Our history is in safe hands
Yesterday (Armistice Day) was a good day, actually scrap that, yesterday was a great day as I had the privilege of visiting Whitecross Hereford High School spending time talking to a number of students about all things First World War as they put on a very special group of activities for Armistice Day.
Instead of normal lesson all of the children were involved in specific classes designed to teach them about a particular aspect of the war. Some children were cooking ‘war food’, some were rehearsing for a WW1 themed play, others were discovering the music of the time, and yet more students were busying themselves producing brilliant recruitment posters. If that wasn’t enough, there was the opportunity to dress up in replica uniforms, pretend to fire a de-commissioned Lee Enfield rifle and practise putting on a gas mask. To top it all off, there was then a visit to their very own front line trench.
Yes, you read that correct. In a project led by deputy head Tim Knapp, head of history Catherine Hansford and history teacher Emily Clark, Whitehorse Hereford have spent the summer re-creating a British front line trench on the edge of their sports field; complete with barbed wire, duckboards, sandbags and a trench ladder.
For a ten or eleven year old student, standing in a recreated trench, in the November rain, wearing the army uniform of the time, holding a Lee Enfield Rifle and struggling to get their gas mask on as the teacher informs them they have just been hit by a gas shell and they have about six seconds before they start to suffer the consequences, is about as informative and inspirational as it gets. The time and effort that must have gone into the planning and organisation of this day is quite staggering and chatting to staff it is clear that this has been, and will continue to be, a labour of love.
Unfortunately, due to bad English weather and even worse traffic jams, I arrived at the school slightly later that planned and missed the two minutes silence. With the entire school congregating outside in total silence and a bugler playing the Last Post, it sounds like I missed something a bit special. When I did eventually arrive, I was lucky enough to be able to chat to several classes and even show them a few battlefield relics and medals that I had brought along. The children were incredibly patient with me and listened to what I had to say about each item – they asked sharp questions and genuinely took an interest in all of the items – (which was a relief to me!)
I thoroughly enjoyed my time at the school, and I was truly impressed with the obvious hard work and planning that had gone in to providing the students such a varied and informative day of learning, and I thank Catherine and Emily for looking after me so well during what was a very hectic and busy day!
It is an opinion that I have written and spoke about many times, but I do believe that the centenary years gives us (and by ‘us’ I mean historians, writers, broadcasters, journalists, authors, publishers, teachers and parents) a golden opportunity to educate and inspire our children to embrace this vital part of our history. I had worried that too many people were too busy and too preoccupied with cashing in and making money out of the anniversary to realise this opportunity, and that perhaps the chance may just pass us all by.
However, if the inspiration, creativity, dedication and hard work shown by Mr Knapp, Miss Hansford, Miss Clark and the rest of the team at Whitecross High School is anything to go by, we need not worry.
Our history is in safe hands.