A week of activities to remember those who fought for our country

Miltiadis Orfanidis, 12, Kelvin Chekaoui, 10, and Ryan Kramer, 10. Picture: Ian Hargreaves (143166-8)
Miltiadis Orfanidis, 12, Kelvin Chekaoui, 10, and Ryan Kramer, 10. Picture: Ian Hargreaves (143166-8)
Stuart Burnham with 12-year-old Andrew Impey and his mum, Kirstine Burnham   Picture: Habibur Rahman

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On our return from the half-term break our junior school pupils launched straight into World War One week, writes Year 5 teacher Hazel Wells.

Pupils from nursery to Year 6 enjoyed a variety of events and trips to help them learn about the events which took place during the war years of 1914 to 1918.

We finish our learning topic today – November 11 – when the school gathered for our Remembrance Service.

Last Tuesday pupils watched a performance from the educational drama company Quantum Theatre. Your Country Needs You introduced key figures of the Great War and through sketches, wartime songs and prose pupils were able to experience the day-to-day lives of those involved.

Actors Backy and Dan sang a number of wartime songs too including Kibosh on the Kaiser and It’s a long way to Tipperary. After a pre-prep visit to the St Jude’s Church war memorial, pupils got to experience wartime food. Our catering manager Tim Johnson, prepared a lunch similar to a typical World War One meal.

There wasn’t the usual choice for pupils – they all had a warming stew (which was slightly modified to ensure a healthy and nutritious meal) served with barley bread, followed by trench cake.

Most enjoyed their wartime lunch experience, and for those who wanted to make more at home, cookery books containing recipes were given to all the pupils.

More World War One activities followed as Year 5 made their own poppies.

Pre-prep children made wreaths to place on the local war memorial, and Year 6 pupils enjoyed a War Horse theatrical workshop in our drama studio.

Pupils loved the shadow puppet part, when they used various objects to create a shadow-horse puppet.

They also had the opportunity to create collages of feelings and words associated with propaganda posters, and listened to the music from War Horse.

It’s been a fantastic week. All the children have embraced the learning topic, and have shown genuine interest in this period – even though, for them, it was a long long time ago.

The older pupils in Years 5 and 6 were particularly engaged when I was able to tell them about some of our former pupils who were affected by the war.

Charles Hall, one of our first pupils on the school roll, became a prisoner of war; Richard Cambie, who joined the Royal Dublin Fusiliers, and Benjamin G. Burnand – who died in Belgium in March 1919. They are all heroes who will be remembered in our service today.

What the pupils say...

Ellie Maunder, nine, Year 5

‘During World War One week we went on lots of trips – St Jude’s Church, the Royal Marines Museum and the common.

‘We went to remember the soldiers who fought for us in the war and we wear poppies because they grew on the battlefield where the soldiers fought.’

Mollie Nelson, 10, Year 6

‘I really liked the War Horse workshop.

‘We made a balloon look like a horse’s head and used bamboo sticks for the legs – we had to work as a team to make the puppet walk like a horse. The week was packed with lots of fun activities and was really well organised by Miss Wells.’

Miltiadis Orfanidis, 12, Year 6

‘I have been wearing a poppy to remember the people who died in the war. This week I learned that World War One was supposed to finish before Christmas but it actually lasted for four years.

‘I enjoyed making a poster to help recruit soldiers to war.’

Kelvin Chekaoui, 10, Year 6

‘The Royal Marines Museum for me was the best part of the week.

‘We were taught army drills and how to salute.

‘We were allowed to look at the different medals.

‘I dressed up as a solider, and was even allowed to hold the gun.’

Ryan Kramer, 10, Year 6

‘Being from America I didn’t know too much about Great Britain’s involvement in the War. I have learnt so much this week, like for example how poisonous gas was used. We have seen lots of photos too – and the war looked very different to how I thought it would look.’