The centenary of World War One has encouraged us to think carefully in Ryedale School’s History Department about how we teach the war and how we reflect on remembrance and commemoration.
As part of this we ran a competition last year for Year 9 pupils to tell us something about the Great War that they hadn’t learnt in lessons. We were delighted to receive some really detailed, fascinating research and presentations from those who entered; ranging from essays on the British Intelligence service to the development of tanks and the use of the navy.
The two winners submitted impressive research projects into family members, utilising online archives and records as well as census data, family photos and memorabilia. The winners; Patrick Stone and George Larson, were invited to take part in a four-day trip to the Battlefields in November 2016 to visit cemeteries, memorials, museums and battlefields in France and Belgium. This took place the weekend before Remembrance Day so held even more significance for the boys and their History teacher, exploring what commemoration means to us 100 years on from the battles that took place.
The trip involved pupils and teachers from over 15 schools in Yorkshire and Lancashire and consisted of a packed itinerary including an afternoon of activities and reflection in the UK where we researched local soldiers, handled WW1 artefacts and considered what we wanted to get out of the three days spent in Belgium and France.
The First World War Battlefields Tour Programme, in conjunction with the Institute of Education had planned a range of sites to visit and activities to complete along with the help of IOE representatives and four serving members of the Armed Forces. The pupils had a chance to meet other young people from across the county as well as expert tour guides and members of the army who could all give different reflections on the meaning of remembrance and the events of WW1.
Patrick and George’s reflections on their experience communicate how special and unique this trip was as well as how much they have been able to bring back to Ryedale and discuss with their peers – really enhancing the History education we offer here.
I entered the competition because I wanted to find out more about the war, both about my family and especially the other side of World War One, because they were all just ordinary men so I wanted to find out how they fought and how they were remembered. This means the German cemetery, Langemark was significant for me because it showed how the Germans were buried and how they are commemorated; a real contrast to how the British have commemorated, but just as moving. I think it’s definitely important to remember 100 years on because so many ordinary people on both sides were killed; we can’t let it happen again.
I entered because I love history and I’m particularly interested in the 20th Century so wanted to find out more. Thiepval Memorial stood out for me because of the fact that most of the people who died in the Battle of the Somme don’t have a grave and their bodies were never recovered. This was particularly moving because there are so many people that have so little recognition for their sacrifice because they couldn’t be found. We need to remember World War One because of this; because of where soldiers fell so far from home and because they don’t have graves. We need to commemorate those people who were lost in the war, in every sense of the word.