NSI Armistice Centenary Activities

As we approach the centenary of the Armistice on 11th November 2018, we are so proud of NSI children and young people who are playing their part in marking this important day.

Saturday 3rd November: NI Festival of Remembrance
- 2017-18 poetry winner Becki Pinkerton takes part in the Royal British Legion’s Northern Ireland Festival of Remembrance

Wednesday 7th November: NSI Centenary Finale, Buckingham Palace - by kind permission of Vice Admiral Sir Tim Laurence, all First, Second, and Third Place Winners from the four annual centenary competitions are welcomed to a Tea Party at Buckingham Palace to mark four years of children and young people playing their part.

Wednesday 7th November: Publication of Centenary Legacy Books - the Never Such Innocence Anthology and Stories of the First World War are officially published!

Thursday 8th November: Games of Remembrance, Nottingham - Children from Germany who have taken part in Together attend the Games and act as mascots and flag bearers! Children from Greece also join them on the pitch and to watch the two matches between the British Army and the German Armed Forces football teams!

Friday 9th November: Langley Vale Centenary Wood (Surrey) - 2016/17 winner Rebecca Farnfield reads her incredible poem inspired by a tree watching over the War I Stand Alone (p.88 of NSI Anthology).

Sunday 11th November: Service of Thanksgiving, Westminster Abbey - 2017/18 poetry winners Jasleen Singh and Becki Pinkerton read prayers as part of the Service. Together winning poem Carpe Diem features in the Order of Service.
Children and young people from all four years of the competition also attend the Service in recognition of their contribution to the centenary commemorations.

Sunday 11th November: All Saints Church, Odiham - after hearing Lydia Grigg’s incredible song Remember (available as part of the Songs of the Centenary album!), RAF Odiham have invited her to sing on Remembrance Day at their local Church.

Sunday 11th November: Belfast Cathedral - 2017-18 poetry entrant Hannah is invited to attend the Remembrance Day Service in recognition of her work to commemorate the Centenary.

Sunday 11th November: Glasnevin Cemetery - a special commemorative booklet of winning work of the Island of Ireland extension of the competition is distributed to attendees.

Sunday 11th November: Llandaff Cathedral - poetry winner Mari reads her poem "Yr Enaid Byw" / “My Living Soul” (p.125 of the Never Such Innocence Anthology) as part of the service.

Sunday 11th November: Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park - Lili Fairclough, 2017-18 Runner Up for ages 11-14 from local school Mossbourne Victoria Park Academy, reads her moving poem We Shot the Dreamers (p.150 of the Never Such Innocence Anthology).

Tuesday 13th November: Brackfield Centenary Wood (near Derry / Londonderry) - Two Never Such Innocence poets, from County Dublin (ROI) and County Antrim (NI), take part in a commemoration of all those across the Island of Ireland who lost their lives in the First World War.

Thursday 15th November: Together Awards Ceremony, British Embassy in Berlin - Children from the UK and Germany receive their prizes for winning Together: A UK-German Centenary Project at the British Embassy, hosted by the British Ambassador to Germany. We are so proud of all of the winners!

Lord Dannatt's Round Britain Challenge: Belfast

We were delighted to have two Never Such Innocence entrants take part in a special commemorative event at Carrickfergus Town Hall, Northern Ireland.

A specially adapted Tall Ship, STS Lord Nelson, crewed by veterans and cadets, is making its way around the United Kingdom in 40 days. 

The ship is sailing with a crew of 144 cadets alongside wounded, injured and sick veterans with the 145th crew member being a Tommy silhouette kindly donated by the charity There But Not There, around the capitals of the United Kingdom.

Matthew Heaney and Becki Pinkerton joined members of the crew at Carrickfergus Town Hall to mark the centenary by reading their poems.  Matthew won Second Place in the ages 9-11 category, and Becki came Third in the ages 14-16 category of the 2017-18 competition.

