NSI at RAF Leeming

We visited RAF Leeming as part of our 2017/18 roadshow, and welcomed children and young people to commemorate the First World War through poetry, art, and song. 

We were joined at the Royal Air Force base by children and young people from Brompton-On-Swale Primary School, The Vale Primary Academy, Appleton Academy, North Stainley Primary School, and Ainderby Steeple Primary School.  We were very sad that Mowbray School and Eppleby Forcett-Middleton Tyas Federation Schools were prevented from joining us due to the snow, but we look forward to receiving competition entries from all over North Yorkshire!

The event took place in a real working aircraft hangar, and the Air Force provided some fascinating displays and activities for the students before the main event began.  We are delighted to be working together with the Royal Air Force this year to commemorate the First World War and the formation of the RAF in 1918.

Students from every attending school participated in the main afternoon event onstage, and showed incredible confidence showcasing their work in front of special guests including Air Commodore Simon Bostock, Deputy Lieutenant for North Yorkshire.  We were also joined by Cllr John Forrest, Mayor of Northallerton; Warrant Officer Trevor Beck, Garrison Sergeant Major of Catterick Garrison; and Cllr Annabel Wilkinson of North Yorkshire County Council.

Group Captain Andy Cooksley opened the event by welcoming the young people to the Castle, before Ainderby Steeple Primary School did a wonderful group reading of Jeffrey Day’s poem On the Wings of the Morning

Our Founder and Chief Executive Lady Lucy French then spoke about the Never Such Innocence competition and how to get involved.  We were then treated to a reading of Perhaps by Vera Brittain, from Henna Ravjibhai of Appleton Academy.  Eva Barraclough and Lucia Jesson then read poems they had written themselves inspired by the First World War, called When I Look Back and On My Last Day.  All three Appleton Academy students read with brilliant confidence and poise.

Angela Hobson of English Heritage then spoke about the Cell Block project at Richmond Castle.  It was moving to hear Angela encourage the students to use art as a way of remembering the First World War, just as many people 100 years ago used art to try and forget the War.

The students and guests were also treated to an introduction to the work of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission by Glenn Hearnden, who demonstrated how many CWGC sites there are in North Yorkshire and how many local people were involved in the conflict. 

The Year 6 pupils of North Stainley Primary School then recited a beautiful poem which they had written themselves about the First World War.  The students showed impressive and mature grasp of the very difficult themes they explored, and it was wonderful to see how they had worked together.

Our Artist in Residence Bethzienna Williams then spoke about the Songs of the Centenary project and how much she had enjoyed working with Brompton-On-Swale Primary School and the Vale Primary Academy on their songs for the event.  Bethzienna visited the two schools in advance of the roadshow event to introduce basic songwriting techniques, and facilitate the groups to write their own lyrics inspired by the First World War.

Brompton-On-Swale sang their song, Learning About the Brave, which they had written themselves inspired by the War in the Skies and the early Air Force.

When the enemy came
You were in your planes
Protecting our dreams
You’re in our memories


You’ve got us
Learning and thinking
How you were so brave
And we are grateful and thankful
For keeping us safe.

Brompton-On-Swale showed real confidence and sang their hearts out for the other students and guests, which included many current serving members of the RAF and also children who have a family member serving.  This year entries inspired by the War in the Skies or the formation of the Royal Air Force could be eligible for special bonus prizes, courtesy of the RAF!

Year 6 of the Vale Primary Academy closed the show with their song, also written themselves in a workshop with Bethzienna.  The Vale students called their song God Bless, Goodnight, and were inspired by the thought of the many people who fought in the First World War and did not return home.

The day they marched
For victory
Did they know
What it would mean ?

We stand with pride
Together, side by side
To those that died
God bless and goodnight

The Vale Primary Academy wanted to use their song as a way of saying ‘Thank You’ to the First World War generation, for all they sacrificed.  It was very poignant to see the students paying their respects and thanking the First World War generation.

Together with the Royal British Legion, Never Such Innocence is inviting all young people to share a message of remembrance and hope by saying ‘Thank You’ to those who lived through the First World War, and those who died.  Entries such as the Vale students’ which are inspired by the theme of ‘Thank You’ could win the opportunity to perform at the Legion’s Festival of Remembrance at the Royal Albert Hall.

After the main presentations and performances, students had the opportunity to look at and handle some genuine First World War artefacts including uniforms, medals, helmets, and a gas rattle!  This was courtesy of Green Howards Museum , and Carl Watts the Learning Manager was on hand to bring the historical artefacts to life.

Everyone was also able to learn about the history of the Air Force, and a bit more about the activities of RAF Leeming today.  Children received some medical training and learned CPR, and also tested out a real ejector seat! 

Students who attended were also able to learn about North Yorkshire’s own First World War heritage at Richmond Castle, and those who were stationed there.  Angela Hobson, Senior Property Historian at English Heritage, spoke to the students about the graffiti that was drawn on the walls of the Castle cells between 1914-18 and still exists today.  Some of this was drawn by ‘absolutist’ Conscientious Objectors.  The children then had the opportunity to think about what they might have drawn, and used the Richmond Castle graffiti as inspiration for their own artwork.

Group Captain Andy Cooksley, Commanding Officer 90 Signals Unit said:  “The centenary of the end of World War One is a hugely significant event. Of course, we no longer have the benefit of first-hand accounts, and so activities like the Never Such Innocence roadshow, which combine history, poetry and music to bring remembrance to life, are really important in helping our next generation learn about and honour the service of those who have gone before. With 2018 also marking the centenary of the Royal Air Force, it was a real privilege to host some of our local schools and introduce them to the heritage of the RAF as part of the World War One centenary.”

We would like to thank all the schools, guests and partners who joined us and helped make our 2017/18 Roadshow event at RAF Leeming so special. We would particularly like to thank the whole team at RAF Leeming for hosting us.  Every child present at the event was given a copy of the Never Such Innocence resource to take home.  For your free copy, email us at enquiries@neversuchinnocence.com or download it here.

If you’d like to enter the competition please click here, and to see the upcoming locations of our roadshow events please click here!


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