School holds a centenary service in memory of pupil

As the Royal British Legion gears up to launch this year’s Poppy Appeal in the run up to Remembrance Sunday, staff and students at a Sleaford primary school have already been remembering one of their former pupils who served in the First World War and died in an airship tragedy 100 years ago.

Vicar of Sleaford Rev Philip Johnson, led the commemorative service at St Denys' Church. EMN-210610-154544001

As part of plans to create a mini museum in an old air raid shelter on the school site, William Alvey pupils crowdfunded to acquire the First World War medals of Charlie Penson from a collector, so that they could return to his home town and go on display at the school.

Representatives of the school then attended a centenary memorial service at Hull Minster, for all those, including Charlie Penson, who died in the disastrous crash of airship R38, during trials over the Humber estuary in 1921. Almost all on board did not survive after the aircraft collapsed, exploded and crashed into the sea.

The R38 airship was designed for Britain’s Royal Navy during the final months of the First World War, intended for long-range patrol duties over the North Sea and was the world’s largest airship when it first flew in June 1921. Four similar airships were originally ordered by the Admiralty, but three were cancelled after the armistice with Germany and R.38 was sold to the US Navy before completion. Sixteen of the 17 Americans, and 28 of the 32 Britons, in the crew were killed in the crash.

After the service a small party walked round to Sleaford cemetery, where Charlie Penson's funeral was held 100 years ago and Father Philip Johnson gave a short blessing before they laid wreaths on his grave. EMN-210610-154523001

Charles’ body was returned to Sleaford and there was a funeral 100 years ago at St Denys’ Church before he was buried with military honours in the cemetery.

The school has now taken part in a memorial service for Charlie Penson at St Denys’ Church in Sleaford, led by Vicar of Sleaford, Rev Philip Johnson, who is an RAF auxiliary chaplain.

Headteacher Stephen Tapley said: “Charlie and all the other men lost have not been forgotten.”

He thanked everyone for attending including Wing Commander Alison Morton of RAF Cranwell, NKDC Vice Chairman Coun Lucille Hagues and County Councillor Andrew Hagues, the Mayor and Mayoress of Sleaford, Jon Major the Head Verger at Hull Minster, Cranwell Aviation Heritage Museum, Megan Keller of The Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Kate Argyle of Historic England, the Western Front Association, Lincoln branch, RAFA Cranwell branch, Mark Bamford of Sleaford Museum, historian John Dale and Daniel Davies.

Year 6 William Alvey School pupils involved in the commemorative service at St Denys' Church. EMN-210610-154140001

Music was performed by the RAF Quintet and Cranwell Military Wives Choir and readings were by Mr Tapley, Wg Cdr Morton, a Year 6 student and teacher Natalie Mason who has led the research.

Two children brought forward the medals of Charles Penson and his father, James Ambrose Penson.

After the service a small party walked to the cemetery and Father Philip gave a short blessing and they laid wreaths on Charlie’s grave, which had been cleaned by the school.

Back at the school, Kate Argyle from Historic England presented the children and particularly Mrs Mason, with a special award for bringing history to life.

Kate Argyle from Historic England presented the school, the children and particularly Year 6 teacher Natalie Mason, with a special award for bringing history to life. EMN-210610-154153001
Charlie Penson's medals. EMN-210610-154804001
The R38 airship in which Charlie Penson died in a crash near Hull. EMN-210610-154753001