To me remembrance is about choosing to reflect upon the memory of a significant person, event or moment in time. I was struck by the concept of remembrance when on the last weekend in February 2016 I stood, freezing, (though not NY freezing!) at significant World War One sites across France and Belgium.
The first of July 2016 marks the centenary of the Battle of the Somme and as a History Teacher; I have marked thousands of Y9 essays on why the battle was a disaster for the British Army. Those of you in Y9 or above may recall facts about the campaign, such as the immense death toll (20,000 British soldiers on the first day), the perceived brutality of those in charge (Butcher of the Somme anyone?) and the futility of the events. However what I have been stuck by when on the battlefields and in discussions with my Y9 classes upon my return to school, is how many people actually don’t remember in detail what happened 100 years ago.
I am not suggesting you remember the Somme because you once wrote an essay on it, to glorify the idea of war or to reassure me that you are actually listening in class! We should remember because as the poem, For the Fallen cites ‘the living owe it to those who no longer can speak to tell their story for them’.
There is now no one left alive who served in the military in the First World War (the last British soldier Harry Patch died in 2009) and in the coming years, there will be no World War Two veterans remaining. This poses the question; does it get harder to remember as the years pass? Is remembrance more or less important 100 years on?
As July approaches there will be lots in the news about the Battle of the Somme and amongst other things, in school, we will be working together to create a chain of 20,000 poppies to commemorate those British soldiers who died a century ago in the first twenty minutes of the first day of the battle.(British soldiers were soldiers from the British Empire at the time: India, Australia and New Zealand, etc.) However although this anniversary forces us to remember the Somme, I believe as a school we should focus on the notion of remembrance itself in the hope that history, may one day, stop repeating itself.
Ks3 are decorating 20,000 paper poppies to hang up in and around the school and the village. The paragraph above states that ‘we will be working together to create a chain of 20,000 poppies to commemorate those who died a century ago on the first day of battle.’ This is the largest single loss of life in British military history. As the paragraph above mentions, the 1st July 2016 is the centenary of the first day of battle. The local primary school is helping us achieve this incredible feat. There will be assemblies in school in July to teach students about that fateful day and the act of remembering.