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Talented young cadet plays a key role in Armistice Day ceremony in Belgium

PUBLISHED: 11:00 24 November 2017

Rose-May Simpson performing at the Brothers-in-Arms memorial concert. Picture: Courtesy of Shannon Nautilus-Simpson

Rose-May Simpson performing at the Brothers-in-Arms memorial concert. Picture: Courtesy of Shannon Nautilus-Simpson

Archant

A Lowestoft teenager had an unexpectedly key role to play at a major Armistice ceremony in Belgium, which included handing over a wreath to a distinguished guest.

Albert Read, who died in the First World War and is Rose-May's great-great grandfather, has his 'Dead Man's Penny' and war letters displayed in The Memorial Museum Passchendaele. Picture: Courtesy of Shannon Nautilus-SimpsonAlbert Read, who died in the First World War and is Rose-May's great-great grandfather, has his 'Dead Man's Penny' and war letters displayed in The Memorial Museum Passchendaele. Picture: Courtesy of Shannon Nautilus-Simpson

Thirteen-year-old Rose-May Simpson, an army cadet in Lowestoft and combined cadet at Beccles Free School, travels with her family every year to the town of Ypres to pay respect to those who gave their lives in battle.

The 12 family members spanning three generations who visited the battleground this year are descendants of Albert Read, who fought and, like so many others, died in the Battle of Passchendaele in 1917.

Mr Read’s body remains a part of Flanders Fields and his name is written on the Menin Gate that commemorates those missing in action. His ‘Dead Man’s Penny’ and war letters are displayed in Passchendaele War Museum.

While observing the November 11 ceremony in her cadet uniform, the passing squadron leader for the air training corps invited Rose-May to join his cadets in the ceremony.

Albert Read served with the 11th Battalion Queens West Surrey Regiment. Picture: Courtesy of Shannon Nautilus-SimpsonAlbert Read served with the 11th Battalion Queens West Surrey Regiment. Picture: Courtesy of Shannon Nautilus-Simpson

The proud youngster stood under the gate a few yards from Princess Anne and even had the pleasure of handing a wreath to Sir Tim Laurence.

“We couldn’t believe it. There is still good going on out of tragedy that occurred many years ago,” said Shannon Nautilus-Simpson, Rose-May’s mother.

“It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Rose-May and we’re honoured she was able to take part.”

The teenager’s already special day continued as she sang ‘Jack and Jim’ - her very own war song - at Anzac Rest, a cafe devoted to remembering the fallen.

Rose-May recorded a studio version of her song 'Jack and Jim'  for the memorial project CD. Picture: Courtesy of Shannon Nautilus-SimpsonRose-May recorded a studio version of her song 'Jack and Jim' for the memorial project CD. Picture: Courtesy of Shannon Nautilus-Simpson

Upon the request of family friend and cafe owner Johan Vandewalle, Rose-May wrote a song in 2015 for his Brothers-in-Arms project, which honours the brothers killed during the war - including Jack and Jim Hunter.

Rose-May and her brother James performed the song for the first time at the Anzac Rest memorial concert last year.

“Everyone was amazed and it brought some people to tears,” added Mrs Nautilus-Simpson.

“People couldn’t believe she had written the song aged 11.”

The performance was so impressive that the British Torch Of Remembrance asked to read ‘Jack and Jim’ as a poem at last posts in Belgium, while Rose-May also recorded a studio version
for the Brothers-in-Arms memorial project CD.

For more information about
the project, visit brothersinarmsmemorial.org.


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