Erith School remembers pensioner’s fallen brother

PUBLISHED: 16:30 12 November 2013

L-r: John and Ray Haley

L-r: John and Ray Haley


When Ray Haley walked into Erith School five years ago and left a remembrance wreath in reception, little did he know it would start a regular relationship with the school.

The war memorial at Erith SchoolThe war memorial at Erith School

Deputy head Dave Cook tracked him down, and it transpired that his brother John, who died in the Second World War, had gone to the school.

Now John has a yearly armed forces award named after him - the John Haley Award for Services to Erith Sqaudron.

The 89-year-old said: “It’s a great honour and a little bit embarassing to tell you the truth.

“I feel a little out of my depth. I’m just a typical blue collar worker but my brother went to the school before he went off to fight in the war and I saw his name on their remembrance board. It felt fitting.”

The cutting saying John Haley was missing in actionThe cutting saying John Haley was missing in action

Mr Cook admitted it was difficult to track the source of the wreath down.

He said: “Now we lay a third wreath in our annual ceremony every year to honour Mr Haley’s brother. He’s an inspirational man and the kids here really look up to him.”

Ray, who lives in Hardwick Court, Erith, said: “The school does a great job of remembering the troops.”

The pensioner is keen for those left behind after their loved ones go to war to be remembered too.

He said: “My mum had a box full of letters that John sent to mum before he died. She spent the rest of her life grieving but they rarely get considered.”

Mr Cook, who has been at Erith School in Avenue Road for 35 years, said the institution takes its Remembrance Day commitments very sesriously.

He said: “There is a service every year without fail, and a silence at 11am. It’s important we remember.

“It’s really good to have Ray involved. We hear all the stories surrounding war but meeting someone who lived through it and went through what he did really humanises war.”

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