In commemoration of the Centenary of the end of the First World War, Year 7 and 8 students at Beacon Academy have created a striking poppy installation to be displayed at school and as part of the Crowborough’s War 1914 - 1918 Exhibition depicting Crowborough’s role in the Great War. During Art lessons, each student created a 3D poppy embellished with illustrations, poetry and tributes to relatives lost during this period. Year 11 students of Art Graphics have also designed and created “Living Graphics” postcards with a First World War theme.
Head of Art and Technology at Beacon Academy, Mr Graeme Earl, said, “In producing these artworks, our students have created their own act of remembrance, learning the story of the Crowborough soldiers and the sacrifices that they made during the First World War.”
Created for Crowborough Remembers, a week-long festival of commemorative events organised by Crowborough Festival Association, the students’ artworks featured alongside film screenings, including a film short written and produced by former Beacon student, Harry Walters, performances from Frontline Living History, guest speakers and sketches, creative workshops and refreshments. The opening ceremony of the exhibition was attended by the Lord Lieutenant of East Sussex, Crowborough Royal British Legion, 1414 Crowborough Squadron RAFAC and the Army Cadets.
Based on the book of the same name by local historian and writer, Paul Adams, the exhibition tells the story of the town and the thousands of soldiers who were based in the army training camps before being deployed to the front line. Paul Adams, whose children attend Beacon Academy, has a special interest in local and military history, and was inspired to write the book following research into his grandfather’s role in the Great War.
A local family with three children at Beacon Academy contributed photographs, letters and information to the exhibition relating to their own family history and their connection to the First World War. Graham Hodges, father to Jamie, Samuel and April, worked alongside Crowborough Festival organisers to tell the story of the four Hodges brothers who all fought in the First World War; Lance Corporal George Walter Hodges, Private James Eli Hodges, Private Samuel Hodges and Able Seaman Frederick Samson Hodges. Tragically, only one brother, Frederick Hodges, survived.
In 2017, Samuel Hodges, a student at Beacon Academy, visited Belgium with the school’s History Department and paid tribute to his ancestor, Private Samuel Hodges, a member of the South Staffordshire Regiment who was killed in action at the Battle of Passchendaele. The annual Year 9 visit to explore the history and the trenches of the First World War began with a visit to Tyne Cot Memorial: the largest Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery in the world, where Samuel laid a wreath on behalf of his family.
Graham Hodges thanked the organisers of the exhibition, commenting, “It has been an honour and a privilege to contribute to the Crowborough Remembers exhibition, and my sincere thanks go to Denis Hart and his team who have worked so hard to put together such a fitting tribute to those who made such a sacrifice in the Great War. My own family lost three brothers (my great uncles) who were killed in action on the western front at a very young age, and my grandfather served in the Royal Navy but thankfully survived. I think the final words of my great uncle James Hodges are very poignant as recorded in a letter from his best mate to James’s mother to let her know of his death. “The last words he said to me were: ‘I wish our relief would soon come. I’ve had enough of this place.’ I did not see him again.””
Crowborough Festival Association chairman, Denis Hart and Treasurer, Mrs Pat Arnold said,
“The poppy displays made by Beacon Academy students were a magnificent addition to the Crowborough’s War 1914-1918 exhibition. So many visitors commented on how impressive and touching it was to see the names of those commemorated on the town’s war memorial inscribed within each individual poppy. The giant wreaths adorning the Main Hall created a memorable backdrop to the exhibition panels which told the story of Crowborough during the Great War.
One of the most rewarding aspects of organising Crowborough Remembers was to provide an opportunity for the community to discover the stories of some of the local families who lost loved ones in what has been called the most catastrophic conflict of modern times. The family portraits and their personal stories were, a moving tribute to those who gave the greatest sacrifice of all.”
The artworks will be displayed at All Saints Church during their Remembrance service on Sunday 11 November.
A virtual tour of the exhibition can now be viewed via http://www.crowboroughcommunityfestival.org.