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Queen cheered by hundreds of children arriving for Mayflower School’s First World War bomb centenary

PUBLISHED: 18:54 15 June 2017 | UPDATED: 08:07 16 June 2017

Queen and Prince Philip arrive at school gates of Mayflower Primary. Picture: KEN MEARS

Queen and Prince Philip arrive at school gates of Mayflower Primary. Picture: KEN MEARS

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Hundreds of children cheered the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh arriving at the school gates at Mayflower Primary in Poplar to mark the centenary of the First World War air-raid in which 18 children perished.

The Queen and Prince Philip arriving at Mayflower School greeted by headteacher Dee Bleach and her staff. Picture: KEN MEARS The Queen and Prince Philip arriving at Mayflower School greeted by headteacher Dee Bleach and her staff. Picture: KEN MEARS

The royal couple toured classes looking at the pupils special project work for the centenary of the first daylight air-raid on London in which Upper North Street school got a direct hit.

The children have been researching many heroic stories of what happened that day on June 13, 1917, when a bomb dropped by a German Gotha squadron exploded in one of the infant classrooms.

The Queen touring classrooms shown by headteacher Dee Bleach. Picture: KEN MEARS The Queen touring classrooms shown by headteacher Dee Bleach. Picture: KEN MEARS

These include the story of five-year-old Rose Simons trapped for three days in the rubble and finally rescued by her older brother Jim who carries on digging, long after rescuers had given up.

A century on, seven year-old Ayaan Ahmed from Limehouse chose that rescue for the writing project which he read to the Queen.

Ayaan Ahmed reads his story to the Queen of 1917 rescue from the bombed school. Picture: KEN MEARS. Ayaan Ahmed reads his story to the Queen of 1917 rescue from the bombed school. Picture: KEN MEARS.

“The Queen said it was very dramatic,” Ayaan told the East London Advertiser afterwards.

“I’ve never seen the Queen before, but my mum has. I like the Queen. She is very, very old, but is very nice.”

Children thrilled when the Queen looks into their classroom. Picture: KEN MEARS Children thrilled when the Queen looks into their classroom. Picture: KEN MEARS

Headteacher Dee Bleach invited the Queen at the end of her tour to unveil a commemorative plaque, and explained what the children had gained from the centenary project.

“Our pupils have learned about the children’s lives in 1917 and about the 18 who died and their classmates who survived and have gained an understanding of life in Poplar,” she said.

A distinguished name signing the Visitors' Book. Picture: KEN MEARS A distinguished name signing the Visitors' Book. Picture: KEN MEARS

“The centenary has brought our community together. This plaque will serve as a reminder for the people of Poplar about the history of Upper North Street School and be a symbol of remembrance to those lives lost 100 years ago.”

She turned to the Queen and added: “Your visit sends a powerful and unifying message to those living and working in Poplar today.”

A bouquet is presented to the Queen as the Royal tour of Mayflower School ends. Picture: KEN MEARS A bouquet is presented to the Queen as the Royal tour of Mayflower School ends. Picture: KEN MEARS

The Queen, dressed in a blue turquoise A-line Stewart Parvin outfit with matching brim hat and aquamarine brooch with diamond clip, sat down to sign the visitors’ book, watched by Prince Philip in what is believed to be his last official public engagement before he retires.

The Royal couple emerged from the building to a sea of Union flags waved in the playground by 380 cheering pupils. More cheering crowds lined the narrow Upper North Street as their car left for Buckingham Palace.

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The school visit followed a centenary commemoration at All Saints earlier, conducted by the Bishop of Stepney in the same parish church where the original funeral service for 15 of the children killed was held on June 20, 1917.

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