Lord Dannatt's Round Britain Challenge: Edinburgh

Nathan at Edinburgh Castle crop.JPG

We were delighted to have two Never Such Innocence entrants take part in a special commemorative event at the Scottish National War Memorial, Edinburgh Castle.  

A specially adapted Tall Ship, STS Lord Nelson, crewed by veterans and cadets, is making its way around the United Kingdom in 40 days. 

The ship is sailing with a crew of 144 cadets alongside wounded, injured and sick veterans with the 145th crew member being a Tommy silhouette kindly donated by the charity There But Not There, around the capitals of the United Kingdom.

Megan Adams and Nathan McGinlay joined members of the crew at the Scottish National War Memorial to mark the centenary.  Megan sang her incredible song Before You Think, and Nathan read his poem 'We Will Remember Them', beautifully.


Video: Ali Gibson, Video Journalist Forces TV / BFBS

We Will Remember Them
by Nathan McGinlay

Every year on the 11th of November,
Everyone takes time to remember;
All the soldiers whose families they left,
Waiting for their inevitable death.
So while we have happy days in the sun,
They lay there, fates sealed by the gun.
It’s hard to believe so much blood was spilled,
And hundreds and hundreds of brave men were killed.
Now we wear a poppy to remember the souls,
Who in the war played important roles.
So now because of all the violence,
Every year we hold a minute’s silence.

Freiya Elton: RAF100 War in the Skies

First Place winner of the 'War in the Skies' strand of the poetry competition for years 7-9 Freiya has written about her incredible experience as a prize winner!

Never Such Innocence was founded by Lady Lucy French in March 2014 to enable young people to play their part in the centenary of the Great War through learning, poetry art and music with annual international competitions. The RAF 100 ‘War in the Skies’ strand of Never Such Innocence was a poetry and art competition to mark the 100 Year Anniversary of The Royal Air Force. In May 2018 I won the age 11 -14 category, beating 6700 applicants with my poem ‘The Sopwith Camel’. Here is my story.

It was a Monday after I had finished my last lesson at School I found out I had won. Dr Jones had been waiting outside my Latin classroom to speak with me. Nervously, I walked towards her, thinking I was in trouble for something. I was then told that I had won the international RAF 100 War in the Skies competition. Running down the corridor, I went to go to my mum’s office to tell her that I had won the competition for my poem, which I hadn’t actually let her read properly at that point.

The first thing I had to do was attend Wellington Barracks and read my poem in the Guard’s Chapel, in front of other winners and a lot of dignitaries. On Thursday 24 May I arrived at the barracks. I had the opportunity to look round the Guard’s Museum, where I had a personal tour from a retired guard who was very passionate about his time serving the Queen. The museum had lots of uniforms from all the ages, and even the uniform that the Queen wore riding her horse, for one of her father’s ceremonies. It was an amazing day with the RAF marching with their band, watching the rehearsal of the Trooping the Colour and the Drummers performing for us.

At the chapel, I was awarded my prize by General Sir Gordon Messenger. On Saturday 7 July my family and I attended Horse Guards Parade and I was given a personal tour of the RAF aircraft display and a ‘Spitfire Cockpit Experience’. I sat in the cockpit of a Spitfire and also the new stealth jet ‘Lightning’. The Chinook we all sat in was fascinating as it can carry people, vehicles and equipment. It is also capable of transporting vehicles and containers underneath the aircraft by straps.

On Tuesday 10 July the RAF held the centrepiece of their celebrations – 100 aircraft flypast over Buckingham Palace. I was one of a few non-RAF personnel who were able to fly in the RAF aircraft ‘Voyager’ whilst it participated in the flypast. I attended Brize Norton which is an active RAF base and I saw lots of different RAF aircraft. The airplane experience was exciting, and we got to see a few of the main attractions in London, such as the Olympic stadium and Tower Bridge from the airplane. At one point, we were going at 400 miles per hour. We had to wait for quite a long time in a holding point. A holding point is when you keep on circling the same area, and we did this because we had to wait for all the other airplanes to join us. Our holding point was over the sea. Just before 13:00, we started heading towards land (and London). We then flew over Buckingham Palace, and we returned back to Brize Norton, to disembark. My sister watched us on the television and recorded our flypast!

