The Forest School Battlefield Tour

Visiting Albert (Jack) Dancy at Pozieres Memorial and leaving a plaque from The Forest School SUS-140912-170842001
Visiting Albert (Jack) Dancy at Pozieres Memorial and leaving a plaque from The Forest School SUS-140912-170842001

35 year 8 boys from The Forest School along with 4 of their teachers spent two days in Ypres in Belgium and The Somme in France last month.

The tour was part of their studies about the First World War but this year it had an extra special feel to it with the centenary celebrations.

At The Forest School we feel that the centenary events that will take place over the next four years are very significant. They will be about commemoration and about honouring the lost generation who died together and whose deaths changed everything, but a significant element of the commemorations we feel are about making links with the past for young people today.

Failing to help young people to connect to 1914-1918 and to see the relevance of those years would be the greatest disservice we could do to those who gave their life for this country.

As a result of this during our trip we sought out two Horsham boys from the same family who lost their lives during the First World War.

The first soldier we visited was twenty-two-year-old Lance Corporal Charles Dancy who served in The Queens (the Royal West Surrey Regiment). He was killed in action on 25th January, 1916. Charles was part of a large Horsham family of six brothers and two sisters, he attended the local school at Roffey. Three brothers, Alfred, Frederick and Hubert, were all serving with the Royal Sussex Regiment when Charles was killed. Charles’s parents were Thomas Dancy, head gardener at Holbrook Place, Horsham, and his wife Caroline.

They lived with their family at The Gardens, a cottage in the grounds of Holbrook Park. Charles now lies buried in the Menin Road South Military Cemetery, in the eastern suburbs of Ypres.

Another brother we visited from the same family was Alfred Dancy (known as Jack). Before the war he was a private in the Territorial 4th Battalion Royal Sussex Regiment. Later he served in 12th Divisions 12th Battalion Machine Gun Corps. Sergeant Alfred Dancy was killed in action on Wednesday 27th March, 1918. Alfred (Jack) was killed on The Somme, he has no grave unlike Charles and is commemorated on the Pozieres Memorial in France.

We visited both of the Dancy boys and left wreaths and a plaque to remember them and say thank you. This helped our boys to make that vital connection with the past – this was them 100 years ago.

All the boys felt the significance of this and all the sites we visited over the two days really helped them understand this conflict and its implications and consequences not only for Horsham but for Britain and the wider world.

Report and pictures contributed by The Forest School.