Holbeach’s collaborative commemoration

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It has been estimated that up to a third of the First World War’s Allied casualties on the Western Front were actually sustained in the trenches.

That’s a statistic students at University Academy Holbeach are probably aware of – as well as other grisly facts about life in the trenches, such as rat infestations, frogs, lice and worse.

Yorkshire Regiment of the Army Veterinary Corps: Holbeach resident Bill Belcham's father, who looked after the horses, is far right of the back row.

Yorkshire Regiment of the Army Veterinary Corps: Holbeach resident Bill Belcham's father, who looked after the horses, is far right of the back row.

Students in the history department at the school have built trenches as part of their World War One project, and probably learned about the daily deaths in the excavations from snipers’ bullets as well as disease.

Their work, together with songs popularised during the 1914-1918 war (such as It’s a Long Way to Tipperary and Keep the Home Fires Burning), will be shared with the community at an exhibition at Holbeach Cemetery Chapels later in the year.

The exhibition is part of a series of events being staged in the town to commemorate the centenary of the start of the First World War.

The vicar of Holbeach, the Rev Rosamund Seal, brought together representatives from a number of different organisations so that a collaborative approach could be taken to the anniversary.

The first thing planned is a special service at All Saints’ Church on August 3 at 6.30pm on what would have been the eve of the declaration of war.

The service will include hymns, anthems, readings, poems and prayers, with members of the community invited to take part. That will include schoolchildren as well as members of Holbeach branch Royal British Legion.

The service is to be followed by a candlelit vigil at the church war memorial (7.30pm to 8.30pm) – the day prior to the nationwide Turn Out the Lights vigil, which is planned for between 10pm and 11pm on August 4.

The town’s planters have been designed in the patriotic colours of red, white and blue by Holbeach in Bloom, and there are plans to plant 100 trees in Holbeach cemetery and other locations.

The exhibition of First World War memorabilia, jointly organised by the Holbeach Cemetery Chapels committee and members of Holbeach & District Civic Society, takes place at the cemetery chapels on Saturday, September 13 (11am to 4pm) – to coincide with Heritage Open Day.

Jenny Worth, who is on the parish council as well as the Cemetery Chapels and Civic Society committees, said: “It was the vicar who pulled us all together. It’s a great chance for all the organisations to work together.

“We are commemorating in a positive and collaborative way rather than everybody doing their own thing.

“It’s good for the different people to meet and learn what’s going on elsewhere. We can learn a lot from each other.”