I have been made aware there may be another event to attend in November for the Never Such Innocence winners.  I am sure that whatever it is, it will be an amazing experience.

Thank you Never Such Innocence and RAF 100.

Freiya Elton


Freiya's winning poem 'The Sopwith Camel' and the rest of the RAF100 winning work, can be viewed here

Never Such Innocence 2018 Legacy Tour: 29th June, Warminster Garrison

Our visit to Warminster Garrison in Wiltshire was a brilliant day for us and for all involved.  We are incredibly grateful to Dr Andrew Murrison MP for being our prizegiver, and to Colonel Brooking, Major Andy Cooper and all at the Garrison for hosting us so kindly.  We were also delighted to be joined by the Mayor of Warminster Councillor Tony Nicklin, and the Mayoress of Warminster.  It was brilliant to be at Warminster Garrison, a longstanding, thriving military community where over 1500 service personnel are based.  It is currently home to the Land Warfare Centre and several specialist training schools.

We were in Wiltshire to hand-deliver some special Certificates of Commendation to local children and young people who have worked very hard indeed on poetry, art, and songs commemorating the First World War.  We were lucky enough to meet students from Bellefield Primary School, St Johns CE Primary School, Holbrook Primary School, The Mead Community Primary School, and The Springfields Academy.

We were warmly welcomed by Colonel Johnny Brooking, Garrison Commander.  Colonel Brooking spoke about the value of commemoration to those in the Armed Forces today, and thanked the children and young people for their hard work.

First to receive their certificates were The Mead Community Primary School, who performed their amazing song.  The group had help in creating the song from a local conductor and musician Grenville Jones, and sang beautifully about the optimism that so many troops felt that “It will all be over by Christmas!”, followed by the hardships of war.

The event had an abundance of music, as two of the other schools had also been working with Never Such Innocence Artist in Residence Bethzienna Williams in free songwriting workshops to create entries on the themes of unity and hope for the future, for Together: a UK-German Centenary Project.  St. John’s CE Primary now performed their creation, called ‘La La Land’.  The mixed group of year 6 and year 2 worked well together to write the song and then performed it beautifully.

La La Land
Risking lives
In a war every time
Everyone’s hurting

Imagine a time
Where we just enjoy life
Everyone’s smiling

We were then able to listen to a moving poem by a student from Holbrook Primary School about leaving family and friends to fight in the First World War, and two students from Holbrook then received their certificates from Dr Murrison.  It was so lovely to have the whole class present to support the two entrants!

After being extremely impressed by songs and poems we awarded certificates to students from Springfields Academy for their artwork.  All three of the students had shown remarkable creativity and their artwork was displayed as they received their certificates from Dr Murrison.

Closing the show were Bellefield Primary School – a multi-talented school who had submitted poems and artwork to the main competition independently, and then also worked with Bethzienna to write a song for Together!  Their song of hope and unity was called Peaceful Land:

Peaceful Land
Because in our dreams
We have a plan
That we all live
On peaceful land

And in our dreams
We can see
We work together
All countries

Everyone from Bellefield sang incredibly well, and then received their well-deserved certificates from Dr Murrison. 

After the performances we were treated to some brilliant activities; a ‘First World War Officer’ was stationed in one room and very kindly explained his equipment, uniform, and weapons to everyone, and we had the opportunity to look at two ‘Warrior’ armoured fighting vehicles.   First used in 1916, tanks have come a long way since the First World War and seeing two modern examples was very interesting and of course exciting!

It was absolutely brilliant to meet so many local students from different schools, and to witness in person the incredible creativity and hard work that everyone had put into their entries.  We can't wait to see what else the children and young people of Wiltshire have to offer!

