Pupils from seven Denbighshire schools dressed-up as Tommies and made colourful forget-me-nots as part of a project commemorating the First World War.
The project was organised by the North Wales International Music Festival who chose Reflections as the theme for this year’s event to mark the 100th anniversary of the Armistice.
The festival is held every year in St Asaph Cathedral where the youngsters congregated with Corwen artists Ben Davis and his partner Jude Wood to make 1,200 forget-me-nots which were used to decorate the cathedral.
Ben explained: “Forget-me-not flowers were drawn on letters sent home by soldiers during the First World War, while poppies became a symbol of the end of the war.”
Among those who never returned home from the Great War were nearly 50 servicemen from St Asaph whose names are engraved on the city’s cenotaph.
They included Private Hubert Stanley Belcher whose father was the organist and Master of Choristers at the cathedral, where the festival is being held and Lieutenant Henry Laidley Garland Edwards, whose father, George, was the Bishop of St Asaph and became the first Archbishop of Wales in 1920.
The festival’s Artistic Director, Ann Atkinson, said:
“This year we wanted to commemorate the centenary of the Armistice and reflect upon the end of World War One. The education project has been supported by a grant from the Arts Council of Wales Go and See First World War Commemoration Activity fund.
“We took inspiration from the song ‘Pack up your Troubles’, the lyrics of which were written by George Powell who was a choirboy at St Asaph Cathedral. The music was written by his brother Felix who played the organ in the cathedral.
“The Pendine Park care organisation, who are great supporters of the festival and sponsored our final Sunday concert, also got involved with the art project with residents making forget-me-not flowers out of card in their art classes.
“Trelawnyd Male Voice Choir member Graham Jones, whose grandfather and great uncle fought in the First World War has been to some schools to talk to children about the war and show them his grandfather’s medals as well as photographs.
“We wanted to remember the centenary of the Armistice and children have been shown the cathedral’s memorial to the Royal Welch Fusiliers and the plaque which commemorates the Welsh nurses who lost their lives in the First World War.”
According to Graham Jones, he thoroughly enjoyed visiting St Asaph’s Ysgol Esgob Morgan to talk to pupils about his grandfather William Roberts and his great uncle John Jones and their First World War service.
He said: “The children were fascinated and asked so many questions. My grandfather served as a stoker on HMS Arab for the last year of the First World War. My great uncle, John Jones, fought in the Battle of Mametz Wood and lost his life there. His brother, Sam, did come home from the war albeit minus an arm.”
Working with Ben and Jude in the schools during the two weeks leading up to the session in the cathedral was musician Sioned Webb. On the day the children also had the opportunity to take part in workshops with the cathedral’s education department, performers from the Bodelwyddan Castle and Trust, members of the Royal Welch Fusiliers and musician Sian James.
Teacher Bethan Hughes, from Ysgol y Llys in Prestatyn, said: “It’s wonderful and a great way to enhance learning. Children have been making forget-me-not flowers as an art project, learning wartime songs and Welsh poetry.
“They have also been writing letters that soldiers might have sent home from the front and thinking about questions they would like to ask soldiers if they could. It’s been a wonderful project.”
Ysgol Esgob Morgan pupil Elliot Parry, 11, said: “It’s been really, really interesting. I loved hearing all about Mr Jones’ grandfather and great uncle.“
Fellow pupil, Eva Jones, 10, added: “I’ve really enjoyed learning all about the First World War and seeing the medals and uniforms. I’ve liked listening to stories about the war and singing some of the songs.”
Elen Lewis, 10, from Ysgol y Llys, added: “It’s been very good and I have enjoyed learning all about the First World War. The art work has been fantastic and I’ve really enjoyed making the forget-me-not flowers.
“I also liked learning Pack up your Troubles, it’s quite catchy and nothing like the modern songs we would normally listen too.
Schoolmate Dylan Peter Cartledge, 10, said: “It’s important we remember the 100th anniversary of the end of World War One. It’s been a good project to be involved in.”
It was a sentiment echoed by Alys Williams and Iwan Hughes, both eight, from Ysgol Henllan.
Alys said: “The singing was really good and listening to stories about the soldiers was amazing. I like the tune of Pack up your Troubles, it’s really catchy and I’ve loved coming to the cathedral.”
Iwan added: “I really liked the talk about the First World War and what soldiers had to do. It’s amazing that the war was 100 years ago and some people didn’t know about what happened.
“I’ve really enjoyed the art work and making the flowers. They look really good in the Cathedral. I’m glad we made the flowers.”