Former soldier helps children mark First World War centenary

Pupils watch war veteran Frank Lewington, 97, scatter poppy seeds at Castle Hill Junior School

Pupils watch war veteran Frank Lewington, 97, scatter poppy seeds at Castle Hill Junior School Buy this photo

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A FORMER guardsman helped to sow poppy seeds at a Basingstoke school to mark the centenary of the First World War.

Frank Lewington, from Gefferys Fields, in Chequers Road, spread poppy seeds on a playing field at Castle Hill Junior School, in Winklebury.

Headteacher John Martin said parents will also be invited to informally spread poppy seeds in an area of the field as the school marks the 100th anniversary of the First World War.

Mr Martin said: “The idea is that as people drive along Winklebury Way, they will see the poppies and it will give them an opportunity to pause and reflect on the anniversary – it will be very visual.”

He added there are also plans to have a bed of poppies in the shape of a giant poppy.

Mr Lewington, who is nearly 98, and who was mentioned in dispatches for bravery while serving in the North Africa during the Second World War, is a regular and popular speaker at the school.

“We owe a debt to the people who have gone before us and given us the freedoms we have,” said Mr Martin.

“Everyone has relatives who have fought in some conflict and so what we have done is very much keeping that at the forefront so we don’t forget the past.”

Mr Lewington, who was a corporal in the Grenadier Guards, felt honoured to sow the first of the seeds, and he had a message for the youngsters.

“They ask me about the war and I tell them nobody wins a war – we all lose people we love.

“And if they ask, ‘did you hate the Germans,’ I say I didn’t and I don’t – I like everyone. I just tell them there is no reason for war.”

As a young boy growing up in Middlesex, Mr Lewington does not recall people talking about The Great War – the war to end all wars – as it is often called.

“In those days, it was a wicked thing and that wasn’t for young ears,” he said. “I knew one or two men in my road who were in the war, but that was it.”

The Winklebury school also recently had a visit from Basingstoke MP Maria Miller. She came along to launch a memorial garden to mark the centenary of the First World War.

Mrs Miller said: “As we approach the centenary of the start of the First World War, it is really important that young people learn about what happened and have an understanding of the importance of these events in the history of our nation.

“Castle Hill’s memorial garden is a great way to mark the centenary in a very visual way, and I was delighted to be asked to help them with this.”

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