Day 18, 24 April (Sutton Veny- Salisbury Plains- London)
In the last twelve months I have often been asked 'What will you be doing for the centenary? ' A not unreasonable question I suppose but in many ways it is frustrating as I will be doing what I have since 1999...and that is working with students and adults alike assisting them in their own research into the lives and experiences of those who went to war many never to return home. The notion of 'doing something special' for the 100th year since Anzac troops landed at Gallipoli (along with the British/French/African/Indian and other Dominion nations) does not always sit happily with me. For many fine people I have come to know over the last 15 years the process of research, commemoration and visiting our war dead has been ongoing and significant for many years and in some case generations. The incredible story of the tiny village of Sutton Veny and its school is just one such example. The powerhouse behind the annual Anzac children's service, Mrs Nicky Barnard, has been inundated with many requests and inquiries about the very same issue...what special things will the school be doing for the centenary? In many ways the question diminishes the work Nicky and the school have been doing for many, many years....going right back to the origins of this unique commemorative event in 1918 when a couple of lads from the village stole flowers to place on the 143 graves of the Anzacs buried there. The school ALWAYS does something special for Anzac Day and throughout the year this tiny school permanently honours the memory of the Australian and New Zealanders who lie in the their soil by the names given to the seven classes at the school; the Auckland (FS2) , Brisbane (Yr 1), Canberra (Yr 2), Darwin (Yr 3), Elliston (Yr 4), Geraldton (Yr 5) and Nelson (Yr 6) classes give daily recognition to the sacrifices made by our countrymen and women by their names. Every person in the village who attended Sutton Veny Church of England Primary School since 1918 all know why foreigners are buried in their village: this is what true commemoration is all about . So Sutton Veny school WON'T be doing anything special in 2015 BECAUSE of the centenary as they are always doing something special. It was an enormous privilege for the Connecting Spirits students and teachers to share their special day and to see how this beautiful little school and village have not forgotten our men and women who never come home.
Sutton Veny. WOW! Such a small school, was absolutely amazed and speechless at the service today. It just hit me that much, I didn’t want to leave them. Cutest little green students ever, did actually get teary eyed as they sung their songs and when they stood behind the headstones. To be honest half of my heart is left back there, that’s how much love and respect I have for them all; they are all just amazing, especially the staff. I am also proud to have taught them something from my culture, the Ngarrindjeri background. Just wish I stayed longer, I will never ever forget this day. So thankful for this experience and what it has taught me.
Special day today at Sutton Veny. Enjoyed spending time with the young children talking about soccer or football as they call it. The Anzac service, was phenomenal, words can't describe how special the ceremony is. And being a part of it explaining my mob, will never forget it. The change is coming for Indigenous Australians, and because of Connecting Spirits it has made it happen along with other organisations.
I walked out of the beautiful village church following the very moving Anzac service. The sight of those precious little children standing in front of the graves, a sea of them, row upon row of wide eyed hope, absolutely took my breath away. A city of angels who for a hundred years have loved and treasured these soldiers in their care.
Sutton Veny Primary School...such a small school that lives so much of the the Anzac spirit- an Anzac room with beautiful photos so very old but carefully displayed on the wall - names of the classes such as 'Canberra' and Brisbane room- their school bags even in Australian colours green and gold. This was so unexpected so far from Australia and truly emboides the theme of 'We will remember them.' The church service at Sutton Veny was such a beautiful and emotional experience. The children singing was so passionate and sung with feeling. The two young boys who expressed their thoughts of what Anzac day meant to themand then the sights of all those children standing outside in front of all the Australian graves in their little green uniforms was amazing. Such a small town with a huge heart for Australia.
It was great to interact with the kids from Sutton Veny school. Surprisingly there wasn't much mess left after making the Ngarrindjeri feather flowers.