Each year, Harrow International School Hong Kong joins educational institutions across the world in observing Remembrance Day, to pay respects to those who have fallen in battle. In 2016, this was, in many ways no different, with several of the traditions associated with the First and Second World Wars observed. However, Remembrance commemorates all those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in any armed conflict, regardless of race, religion, allegiance, colour or creed, and seeks peace and the eradication of need for such violence in the future. Thus, Harrow International School Hong Kong ‘remembered’ both traditionally, and uniquely, to encourage its students to engage and understand the magnitude of what the day is all about, and why it is important.
Inspired in part by the English artist Paul Cummins’ installation Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red, the School’s art department designed a ‘sculpture’ comprising 644 hand-crafted poppies that were tied to a net and displayed against the white background of courtyard’s pillars. Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red was made up of nearly 900,000 ceramic poppies, one for each British or Colonial serviceman killed in the line of duty during the Great War; similarly, each paper poppy, made by Preparatory boarding students at the school, symbolised a member of the Harrow School community that perished during that same conflict. The poppies appeared to cascade down the School’s pillars, much as they did around the Tower of London, and made for a remarkable collaborative project with a profound, but also poignant, meaning.
In addition to the art installation, there was also an assembly held in the School Hall on Friday 11 November, to remind students of the reasons for Remembrance. Led by Senior students, the service explained the historical link between Harrow School in the UK, from former servicemen who joined the army straight from school, to military doctors and even current staff members who have served in Afghanistan. It is in Remembrance that we commemorate the lives of those who are killed in wars through no fault of their own, but also as an expression of gratitude to those who continue to fight terrorism on a daily basis. A choir sung a rendition of the war poem In Flanders Fields, then the Last Post was played, followed by a two-minute silence, and the sounding of Reveille. The entire Upper school was in attendance, with nearly all students wearing poppies purchased to support the Royal British Legion’s poppy appeal. This year, the Poppy Appeal at the School raised HKD15,400.
In keeping with tradition, the school also attended the service of Remembrance at the Cenotaph in Central, on Sunday 13 November. The Heads of School, the Prefects and ex-service members of staff, attended and a wreath was laid at the foot of the memorial. They stood side-by-side with many local ex-military personnel and the leaders of a variety of religious faiths. It was a wonderful show of unity, demonstrating that ‘difference’ is unimportant in the grand scheme of things. While the service for 2016 has passed, next year will be 99 years since the end of the First World War, and it would be wonderful to see members of staff from many Hong Kong schools joining hands to remember the great sacrifices that have been, and continue to be made every day across the world.
With the aim to raise the public’s awareness to peace education, the School distributed packs to local schools about Remembrance Day and its importance to the wider community to schools in Tuen Mun, which includesa a booklet (English version // Chinese version) about the major service charities operating here in Hong Kong, as well as instructions on how to make similar poppy displays of your own.