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Former Canford pupil speaks at Passchendaele 100th anniversary


Monday 31st July 2017 marked the 100th anniversary of the third Battle of Ypres - The Battle of Passchendaele - during which an estimated 245,000 allied casualties fell in 103 days of heavy fighting. A commemoration service was held amongst the graves and names at the CWGC Tyne Cot Cemetery at 11am, the exact time that the battle started a century ago.

Descendants of those killed during the battle were selected to speak at the service. Old Canfordian Rupert Talfourd Cook, who completed his Upper Sixth year and left the school this summer, was chosen as one of only six relatives from over 2,000 applications. Descendants of the fallen as well as members of the British and Belgian Royal families and politicians were present, including the Prince of Wales and Prime Minister Theresa May. He spoke live on BBC One about his great great grandfather, Rifleman Stanley Durrant of the King’s Royal Rifle Corps who was killed in action on the 24th August 1917. His son, Rupert’s grandfather, was just 3 years old at the time. Rupert first discovered Stanley’s grave during a History trip to Belgium when he was in the Fifth Form at Canford.

Rupert travelled to Belgium several days before the event, and took part in broadcast training with drama specialists from RADA as well as a number of technical rehearsals with the BBC.
Speaking of the experience, Rupert commented “The service was extremely moving and very emotional. A lot of effort had gone into making the event stunning through the combined contributions of the BBC, CWGC and participants. It was a great honour to play a part in this service and pay our respects to all those who died for our freedom.”

Ben Vessey, Canford’s Headmaster, added: “To be selected to represent his family from among so many was a wonderful achievement for Rupert. The service was extremely moving and he read beautifully with genuine pride and respect for his great grandfather and all those who lost their lives.”
The full service, including Rupert’s speech, can be viewed at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-40669719

Published: August 2 2017

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