In 2000/2001 I was working as a class teacher in a primary school. For the first time I was going to be teaching year six, the oldest children in the school. I was a little nervous at the prospect, as there are important exams to be done in that year, we were overdue for an OFSTED inspection that was likely to come (and did!) and I’d be the teacher helping them to prepare and transition to secondary school. They were also to be my last class before I got married in the summer of 2001, so they were the last class who called me Miss Wickham. The class was called 6W.
As it turned out, class 6W were a brilliant class to teach. They got on well, they were smart, curious, funny, quirky, engaged, friendly, fun and of course just a little infuriating at times! I loved them. I could bore you with stories such as the unsatisfactory DT lesson in that blooming OFSTED inspection in which they forgot all the methods for joining wood that they’d learnt and designed, instead just going for kilometres of sellotape on the day. There were the amazing poems and dreams they wrote and shared when we chose to focus on Martin Luther King as an inspirational figure. There were the boys who made off with boxes of paperclips so that they could make lock-pickers as part of a (also unsatisfactory and therefore unsuccessful, thank goodness!) scheme to have full access to all areas of the school for spying purposes. There was sex education, the end of year production, games of head-down-thumbs-up and so many other memorable times that year.
The reason for this piece though, is to choose one of the children from class 6W to tell you about. His former classmates won’t feel left out or unfavoured by this. I know they would also want you to know about Peter.
Every mufti day, when the children came to school wearing their own choice of clothes rather than school uniform, Peter wore army-cadet style clothes. Peter was going to be a soldier. He’d been telling us this since he was tiny. He was going to join the army as soon as he left school. Peter was a lovely boy. He had a younger brother who he absolutely adored, and at the end of each school day, even though he was now a big grown-up year six, he would race from class and meet his mum and dad with a huge hug, kiss and smile. He was a loyal friend, he was well-liked by both the boys and girls in our class. I could always tell when he didn’t understand what I was asking of him as he’d tip his head sideways and frown whilst looking very intently at me as though he might find the clarity and answers he needed. He would get very cross if he felt misunderstood and would glower at us and be very still and silent until he was ready to explain what was wrong. We got on well all year- well, nearly! He was chosen to take the lead role as Prince Charming in our end of year production. He was so proud and he learnt his part and practised it with vigour and enthusiasm. But his mind was so on the role and the play that in the class I had to work very hard to get his attention with classwork and class matters as his mind was in the clouds with the play. We had a little discord during that time!
So Peter and 6W left our school in July. They (with more than a little help from my amazing classroom assistant) made me a book to wish me well for my wedding, I said goodbye to them all, and school and personal life moved on.
In 2006, as I walked home from school one day, a tall friendly-faced young man smiled and greeted me in the street. It was a 16 year old Peter who had just left high school and was about to start at a military college until he was old enough to join the army. We shared news, caught up a little, I bid him well and asked him to keep in touch and let us at school know how he was getting on and we parted.
Years passed. One evening in 2010, as I cooked dinner, I had a phonecall. I cried as I was told that Peter had died whilst on active duty in Afghanistan. He had lived and died his dream. Peter’s family was a very loving and close one. I cried as I thought of his lovely Mum, Dad and Brother. I cried when I attended his funeral and burial in a military cemetery in Folkstone one very snowy, winter’s day in early 2010. And I cry in my heart on Remembrance Sunday each year because I am now not just generally touched and saddened by the lost lives, but have the face of one I knew and cared about personally to remember.
So rest in peace Peter, Swift and Bold.
I am so pleased to have known you and so sad that the world has lost you.