Harry joins special centenary service

The national Citizen Service graduates at the centenary.
The national Citizen Service graduates at the centenary.

A Whitley Bay teenager took part in a moving commemoration of one of the bloodiest battles of the First World War.

Harry James, 17, was part of a group of almost 100 National Citizen Service (NCS) graduates who travelled to Belgium for the UK ceremony of remembrance to mark the centenary of Passchendaele.

The graduates took on important roles during the commemoration, and put the life skills they learnt on the youth empowerment programme to good use.

Harry said: “The event was a fantastic once-in-a-lifetime experience and I feel privileged to have been given this opportunity.

“I was able to meet and talk to many of the visitors to the events, and heard stories about why they were going, such as being a descendent of a soldier in the battle.

“We also all felt the importance of being young people at this event – the soldiers around us weren’t much older than us, though were still subjected to one of the deadliest battles of the First World War. This, and the research we did prior to the event, really helped us to connect with descendants and the commemorations as a whole.

“One of my favourite moments would be during the reef bearing at Menin Gate when all of the poppies came down and the band was incredible, that image to me is so powerful and I felt the number of poppies falling represented the huge number of men who lost their lives during this battle, and that all of us wearing our poppies belong with them, showing they will never be forgotten.”

Michael Lynas, CEO of NCS Trust, said: “One hundred National Citizen Service graduates were honoured to serve our country at the centenary of Passchendaele events. I am proud of how these young people represented their generation as they met descendants, the Royal Family and the Prime Minister.

“I know that these young National Citizen Service graduates will help ensure that the sacrifice of the fallen will be remembered for generations to come.”

NCS is set to achieve a record-breaking year with more than 100,000 young people signed up for a summer of fun, adventure and social action. There are still places available for this year for 15 to 17-year-olds who would like to experience living away from home, develop skills to boost their CV, and meet amazing people they’ll never forget. To sign up, go to www.ncsyes.co.uk