of these stories of life and death, humanity and inhumanity, compassion and courage.
“I want our pupils to feel connected to this story. I want them to shake hands with the last few veterans and to experience history in a compelling way. They need to know the price of freedom. That is why pupils presented the veterans, in our service, with stones on which were painted the words ‘The young are grateful’.”
After the service, guests enjoyed the Remembrance Garden where a bronze statue made by the school’s art department is permanently on display in honour of the veterans.