From making special crosses to visiting battlefields, schools, teachers and pupils have been remembering the sacrifices made by soldiers and civilians during WW1.
Commemorations in Wiltshire, where thousands of pupils made cardboard crosses with the name of a local soldier, were typical of the way schools across the UK participated in events marking the start of World War 1. One school’s commemoration included a play when the names of the fallen from the community were read out and a walk to the war memorial at a local church, the Wiltshire Times reports.
Last month Wildern School in Southampton suspended the normal timetable to hold three ‘Digging Deeper Days’, when pupils learnt about and remembered the war. The BBC reports how each day began with an assembly, led by a historian who outlined battlefield and trench information, to give pupils an idea of what it was like to be a soldier. Speakers from the Royal Armouries showcased weapons, explaining their history and how they were fired. Pupils were given insights into wartime life during lessons, including medical and assault training in PE, techniques to destroy enemy artillery in maths, and what soldiers ate in food technology.
Last year David Cameron pledged more than £5 million for a Centenary Education Programme, to create an ‘enduring legacy for generations to come’.
It gives pupils and teachers from every state secondary school the opportunity to research the people who served in the Great War and to visit the battlefields where so many young men died. “The First World War touched every village and town in Britain. The loss to this country and to countless families was unimaginable and must not be forgotten,” ex-Education Secretary Michael Gove said at the time. “That is why it is important that a new generation should be encouraged to remember the sacrifice of so many. I hope their experiences will live long in their own memories and they will share what they have seen.”
Pupils from schools in East London and Essex took part in the first battlefield tour in May, visiting cemeteries, memorials and battle sites in Belgium and The Somme. They were accompanied by serving soldiers to help them understand what remembrance means today, and two students located relatives who had served and died in the trenches. The tours will continue until 2019, as part of ongoing events to mark what President Woodrow Wilson described in 1917 as ‘the war to end all wars’.
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