English village school proud to remember ANZACS

A tradition which started sometime after the First World War sees children from the Sutton Veny CE Primary School children in Wiltshire, England, participate  in a tribute to ANZACs.

During the war Australian soldiers were billeted in camps near the village and New Zealand troops were on Salisbury Plain. Sutton Veny House served as a convalescent home. Many soldiers and nurses died and were buried in the churchyard at St. John’s the Evangelist.

Since 1918, when a group of four school children went into the woods, picked wildflowers and placed them on the graves of newly buried Australian soldiers, pupils have laid posies by the headstones.

On ANZAC day each year, a service is held in the churchyard or in the church. Australian and New Zealand army personnel attend this service and each child from the school places a posy on a war grave. The participation of Sutton Veny School in the ANZAC day ceremony continues to foster the relationship between members of the Australian and New Zealand forces and British society. This has developed strong overseas links with New Zealand and Australia. Visitors and relatives of those who died frequently contact the school, or visit to share memories and gain information from the expanding range of resources. The school class names reflect and recognise the commitment to the ANZAC link.

There are 168 First World War burials in the Sutton Veny Australian War Cemetery which is maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Of these, 144 are Australian and include two nurses. What is especially sad is that many of these soldiers, so far from home, had survived the terrible conditions and slaughter on the battlefield only to die when they had returned to the safety of the quiet English village. Many succumbed to their wounds while others were struck down by the Spanish flu pandemic which hit Sutton Veny in 1918.

On Remembrance Day poppies are sent by the Geraldton City RSL, each child lays a poppy on one of the war graves. This has a profound impact on the children’s empathy and cultural understanding. It is a very moving service