Lancaster teenager and National Citizen Service graduate Leon Morgan will be attending a special commemoration event this weekend to mark 100 years since the World War One Battle of Passchendaele.
Leon, 17, is part of a group of almost 100 NCS graduates who have been offered the opportunity to attend the UK ceremony of remembrance in Belgium on July 30 and 31.
This forms part of commemorations for the First World War centenary, which will see more than 4,000 people from across the UK follow their ancestors’ journey to the Western Front, which led to an estimated 250,000 British and Commonwealth casualties.
Leon is attending at the invitation of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport.
NCS graduates will take on important roles during the commemoration, and are looking forward to putting the life skills they learnt on NCS to good use.
Their experience on the flagship youth empowerment programme means they have already learnt how to live away from home, got to know incredible people from different walks of life, developed skills that employers value and made a difference by volunteering for a charity or cause close to their heart.
The positive impact of NCS means graduates like Leon feel confident about representing their generation at such an important national event.
The commemoration of the Third Battle of Ypres, commonly known as Passchendaele, will start with a traditional Last Post Ceremony on the eve of the centenary, July 30.
Two hundred descendants will be part of ceremony under the Menin Gate, the memorial to the missing, which bears their relatives’ names.
A series of live performances, open to thousands in Ypres’ rebuilt Market Square, will tell the story of the battle.
Images and film will also be projected onto the town’s famous Cloth Hall.
On July 31, the first day of the Third Battle of Ypres, the focus will be on the 12,000 graves and 35,000 names on the Memorial Wall to the Missing at the CWGC Tyne Cot cemetery, which bears witness to the ferocious battle.
The Memorial Park Passchendaele will host a visitor experience focusing on what life was like both on and behind the frontlines with talks, film, musical performance, children’s poetry, battlefield artefacts including a howitzer and living history displays.
Leon said: “In preparation for the event I’ve done my homework on Passchendaele. One of the largest battles in World War One, the Third Battle Of Ypres happened between July and November 1917.
“I’ve specifically learned about Colonel Charles Arthur Cecil King who, born in Cape Town South Africa, fought and died at Passchendaele.
“He was among the oldest to be killed in the First World War being born in 1863.
“I’m ready to join in and be a part of the commemorations, respecting those who once sacrificed so much so that all of us today may be free.”
Michael Lynas, CEO of NCS Trust, said: “The Centenary of Passchendaele events are an important commemoration of our shared history, and it is an honour for National Citizen Service graduates to attend and contribute to the proceedings.
“NCS gives young people access to experiences they may not otherwise have, and I know our graduates will be moved by the events in Belgium.
“Some of them will be honouring their own relatives, some will be hearing about the extent of the atrocities for the first time, but they will all be paying their respects to those who gave their lives.”
NCS is facing a record breaking year with more than 100,000 young people signed up for a summer of fun, adventure and social action.
There are still places available for this year for 15 to 17-year-olds who would like to experience living away from home, develop skills to boost their CV, and meet amazing people they’ll never forget.
To sign up, go to www.ncsyes.co.uk.