First World War memorial service at cathedral

The HMS Heroes Service at Ripon Cathedral.

The HMS Heroes Service at Ripon Cathedral.

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Hundreds of children of service families from 30 schools in North Yorkshire have gathered in Ripon Cathedral for a special First World War commemoration service.

Up to 600 service children and young people attended and joined in the HMS Heroes Service with spoken and musical contributions. Senior figures from the military, civic and education communities were also there.

HMS (Her Majesty’s School) Heroes, a pupil-led organisation supported by the Royal British Legion, gives young people a voice and helps to raise the profile of service children and explain to others the unique challenges that go hand-in-hand with being part of a military family.

It also exists to represent children and young people in their schools and communities at events like Remembrance Day and Armed Forces Day.

The service was led by military chaplains from 21 Engineer Regiment and RAF Leeming, and Canon Elizabeth Sewell, Canon Educator from Ripon Cathedral.

Matt Blyton, the county council’s lead education adviser for service families, said: “The cathedral service offered children and young people an opportunity to celebrate the support they give to each other but also to remember how those who lived and died through the First World War also supported each other.”

North Yorkshire County Council has secured Ministry of Defence funding to appoint two Service Pupil Champions to develop HMS Heroes further, bring service children together for mutual support and activities, as well as to provide bespoke support to families.

Since September they have both been operating in three areas of the county where there is a concentration of service personnel – Ripon, Catterick and Richmond, and Bedale.

Both champions – Annabel Hall and Nickie Young – are members of service families and understand the pressures of military life on the ground.

Annabel, who attended the cathedral service, said: “This service was so powerful in bringing this extended community together.

“One guest remarked that bridging the gap and bringing together children, families and the Armed Forces was so important for all to contribute and feel supported by the other. It was an awesome sight to see 20 colourful banners on display, reflecting words of support and friendship designed by the children of HMS Heroes who are there for each other at times of need.”

The 100th school to join HMS Heroes nationally is Ripon’s Holy Trinity Infant School.