On 20 and 21 April, we visited a number of World War One graves and memorials in France with the Premier League and Southampton FC to commemorate air force personnel and Walter Tull in a combination of our projects Remember RAF100 and Tull100 — Football Remembers.
The event had a theme running through it: football and friendship. Young players from Southampton FC Academy were joined by young people from France and Germany, with support from the German War Graves Commission and the Somme branch of the French Football Federation. This builds on years of work by the Premier League Education team to engage young people internationally.
Our group first visited the Wimereux Communal Cemetery near Boulogne to commemorate Second Lieutenant Harry Hunter and Major John McCrae. Harry Hunter was a Second Lieutenant in the Royal Flying Corps as well as a policeman and a goalkeeper for Southampton FC.
Chf Tech Rob Scullion of RAF Music’s performance of the Last Post for Harry Hunter was a highlight of the visit.
On to the Arras Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery to pay our respects at the Arras Flying Services Memorial which honours close to one thousand men who served in the RAF or its forerunners and whose bodies were never recovered.
We also visited Bay 7 on the Arras Memorial where Walter Tull’s name is amongst 35,000 inscribed there. Walter Tull was one of Britain’s first black professional footballers and a First World War hero rising through the ranks to become an officer despite the explicit restrictions to promotion of men of black heritage at the time. He was killed in action at the second battle of the Somme in March 1918 and his body was lost in battle so he has no headstone or grave. Watch our commemorative video with I vow to thee my country performed by RAF Music here:
The next day, morning activities focused on Remember RAF100. Mixed groups of the young people from Germany and Southampton made Remember RAF100 toast planes – with an (edible) award for the plane most likely to fly presented by the RAF’s Rob Scullion – before remembrance football games in the nearby town of Albert.
The weekend ended with a unique event in the German cemetery in Fricourt, to mark the centenary of the death of Manfred von Richthofen, the ‘Red Baron’. The Red Baron was shot down exactly one hundred years earlier on 21st April 1918. Although mortally wounded, he landed his plane in Fricourt where he died and was buried with full military honours.
Photographs by Uwe Zucchi.