Pupils meet decorated soldier in Black History Month visit to Downing Street

Colour Sergeant Johnson Beharry with pupils from Caterham High School, Clayhall.

Left to right: Simon Mochort, Dilaksi Logeswarsn, colour sergeant Johnson Beharry, Sara Ganegodage and Mahin Rafi Hassan. - Credit: Arthur Communications

Children from a school in Clayhall were among a select group invited to Downing Street to mark the start of Black History Month. 

Four year 10 pupils from Caterham High School, Caterham Avenue, heard a talk from Grenada-born soldier Johnson Beharry on Friday, October 1.

He is Britain’s most highly decorated serving soldier and in 2005 became the first living recipient of the Victoria Cross in four decades. 

Johnson told the teenagers about his time in the forces and his work mentoring young people and ex-offenders. 

The pupils were also able to quiz the colour sergeant on his experiences.

The talk was held in 9 Downing Street, in the room where prime minister Boris Johnson gives press briefings. 

Mahin Rafi Hassan, 14, from Ilford, said: “It was an amazing day; one I never thought I would ever experience. It was incredible to go to Downing Street. 

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“It is just not something you think could happen to you until you are actually there in front of the door that you see on television. 

“Hearing from the solider was really inspiring. His story really moved me because it made me determined to do something with my life.” 

Sara Ganegodage ,14, from Fairlop, added: “I was really inspired by the solider.  He has done such amazing things in his life. His bravery is the most incredible thing.   

“When you hear what he went through coming to England and how he turned his life around and then going into the army it makes you think about your own life.” 

The trip was organised by education charity Naz Legacy. 

Belinda Chapple, headteacher at Caterham High, said: “Through our partnership with Naz Legacy our students have had the chance to talk to cabinet members. Now they have visited the hub of parliament in the centre of the capital city.

“These are positive experiences which help them to grow and develop but also help them see there are no barriers to what they can achieve.”