“This will be one of my proudest moments” – Army Cadet Maddie on marching to commemorate the last 100 days of WW1

On 8 August 2018, Maddie Hempell will join Legion representatives from around the world to visit the battlefields of the Somme and Ypres before marching to the Menin Gate. Maddie will carry a Standard, while her mother, Sandra will lay a wreath.

At 17, Army Cadet Maddie will be one of the youngest to march at Great Pilgrimage 90. Despite her age, Maddie has already marched in local Remembrance Day parades with Rainbows, Brownies, Guides and Army Cadets. When her Royal British Legion branch was looking for a new Standard Bearer, Maddie’s Detachment Commander put her name forward for the job.

She became the Standard Bearer for the branch a year ago and in November 2017 led the Remembrance Day parade in her local town. Maddie attends monthly meetings at her local branch and is one of the youngest members.

This August she will be joining over 1,000 Legion members for the Great Pilgrimage 90, a recreation of the 1928 Great Pilgrimage, whereby veterans and widowed wives visited the battlefields of the Somme and Ypres before marching to the Menin Gate. Maddie is undertaking lots of training, and is really looking forward to being part of such a historic occasion.

Maddie in her cadet uniform 

“During the pilgrimage I am looking forward to visiting all the memorials but especially looking forward to marching in the parade alongside many other standard bearers, I am sure this will be one of my very proudest moments.”

From the Cadets to the Army

Maddie has loved being in the Army Cadets and has applied to join the Army in September.

“I enjoy all the different activities and subjects that we experience at Cadets. It has given me lots of opportunities that I probably wouldn’t have had. I had the chance to travel to Gibraltar in October 2016 and actually stayed on the Army base there and experienced a snapshot of real Army life.

“We took part in a naval memorial service. I love the comradery of being a Cadet and felt very proud to represent my local detachment in the national Tug of War competition last year (in which we came 1st). I was then scouted to pull for the England Under 18’s team in the world championships, we came 4th in the world.

“I am very excited to join the Army in September and undertake all the fantastic opportunities it will give me. I will be doing my basic training at Harrogate Army Foundation College and will then move to Lyneham where I will train to be an Armourer with the Royal Electrical Mechanical Engineers. Skill and Arms has always been my favourite subject at Cadets so this just seemed the perfect role for me.”

Maddie on a trip to an army base in Gibraltar

Military connections

Maddie’s mum, Sandra has always instilled in her the importance of remembrance and when marching Maddie often wears her Great Grandad's medals from the Second World War. Sandra spoke about the family's military connections and the importance of this event for her:

“My maternal grandad fought in the Second World War and so I have always instilled in my children the importance of remembering fallen or injured soldiers. I remember him telling us tales of when he was in the Army, (and singing us songs…until my grandma stopped him as the words weren’t always for ‘young ears’). I never met my paternal Grandad as he died when my dad was a small baby, but I understand he was a pilot who was shot down as he flew over Beachy Head.”

“I have always instilled the importance of remembering fallen soldiers and so Maddie understands the importance of Remembrance Day and is honoured to take part in GP90.”

“I feel it is extremely important that people continue to support the Royal British Legion in both a monetary and physical way. It is so important that the younger generations fully understand the commitment and sacrifice that soldiers fighting in all wars give. I work in an infant school and we always have a minute’s silence on Remembrance Day, I try very hard to ensure the children understand why we do this.”

“I am extremely proud that Maddie is the Standard Bearer for Spondon Royal British Legion and was the proudest mum ever when she led the Remembrance Day parade last year. To march alongside her at GP90 will be a very emotional and proud time for me. It is an absolute honour to have the chance to be part of such an epic occasion.”

“Although we have no direct links to the original Great Pilgrimage we have researched it and are both very inspired to recreate it.”

Follow the GP90 event live on the 8th August over on our Instagram Stories.