Hazelwood School Pilgrimage to the John Harman Memorial
In October 2012 I led a group of pupils from Hazelwood School, Surrey (where I'm a teacher), to Lundy Island off the coast of Devon. There's a memorial on the island to John Pennington Harman, one of the two gallant soldiers who were awarded the Victoria Cross at the Battle of Kohima.
Martin Coles Harman, John’s father, owned Lundy Island from 1925 to 1954. John had an idyllic childhood there – he used to play in the quarries where a memorial to his memory now stands.
My group was well informed, because I had previously taken a chapel service at the school, telling them about Kohima and the Kohima Educational Trust, of which I am a Trustee. The Kohima epitaph was read out at the school’s Remembrance Service in November 2012.
In addition to honouring the memory of John Harman, it was an exciting trip. We travelled to Lundy by boat returning, because of bad weather, by helicopter. We explored the whole island, learning about the flora and fauna, the lighthouses, the history, the smugglers and the shipwrecks.
Our tribute to John Harman was made even more meaningful by our meeting Mr Rupert Lewin, a cousin of the Harman family. He and his partner Anne Haley joined us at the quarries, where we laid crosses on the memorial.
Rupert and Anne were impressed with the children’s understanding of Kohima and their interest in Lundy.
They invited us to tea at Millcombe House, where they presented each of us with a Lundy Half Puffin, a coin minted by Martin Harman with his own head on it, now pretty rare.
On our final evening, we presented two copies of Robert Lyman’s book Kohima 1944 to the General Manager of Lundy, Mr Derek Green, at the Marisco Tavern, which maintains a library for visitors.
The visit proved to be an inspiration for the children. They have learned something about Kohima, in the heart of which Harman’s grave is one of thousands.
Visitors to the Kohima war cemetery include Naga children who are contemporaries of my group. They were able to imagine the childhood of one who grew up to give his life heroically in a far distant battlefield.
Ben Brownless, January 2013
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