We arrived in Coevorden, at the home of Dick and Ally Elzing, late on 29th April. The following morning after a good night’s sleep, we went to the Fontein School in Sleen, where Dick is the headmaster. After speaking to the year 6 children about John Morgan and our Scout Group, we were taken to visit a traditional Dutch windmill and then to the Commonwealth War Grave Cemetery in Sleen to visit the grave of John Morgan and the other airmen who were killed with him.
John Morgan’s gravestone in Sleen cemetery
John Morgan’s name embossed on the plane fuselage
Hilary, Meme and Sue
With the children of Fontein School
After lunch, we went with the year 6 children, teachers and invited dignitaries to the memorial, made from the wreckage of the crashed plane, set in stone. We took part in a very moving ceremony to commemorate the young airmen whose lives were cut short by the evils of war. I made a speech, as part of the service, which was translated into English by the Headmaster. The service included speeches from Dick Elzing, the local councillor and a sister of one of the boys who found the wreckage and hid it from the Nazis. We sang the Dutch and British National Anthems and listened to the last post. It was a moving experience. On return to the school for tea and cake, we presented our friends with a welsh plaque to hang in the school hall. We also compiled a file for them about John Iorwerth Palmer Morgan, his life and family. We added some information and pictures about the history of Llanishen and Lisvane Scout Group and the memorial in St Isans Church.
Sue, Meme and I felt honoured to be at the ceremony. We were also overwhelmed by the kind welcome we received from the people of Sleen. We have even made it onto the village website!
In 1921, John Morgan was born in Mill House, Tongwynlais. His parents Harold and Frances moved to Llanishen when John was a child as his father was a teacher in Llanishen school. This was located in the old building, next to the church which now houses Llanishen Good Neighbours. His father eventually became the headmaster in the village school. Llanishen was then a village on the outskirts of Cardiff. John had an older sister and a younger brother. As a young boy, he joined Llanishen and Lisvane Scout Group, progressing to be a Rover Scout. When the 2nd World War came along, John volunteered with some of his Scouting friends to join the RAF reserve. Unfortunately John and two of his friends were killed in action and their names are commemorated in the memorial in the Lady Chapel in St Isan Church.
Evan Palmer, one of our Scouts, with some help from his Dad, started to undertake research into the details of the lives and deaths of these three Scouts and in particular John Morgan. John’s plane was shot down at Sleen, in Northern Holland in 1943 and all six airmen died. After the bodies were removed and buried, the local people hid the plane wreckage. After the war, a memorial was erected around the metal of the plane fuselage. The names of the dead airmen were embossed onto the metal, including that of Sergeant Morgan. The memorial is currently cared for by the year 6 children of the local school. Every year, at the end of April, a service of Remembrance is held for the 6 airmen and care of the memorial is handed to the next year 6 children. Evan and Nick contacted the headmaster at the Fountain School in Sleen (Fontein School) about John Morgan and the Remembrance Service which our Scout Group hold in St Isans Church during November. The headmaster sent details of the annual service and invited members of the Scout Group to attend the service on 30th April this year. So ……Meme, curly Sue and I are off on the plane to Amsterdam on Wednesday on an important international Scouting mission. Several people have kindly helped to dig up information about John Morgan, to present to the children in Sleen: Evan and Nick, Ces James and Sylvia Evans from Llanishen History Society and Rob Davies, our Group President, for a picture of John Iorwerth Palmer Morgan. We are hoping to forge a Scouting connection with Sleen. Meme, Sue and I are grateful to Dick Elzing, the headmaster at the Fountain School and his wife Ali for inviting us and providing us with accommodation for two nights. Finally, thanks to the Scout Group for agreeing to pay for our travel costs. #excitingscouting!
You all know, of course, that all the Leaders, Young Leaders, Group Executive members and Helpers in the Scout Group are volunteers. Why do we do it? Did we all start to help when we were young members of the movement or perhaps when our children decided to join? Did we join enthusiastically or perhaps a little reluctantly?
I joined when my son was involved in the Group as a Beaver, Cub and Scout (he is 30 now) and yes I was somewhat reluctant and a bit terrified at first. I started as Akela because there were no other Cub Leaders and I sort of picked it up as I went along. As I have grown into the role, I have become very enthusiastic about Scouting and it’s place in the lives of young people. I’m sure you are aware of this if you have ever spoken to me on the subject. It has literally changed some young people’s lives, giving them confidence, practical abilities, teamwork and leadership training.
We hope that some of our young members will continue to volunteer in Scouting or in other volunteering roles as they move towards adulthood. I was a Girl Guide when I was younger and this ignited the flame of volunteering in me. Prince Charles is also keen that young people get involved as volunteers, for the good of themselves, for others and for society. It also looks great on your CV. He has launched a campaign, “Step Up To Serve” in November at Buckingham Palace, with the help of two Scouts. It is a campaign aiming to empower young people to volunteer.
I re-tweeted from Step up to Serve, check out @LLScoutGroup or @stepuptoserve. I hope some of you are following my tweets. They are available on the right hand side of the Home page of the website. Check out the Step up to Serve website: www.stepuptoserve.org.uk
Lets all encourage each other in our volunteering roles.