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We Will Remember Them

At school the arrival of November means the welcome return of two important annual observations and the instruction to ‘remember’ is featured in both. The first is Firework Night. The childhood rhyme ‘Remember remember the 5th of November, gunpowder, treason and plot’ never grows old. The children hear it at home, in books and on television as well as during history lessons and their eyes grow wide as they hear about ‘baddies’; baddies’ intending to blow up a King and ‘baddies’ getting caught. What’s not to love about this primary school lesson! Every year in Reception the questions about barrels, about gunpowder and about plot are enthusiastically considered. The fact that fireworks contain gunpowder is a source of wonderment even if the other concepts in the rhyme are a little harder to understand as witnessed in this year’s recital by one keen 4 year old asking us to remember about ‘gunpowder, season and spot’.

The second annual remembrance of course surrounds the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. Every year we talk to the children about the importance of remembering those who have given their lives for their country. A helpful way to do this with our young age group is through extracts from the book War Game by Michael Foreman. The plot features the story of the First World War Christmas Day truce of 1914 when soldiers put down their weapons and suspended their hostilities to play a game of football in No Mans Land. By talking about this exciting event we cover the realities of the trenches. It is hard for any of us to truly imagine living in a muddy moat without beginning to imagine the danger and the noise. With us it is about gentle steps and understanding that the relief celebrated on the 11th November was enormously important to learn about and indeed learn from.

As always children ask the most interesting questions especially about No Mans Land and effectively fighting at two ends of a giant field. The assembly turned into a giant Philosophy lesson with children then understanding how the soldiers could possibly return to their trenches and carry on fighting each other. A few years ago Sainsburys produced a Christmas advert featuring the famous 1914 football match and I end by showing this to the children just to bring the event to life. I haven’t managed to show it yet without tears in my eyes by the final scene.

This year we discovered a magical song; In Flanders Fields by Anthony Hutchcroft who wrote the song as a musical interpretation of Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae’s iconic First World War memorial poem. Year 2 have sung this at a range of special events including the Formal Opening of the Memorial Gardens at Bourne Hall in Ewell in the presence of the Mayor. They will be singing it again today in the playground following our minutes silence while two children scatter poppy petals given to us by The Poppy Factory in Richmond. A beautiful and important way to remember.

Annie Thackray