Military service of animals remembered as hundreds light up Preston Church

As part of a special Remembrance Service schoolchildren from across Lancashire came together today to acknowledge the contributions animals make whilst serving in the military as part of this year’s Armistice Day commemorations.

Thursday, 11th November 2021, 8:02 pm
Updated Friday, 12th November 2021, 9:36 am
Col David Waters, President of Preston and District Veterans Council, speaks to pupils

The animal puppet lanterns featured 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.

Creative Arts Project 'The Lamps are going out' seen hundreds of lanterns lit up at St George and the Martyr Church on Lune Street in Preston for the Remembrance Service.

Pupils from four Lancashire primary schools; English Martyrs in Preston, Catforth, Whitechapel and Weeton, alongside Sir Tom Finney Community High School, highlighted 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.

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Darryl Cartwright, formerly of the King’s Royal Hussars talking to the children.

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

The pyramid-shaped lamps were 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 was 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.

Weeton Primary pupil Chloe Webb.

One of the project organisers Becky Steel, researcher and engagement officer within the College for Military Veterans and Emergency Services at UCLan, and a military spouse, 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, added: “I’ve learned that if someone saves lives you can never forget them and must remember them.”

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

Weeton Primary School pupils showcase their lanterns.

Colonel David Waters, President of the Preston and District Veterans Council, who has been working with the schools on the project 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 Harris Museum, Preston Market and UCLan buildings will also be lit purple and red in commemoration of the service of animals, while lanterns will also be displayed at the Army HQ Festival of Remembrance at Blackburn Cathedral on Friday.

The people of Preston and Garstang also stood in a united silence at 11am this morning as a mark of respect to commemorate armed forces members who died in the line of duty.

Weeton pupil Corey Firth.
Weeton pupil Corey Stretton.
Weeton pupil Jessica Duffy.