Pocklington School

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CCF honours the fallen in local act of remembrance

three adults and four children dressed in RAF uniform, stand infront of a war memorial

Members of the Pocklington School Combined Cadet Force proudly represented their contingent and the School at a local Remembrance Sunday Service.

The service was held at St Catherine’s Church, Barmby Moor, followed by a wreath-laying ceremony at its Commonwealth War Graves Memorial. During the war, the church was used by the former WW2 RAF base, which is now Pocklington Airfield. Present at the act of remembrance, conducted by former parent Annie Harrison, were pupils Venus Tam, Alix Perthuisot, Freddie Taylor and Tom McDowell, accompanied by Patrick Dare (OC RAF Section, Pocklington School CCF) and fellow teaching staff Jenny McDowell and Tom Taylor.  Also in the congregation were members of the 102 (Ceylon) Squadron Association.

During the church service, Freddie Taylor played the Last Post and Reveille beautifully and Tom McDowell read the Kohima Recitation "When you go home, tell them of us and say: For your tomorrow, we gave our today.”  A wreath-laying ceremony at the church’s Commonwealth War Graves Memorial followed, where the graves of 54 airmen of the Second World War, as well as two First World War burials can be found. Freddie played the Last Post and Reveille again and Alix gave a solemn and moving reading of a French translation of the Exhortation, the extract of Robert Binyon's "For the fallen" - "They shall not grow old...We will remember them" - "Ils ne vieilleront pas...Nous nous souviendrons d'eux".

This was especially poignant and relevant in that they were remembering Flt Lieutenant James Chrystall Wernham from 405 Squadron. He was one of the 76 escapees from Stalag Luft III "The Great Escape" (Night of 24th/25thMarch 1942). He was 30th out of the tunnel. He managed to get on a train and eventually joined up with a Major Dodge at a place called Ober-Rohrsdorf. They had forged ID papers that identified them as French voluntary workers. Sadly, they were both captured on their way to the Czech border. Major Dodge survived but Wernham was one of "the 50" unlucky ones who was chosen as a revenge punishment for having escaped so audaciously and executed on 30th March 1944. Wernham had originally flown out of Pocklington Airfield on the night of 8th June 1942 in a Halifax Bomber, and was shot down on 9th June 1942.

Youth playing trumpet, stood in front of war memorial at Wolds Gliding Club

The Pocklington School cadets were on duty again later the same day, when they attended a further act of remembrance at the Wolds Gliding Club where 405 Squadron and 102 (Ceylon) Squadron share the same Airfield Memorial.  Following the service, the cadets joined the veterans in the wreath-laying ceremony by laying a cross on behalf of Pocklington School and the CCF contingent.

Afterwards, Patrick Dare commented: “This was a moving and proud occasion and I give thanks to Freddie, Tom, Venus and Alix who were excellent ambassasors for the School and were complimented on their presentation and behaviour -  I cannot commend them highly enough.”

A documentary about the Stalag Luft III prison camp can be viewed here and a documentary about “The Great Escape” can be viewed here.