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Bishop of Stepney leads centenary prayers with the Queen for children of Poplar killed at Upper North Street

PUBLISHED: 06:16 15 June 2017 | UPDATED: 06:17 15 June 2017

Bishop of Stepney The Rt Rev Adrian Newman at his diocese manse in Bow. Picture: MIKE BROOKE

Bishop of Stepney The Rt Rev Adrian Newman at his diocese manse in Bow. Picture: MIKE BROOKE

Mike Brooke

The Bishop of Stepney delivers an address in Poplar today (Thurs) in front of the Queen and Prince Phillip in which he talks about his own parents’ experience of living through the horror of war.

Cuttings of the 1917 Bombing of Upper North Street School. Picture: MIKE BROOKE Cuttings of the 1917 Bombing of Upper North Street School. Picture: MIKE BROOKE

The Rt Rev Adrian Newman is conducting the centenary memorial at All Saints church to the 18 children killed at Upper North Street School during a First World War air-raid on east London in 1917.

“Dad lived through all the horrors in the Second World War fighting in North Africa and Mum was a nurse all through the London Blitz,” he is to tell today’s congregation.

“Both witnessed things nobody in their early 20s should have to experience.

“My Dad never talked about his war—only once did he mention his friend blown up by a grenade right next to him.

Sad moment when Caretaker Benjamin Batt digs through rubble in infants' classroom in 1917 where his own son Alfie had been killed. Picture: TOWER HAMLETS ARCHIVE Sad moment when Caretaker Benjamin Batt digs through rubble in infants' classroom in 1917 where his own son Alfie had been killed. Picture: TOWER HAMLETS ARCHIVE

“Some memories are too deep and personal to disturb. But our collective memory of war is another thing.”

His predecessor Bishop of Stepney conducted the original funeral service 100 years ago at the same parish church for 15 of the children killed when a bomb crashed through two upper storeys to explode in the infants’ classroom.

The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh will also hear about the current bishop’s recent visit to Tyne Cot Cemetery near Ypres in Belgium, scene of the heaviest fighting on the Western Front in the 1914-18 War.

“A recorded voice continually recites the names of the 11,954 people whose remains are buried there,” Mr Newman adds. “Each gravestone is a personal memorial to someone’s son, brother, father or friend. These were people like you and me.”

Children's funeral procession along East India Dock Road on Wednesday, June 20, 1917. Picture: TOWER HAMLETS ARCHIVE Children's funeral procession along East India Dock Road on Wednesday, June 20, 1917. Picture: TOWER HAMLETS ARCHIVE

The names of the 18 children killed when a German bomb hit Upper North Street School on June 13, 1917, are being read out at today’s service.

“There is something about killing young children that is profoundly disturbing,” the Bishop adds. “We also remember the children killed by bombs dropped in our own day, especially, but not exclusively, in Syria. It should make us re-double our commitment to work for peace.”

The Royal couple also visit Mayflower School in Upper North Street to meet staff and children before returning to Buckingham Palace in what is believed to be Prince Philip’s last public engagement before his retirement.

Mayflower Primary landed a royal scoop with today’s royal visit to mark the 100th anniversary of the bombing of the school.

1919 'Angel' memorial unveiling at Poplar Park. Picture: TOWER HAMLETS ARCHIVE 1919 'Angel' memorial unveiling at Poplar Park. Picture: TOWER HAMLETS ARCHIVE

Head teacher Dee Bleach heard back from Buckingham Palace just two weeks ago that the Queen and Prince Philip were joining them for the multi-faith commemoration.

The Queen’s grandfather, George V, sent a personal note to the funeral service in 1917: “His Majesty and Queen Mary are thinking of the parents and their saddened homes, when the bodies of their little ones were laid to rest. Their Majesties pray that the mourners may be blessed with God’s help and comfort in their sorrow.”

Families descended from children at the school a century ago are also meeting afterwards at the 1919 Memorial in Poplar Recreation Ground nearby, which has been given Grade II listing this week by English Heritage.

The East London Advertiser has a 20-page centenary heritage supplement in association with Mayflower School inside today’s edition.

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