Cockburn School remembers the First World War


Cockburn School held a commemoration to mark the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War in 1914 on Friday (18 July 2014).

Cockburn students re-enact life in the trenches
Cockburn students re-enact life in the trenches

Pupils and staff were joined by the Lord Mayor of Leeds Cllr David Congreve, the Archdeacon of Leeds Canon Paul Hooper, Colonel Denney of the Rifle Regiment and standard bearers from the Royal British Legion. There were readings, songs and prayers as well as a battle re-enactment and tour of a recreated trench.

Introducing the ceremony, Headteacher David Gurney talked about the importance of remembering and learning from the past. A list of all the staff and pupils from the school, founded in 1902, that died in the two world wars was read out. Special mention was made of two former pupils who served with distinction: Sgt Laurence Calvert VC and Sqdn Ldr Geoffrey Warnes DFC DSO whose medals were paraded at the event.

Sgt Calvert was awarded the Victoria Cross in September 1918 after he rushed a German machine gun post. That action was re-enacted on the playing fields complete with explosions, smoke and the firing of one of only three working Lewis guns in the UK. Sgt Calvert’s grandson spoke about his life and stressed that he wasn’t a superman, just an ordinary person acting in extraordinary circumstances.

Sgt Laurence Clavert's medals including the Victoria Cross (far left)
Sgt Laurence Clavert’s medals including the Victoria Cross (far left)

The ceremony was followed by a tour of an exhibition that the school had created. We were led through the recruiting station, the train to France and into a trench where students re-enacted scenes of debate between the soldiers showing the fear of some and the patriotism of others. Finally we found ourselves in the home of a wife receiving the telegram that told her of her husband’s death.

This was a very moving afternoon of remembrance, which capped a week of study about the First World War for the school. It was followed in the evening by a concert of music from the era by the East Lancashire Concert Band.