Student pays tribute to victims of Passchendaele

Thursday 10 August 2017

Emily Ball, a Year 12 student at The Grammar School at Leeds (GSAL), had the honour of representing her country at a commemoration in Belgium of the centenary of Passchendaele: the third battle of Ypres.

Among those attending the event at the Menin Gate, Cloth Hall and Tyne Cot Cemetery were senior royalty and politicians from the UK and Belgium, descendants of those who fought at Passchendaele and current military personnel. Emily’s duties during the commemoration events included ‘meet and greet’ duties welcoming VIP guests and acting as wreath bearer for Nepal.

Emily was one of a group of almost 100 National Citizen Service (NCS) ‘graduates’ aged 16-18 from across the UK who had successfully applied to NCS for the opportunity to take part in the ceremony. Each member of the group was asked to research a soldier who had lost his life at Ypres or around the same time.

Researching in the school archives, Emily identified a former pupil of Leeds Grammar School, Herbert Cheetham, who died at Passchendaele and was awarded medals for his heroism. At the grave of cricket loving Herbert, from Roundhay, Emily found a cricket cap left as a tribute by GSAL students on a recent battlefields tour.

Emily said: “I found Herbert’s story deeply moving, as he was killed trying to save the life of another on the battlefield. Not only do I have a relative who was killed in WW1, but the tragic story of Herbert’s outstanding, selfless bravery provided a sense of both school and age-related connection.

“It goes without saying that it was very upsetting as well – the most poignant part was when the 54,000 poppies, one for each soldier without a grave, fell from the top of the Menin Gate. It has been an amazing, patriotic experience that will stay with me for a lifetime.”

Photos: Emily with a poppy wreath to present to the Nepalese ambassador at the Menin Gate ceremony; the grave of Herbert Cheetham


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