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Youngsters from a Staffordshire school today visited JCB for a poignant lesson about a long-forgotten pupil who served his country with distinction in the Great War.

JCB has given employees the opportunity to pay tribute to their relatives who served in WW1 with the unveiling of 40ft x 25ft high roll of honour bearing their pictures and names.

Now it has come to light that among the 50 brave men honoured on the montage was a former pupil of Great Wood Primary School in Tean. Private Arthur Rowe attended the school more than 120 years ago and died in France in 1917 at the age of 34. He was injured on the battlefield and lay there for three days before being rescued and taken to a field hospital where he later died.

Today pupils from the school visited JCB’s World HQ to see the special commemoration of Private Rowe. During the visit they heard the story of the brave soldier’s army service from two of his descendants, his great grandson Dave Atkinson and his great-great grandson Jack Atkinson, who both work at JCB. 

Jack and Dave presented Head Teacher Ben Adamson with a framed photo of Private Rowe to ensure his memory lives on at the school. The presentation came just days before the father and son head to Ypres in Belgium where they will spend Sunday, November 11th – the actual Centenary of the signing of the Armistice – paying tribute to their brave ancestor at special Menin Gate commemorations.

I am 27-years-old and it is essential that the younger generation keeps these stories alive. I’m delighted to have had the opportunity to tell Private Rowe’s tale to pupils at his former school because it means he is not forgotten.

Dave Atkinson, of Fulford, near Blythe Bridge added: “It was only when we were researching my great-grandfather’s story that we discovered he had gone to Great Wood Primary School. The stories of sacrifice by the Great War generation are easily forgotten and I think it’s wonderful that the school is so interested in Private Rowe’s bravery and will now keep his memory alive.”

Great Wood Community Primary School Leader Ben Adamson said: “We are amazed to hear that one of our former pupils served his country with such distinction in the First World War and are thrilled to be presented with his picture. It’s really very poignant to learn about Private Rowe as the Centenary of the Armistice approaches. We will ensure that he is never forgotten and his picture will hang in the school with pride.”

Private Arthur Rowe, of Tean, died without ever meeting his newly-born daughter, Helen, who is Dave’s grandmother. He left a widow Gertrude and two other children Marjorie and Cyril. He was working at Tean Mills when he was called up to war in 1916 and joined the Manchester Regiment. He was severely wounded by German artillery during the battle of Poelcappelle at Passchendaele in October 1917.

As the battle raged around him, he was wounded and lay on the battlefield for three days in the cold and rain, before he was eventually rescued and taken to a field hospital. He had suffered devastating injuries and died on October 16th 1917. A letter sent to his family just after his death has recently been discovered and it describes how he had been “horribly wounded” and had his right leg amputated. 
JCB supporting the fund raising efforts of the Royal British Legion in this special Centenary year and has donated a unique poppy-liveried mini excavator to the charity’s appeal, which raised £25,500.

In addition, a specially commissioned art installation, to mark the 100th Anniversary of the Armistice, was unveiled.  Designed and made by JCB graduates and apprentices, it features 255 porcelain poppies – one for each Uttoxeter, Rocester and Denstone person who lost their lives in The Great War.  The poppies have been handcrafted by more than 30 JCB employees who were former members of the Armed Forces.