Staff and students at Retford Oaks Academy were joined by members of the Royal British Legion, veterans and dignitaries for the launch of their poppy appeal on Wednesday, 3 November.

In a poignant service marking the one-hundred-year anniversary of the Royal British Legion, students recited the story and symbolism of the poppy and Flanders Fields, while the academy’s young cadets acted as drum bearers, and were flanked by ex-serviceman flag bearers.

To mark the anniversary, one hundred students were seated in the auditorium and student artwork of poppy models was on display. A student performed an emotional dance themed around remembrance, which was followed by the sounding of The Last Post.

Among the guests was the Deputy Lord Lieutenant for Nottinghamshire, Nigel Chapman, who thanked the military personnel for their services, along with Chairman of the Retford branch of the Legion, Tony Goodall, Vice-Chair Glenn White, and Royal Air Force Association Vice-Chairman, John Jones.  The Deputy Lord Lieutenant reminded the students that the academy’s core values of ‘respect’ and ‘care’ were never more pertinent than in relation to Remembrance.

One other notable guest was Retford local Ken Hoddy – a 94-year old veteran. Ken served in the local rifle brigade and for the past forty years has been custodian of the town’s memorial. He commented how proud and emotional he felt to see the young people pay such a fitting tribute to all those who have lost their lives in military service.

The academy and the Royal British Legion have worked together on the poppy appeal since 2009. During that time, Retford Oaks staff and students have raised over £4,000 for this amazing cause.

Principal, Chris West, said: “Our poppy appeal day and commemorations around Remembrance are particularly important to us here at Retford Oaks Academy. They inspire our young people and ensure that this generation never forgets the sacrifices others made for all of us, which allow us to enjoy so many freedoms today. We are fortunate to have worked with the Royal British Legion for many years, and it was particularly special to welcome them on this occasion to mark their centenary.”

Representative of the Retford branch of the Royal British Legion, Ann Hickman, said: “This year has been a year of celebration for the Retford & District branch of the Royal British Legion on our 100th birthday.  As usual Retford Oaks teacher Mrs Deere, who organised the event, made it a very special occasion. The theme of thank you was so appropriate and as usual the students made it outstanding.  Their readings reflected our history and work and their thank yous were very much appreciated.  It was a very moving afternoon and a lot of memories were evoked. I know how poignant it was for all our members.

“I am never failed to be amazed by the work and ideas Mrs Deere puts into this event and the hospitality of the whole school, both staff and pupils, is second to none. Our branch is very proud and grateful to have this special relationship with Retford Oaks Academy – a very large thank you from us all. We now look forward to next year and more memories being made.”

The academy will be lighting up the frontage of its building over the coming week to mark Remembrance, followed by the official Remembrance Service to be attended by all students on 11 November 2021 at 11am.