School pupils pay tribute to Buckley-born First World War hero

Reporter:

Amani Khan

A school has paid tribute to the brave actions of a Buckley-born soldier who fought during the First World War.

Pupils of Westwood Primary School in Buckley performed Goodnight Mr Birks – the tale of a World War One Buckley soldier Frederick Birks – at the Hawkesbury Little Theatre on Thursday.

Frederick Birks was a Welsh-born Australian First World War soldier and recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest decoration for gallantry ‘in the face of the enemy’ that can be awarded to members of the British and Commonwealth forces.

Since the Victoria Cross was first introduced in 1856 by Queen Victoria to honour acts of valour during the Crimean War, only 1,358 medals have been awarded.

It all began in a history lesson. Pupils were taught about the two world wars and took a particular interest towards Fred because he was from Buckley.

After further research the pupils began a campaign and spoke to school governors to have Fred’s memorial consistently maintained to ensure his name is recognised in the generations to come.

With the council’s support the children were successful and managed to secure funding to help maintain Fred’s memorial to ensure his name is passed on through the generations.

The funds also support the annual Frederick Birks memorial award at Westwood Primary School which congratulates chosen pupils for their bravery and compassion.

The school held a play at Christmas and due to the popularity of the performance another play was arranged.

A number of high profile guests arrived to watch the show, including Chris Pleszkun from the Australian Army, a Warrant Officer Class Two (WO2), who is currently on a exchange and secondment in Wales.

Rob Nicholson, headteacher said: “The teachers and pupils from the junior department have worked tirelessly with nothing but enthusiasm for the past few weeks.

“It’s great that a single history lesson snowballed into something so inspirational.

“We are a school which promotes child-initiated learning and we ensure each pupil has their voice heard, I am very proud of them.

“Both nights were sell outs and the children were so excited. Our staff embraced the children’s needs and channeled their enthusiasm into a performance.”

He added: “Thanks also go to those at Hawkesbury Little Theatre, the volunteers who worked the lights sound and gave us a stage.”

Jane Williams, deputy headteacher, said: “It was extremely well-attended as we had guests from all across the Buckley community.

“All those who did attend were extremely complimentary towards the performance.

“We’ve had correspondence since the performance, including one from Lord Barry and Lady Janet Jones, who congratulated the children on their hard work.

“It can be a very daunting experience to perform in front of people, especially those they don’t know, bearing in mind some of the youngest contributors to the performance were only
seven-years-old.

“It’s just amazing how well the children performed.

“Since the performance we’ve had such a positive response on social media, its brilliant.”

Fred’s great niece, Janet Tildesley will be attending the school to watch the pupils’ perform once again.

Email:

amani.khan@nwn.co.uk

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