Armistice Day: Royal Anglian soldier-turned-teacher leads Remembrance week at Essex school

  • ITV Anglia's Charlie Frost reports on how Honywood is marking Remembrance

Eight years ago Royal Anglian soldier Jonny Williams retired from the regiment he loved to become at teacher at Honywood School in Coggeshall.

After serving in Afghanistan and Iraq and then going on to train others, teaching, he felt would be a natural progression.

And, he was right, attributing his successful transition to "civvy street" to the school.

Jonny Williams and 14 pupils joined villagers in Coggleshall at the annual Armistice Day event. Credit: ITV Anglia

Not wanting to be "that military guy" who came in and took charge of how Honywood marks Armistice Day, Jonny hung back until this year.

After Covid-19 took all communal commemoration from us last year, he was determined to go big this year.

Students have made a memorial outside Honywood School with messages to soldiers who have fought and lived and those who have fallen. Credit: ITV Anglia

Alongside supportive colleagues and keen students he has organised a week's worth of events, including special assemblies and classes, a memorial display in front of the school and 14 pupils accompanying him to the Coggeshall Armistice Day wreath-laying this morning.

Students from Honywood School placed a wreath at Coggleshall War Memorial. Credit: ITV Anglia

But the event he was able to involve the whole school in was somewhat unusal for Remembrance Day.

Yesterday, they put on a Year 11 boys versus teachers football match. And although Jonny helped make it happen, he can't take credit for the idea.

A two minute silence was held before the match in tribute to the men and women who have lost their lives in our armed forces. Credit: ITV Anglia

With Covid playing havoc with the school years, some students have struggled being in and out of the classroom for so long.

Some of the boys on the Year 11 squad were no different, and Jonny has been helping them get back on track. And it was their idea to challenge the teachers to a game.

Jonny said: "They'd put on some football with the Year 7s and that had gone really well. And then a couple of them came to me and said 'What about a football match with you?'

"Initially, I thought, 'No, thanks very much!' But then in terms of the suggested event of the football match during World War One, it kind of fitted in there. And it was the excuse to get the whole school out here to mark the two-minute silence as a collective community."

Observing the two minute silence before kick off. Credit: ITV Anglia

And before kick off, the whole school did observe a two-minute silence as the Last Post echoed around the pitch. Then it was game on and the roars from the crowd were mighty.

At half time, it was a neck-and neck-thriller. After the students started the scoring, the teachers equalised with a controversial penalty.

The students celebrate taking the lead. Credit: ITV Anglia

Then, shortly after the break, the students came back with a nice nudge into the back of the net.

But it wasn't to be, the teachers fighting back and clawing another goal and penalty to make it 3 - 2.

Commenting on the teachers' performance, second-half goalscorer 16-year-old Alex Banyard said: "There's a few [who] caught my eye - they were very good, a few of them."

Goal scorer Alex Banyard told ITV Anglia the teachers did better than they expected! Credit: ITV Anglia

He went on to thank his team mates and Mr Williams, before I asked him why he thought it was important to mark Remembrance.

"Because if they didn't die for our country, we wouldn't be standing here today," he said.

Sentiments backed by his friend, 15-year-old Ethan Skubich: "To show respect for the soldiers that died in World War Two. And we had a two-minute silence before to show that."

Jonny Williams went on operational tours in Afghanistan and Iraq during his time in the Royal Anglian Regiment. Credit: Jonny Williams

It is that education of what has come before them and the importance of Armistice Day that Jonny hopes this week has given them.

For him, Remembrance is understandably significant and he feels it is his duty his colleagues are remembered.

As well as lots of fun, this football game this week has brought the school together in a way that marked Remembrance and also celebrated our freedom.

  • Other images from Coggeshall's Armistice Day gathering at their War Memorial:

Former Royal Anglian soldier Jonny says he thinks of the friends and colleagues he lost during his time in the armed forces every day. Credit: ITV Anglia
Residents in village Coggeshall gathered at their war memorial this morning to pay their respects to the fallen. Credit: ITV Anglia
14 Honywood School pupils joined villagers at the Coggeshall war memorial this morning. Credit: ITV Anglia
Honywood students laid a wreath at the war memorial in Coggeshall. Credit: ITV Anglia
Coggeshall war memorial surrounded by autumnal leaves. Credit: ITV Anglia
A list of men from the village who died in the First and Second World Wars was read aloud at the ceremony. Credit: ITV Anglia