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Thursday 11 November 2021

Military service of animals remembered through school lantern project

Hundreds of lanterns will light up Preston church as part of special Remembrance Service

Schoolchildren from across Lancashire are acknowledging the contributions animals make whilst serving in the military as part of this year’s Armistice Day commemorations.

Creative arts project, ‘The Lamps are going out’, will see hundreds of lanterns light up St George and the Martyr Church on Lune Street in Preston for a Remembrance Service taking place, today, 11 November.

Pupils from four Lancashire primary schools; English Martyrs in Preston, Catforth, Whitechapel and Weeton, alongside Sir Tom Finney Community High School, are highlighting the contribution made by animals serving in the Armed Forces, particularly those who have been awarded the PDSA Dickin Medal For Gallantry. Often regarded as the Victoria Cross for animals, recipients of the Dickin Medal include 35 dogs, 32 pigeons, four horses, a cat and a rat.

"We want to celebrate the contribution of the Forces community, with a spotlight on animals who don’t have a voice of their own. "

Becky Steel, researcher and engagement officer within the College for Military Veterans and Emergency Services at UCLan

The pupils have spent the last few weeks creating their lanterns ready for the special service. Each one features drawings made by the children to thank military animals for the sacrifices they make.

The pyramid-shaped lamps will be processed through the church, accompanied by four large puppets of animals recognised as military and emergency services heroes and who have each received the Dickin Medal; World War Two carrier pigeon Mary of Essex, Metropolitan Police horse Upstart, Simon the able sea-cat who served on the Royal Navy HMS Amethyst and military dog Kuno, who saved the lives of British soldiers fighting in Afghanistan.

Funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Armed Forces Covenant Fund Trust, the project has been organised by community interest company Stories Outside and the College for Military Veterans and Emergency Services at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan). The Army Welfare Service, Lancashire County Council and Preston City Council are also involved.

"There are currently 1,032 children from military families in Lancashire and we’ve been able to work with many of them, as well as refugee children, to capture their personal experiences of remembrance and reconciliation."

Becky Steel, researcher and engagement officer within the College for Military Veterans and Emergency Services at UCLan

Becky Steel, researcher and engagement officer within the College for Military Veterans and Emergency Services, and a military spouse herself, is one of the project organisers.

She said: “We want to celebrate the contribution of the Forces community, with a spotlight on animals who don’t have a voice of their own. We’ve spent the last few weeks working with children to help them not only create the lanterns, but also learn some of the amazing stories of how animals make a difference in times of conflict.

“It’s really brought a different dimension to Remembrance this year. There are currently 1,032 children from military families in Lancashire and we’ve been able to work with many of them, as well as refugee children, to capture their personal experiences of remembrance and reconciliation.”

Nana Kissa, a year six pupil from Weeton Primary, said: “I’ve learned that if someone saves lives you can never forget them and must remember them.”

Fellow Weeton pupil Alfie Snape added: “I’ve remembered Kuno the dog on my lantern because he was really brave and saved many soldiers’ lives.”

"I’ve remembered Kuno the dog on my lantern because he was really brave and saved many soldiers’ lives."

Weeton Primary School pupil Alfie Snape

Colonel David Waters, President of the Preston and District Veterans Council, has been working with the schools on the project. He said: “We should never forget the sacrifices made by the parents and grandparents of these children to protect our democracy and the freedoms that we all take for granted.”

Dr Celia Hynes, who leads the College for Military Veterans and Emergency service at UCLan, added: “We are delighted to support this project and are very impressed by the commitment of the pupils and all those involved.”

The animal puppet lanterns will feature in a Remembrance Service at St George and the Martyr Church, today, from 1.30pm – 2.30pm, with a performance from One Voice Community Choir. Members of the public are invited to attend. The lanterns will also be displayed at the Army HQ Festival of Remembrance at Blackburn Cathedral on Friday.

The Harris Museum, Preston Market and UCLan will be lighting their buildings purple and red today in commemoration the service of animals.

Weeton Primary School pupils prepare lanterns for the Lamps are going out Remembrance Day service01 / 07