In the first minutes of 4 August 1914, with the expiry of Prime Minister Herbert Asquith’s ultimatum to Germany to withdraw from Belgium, the British found themselves at war. Future Prime Minister Winston Churchill described the moment; “Along the Mall from the direction of the Palace the sound of an immense concourse singing ‘God save the King’ flouted in. On this deep wave there broke the chimes of Big Ben; and, as the first stroke of the hour boomed out, a rustle of movement swept across the room. The war telegram, which meant, “Commence hostilities against Germany”, was flashed to the ships and establishments under the White Ensign all over the world.”
A hundred years later the outbreak of war, and the hostilities that followed, have not been forgotten. Never Such Innocence is an organisation that drew together many of the commemorative threads to ensure that all of Britain’s young people had an opportunity to engage with this reflective process. At the forefront of this was their nationwide First World War art and creative writing competition.
On May 21, 2015, after an opening address by NSI founder Lady Lucy French, great grand-daughter of the commander-in-chief of the British Expeditionary Force in 1914, Field Marshal Sir John French, Jonathan Kajoba took to the stage in the Jones Day conference rooms, London, to receive his runner-up prize from Brigadier David Ross CBE.
Jonny’s entry Shellshock had caused quite a stir amongst the judges, who commented on how incredibly evocative it was of the feelings of those young soldiers who found themselves unwittingly in Flanders, rifle in hand. Jonny’s considerable smile lit up the room as he received a truly deserved round of applause from, assembled audience, invited dignitaries, and, of course, proud mother and proud history teacher; well-done Jonathan.