For more information about our work or to get involved, please get in touch via enquiries@neversuchinnocence.com or 0207 836 2603.

Never Such Innocence 2018 Legacy Tour: HMS Caroline, Belfast

We were absolutely delighted to board the last surviving ship of the Battle of Jutland, HMS Caroline, on Thursday 12th June with local children and young people. We received hundreds of entries from Belfast and across Northern Ireland to the 2017-18 poetry, art, and song competition so it was wonderful to have so many students attend this special event to receive their Certificates of Commendation in person.

Before the event everyone had the opportunity to look around the museum and learn about the ship’s First World War history.

Mrs Michele Marken DL very kindly joined us to represent the Belfast Lieutenancy and award the certificates.  Former English teacher and Headteacher Mrs Marken spoke beautifully to the students about how wonderful it is to see so many children and young people writing poetry and creating artwork as a response to the centenary of the First World War.

We were extremely proud to be joined at HMS Caroline by former First Place poetry competition winner Maeve Loney, who read her wonderful poem No Poppies in the Sand. Maeve’s poem is about the Imperial Camel Corps and was inspired by a painting featured in the Fourth Edition educational resource, The Long Patrol by James McBey. Maeve won the competition in 2015-16 while she attended St Patrick’s College Ballymena.

The 2017-18 competition also saw two winning poems from Northern Ireland, and both winners joined us at HMS Caroline to read their poems. Matthew Heaney from Lough View Integrated Primary and Becki Pinkerton from The Royal School Armagh both read their wonderful poems, demonstrating great confidence and maturity.  Matthew and Becki’s poems along with the rest of the winning work, can be viewed here.

Students from Carrickfergus College attended as representatives of more than 100 students from the school who took part. These entries were inspired by the Royal British Legion Thank You Movement and submitted as part of the 2017 Thank You Competition. The 2018 competition is now open for entries, more information can be found here.

Mrs Michele Marken DL also awarded certificates to students from Strathearn School, Sullivan Upper School, and Victoria College Belfast. Every student present received their personalised certificate from the Deputy Lieutenant, and teachers from each school also accepted certificates on behalf of the whole school.

Due to a last minute delay Captain Chris Smith, Naval Regional Commander for Scotland and Northern Ireland, sent his apologies and his congratulations to the children and young people, saying “we have been consistently and truly amazed at the quality of the work you, and many children like you from all over the globe have produced.”

Some students from Sullivan Upper School and Victoria College Belfast, took part Together: a UK German Centenary Project. More information about this project is available here.

We would like to say a huge Thank-You to the team at HMS Caroline who made the event so special, to Mrs Michele Marken DL, and most importantly to the fantastic children and young people who we were privileged to work with.

About HMS Caroline (hmscaroline.co.uk)
Based in Belfast’s famous Titanic Quarter, HMS Caroline is a First World War-era warship now restored as a must-see floating museum with an amazing story to tell. Thanks to the generous support of the National Heritage Memorial Fund, Heritage Lottery Fund, Tourism NI and the Department for the Economy, visitors can now enjoy sensitively restored cabin areas, a new quayside visitor centre and exhibition space dedicated to telling the personal stories of those who served on HMS Caroline. The onboard exhibition includes a powerful film on the drama of Jutland and as well as an array of state-of-the-art interactive exhibits. The ship opens to the public seven days a week from 10am until 5pm. To find out more about HMS Caroline, visit www.hmscaroline.co.uk


Pilot Competition Launch

Pilot Competition Launch

Never Such Innocence launched the pilot poetry and art competition alongside the official opening of Marylebone Boys’ School (MBS) in September 2014. To encourage participation we produced a 56-page resource book to act as a teaching aid and inspire young people to engage with the First World War centenary and our competition. During our pilot year, the resource was directly received by over 500 schools and downloaded

Read More