I am ashamed to say that I don’t really know my family’s history with regards to the World Wars. I know my family have traced our family tree back through many many generations. And that Mr B Senior (morning Hopalong) has worked tirelessly on the Barrow side of the family, but for me I don’t really know any of the stories related to the wars. I don’t know how many of my grandfather’s brothers died or indeed fought and came home. #DDay70 is not something that I can personally relate to.
But this morning I had to do a two hour school run due to dropping teen at school and then needing to go and collect the woofer from kennels where he has been enjoying himself for the past few days. It’s Radio 2 for me in the mornings now and Chris Evans was doing a live broadcast from Normandy. The stories, in their own words, from the veterans that were out there, moved me to tears. Literally.
Hearing them all say “We Will Remember Them” is one of the most powerful things I have ever heard on the radio. And even typing that now I am getting goosebumps.
Not only do I not have any personal stories to relate to with the War but I didn’t do history at school. So my memory of actual facts is scant too. I am not particularly academic (scraped O levels, no A levels) and standard learning in a classroom was not for me. And it seems it isn’t for a lot of children. Research shows that many children, particularly boys, don’t get the most of out of education when they are plonked in a classroom and told to copy facts off a blackboard. Or made to recite facts from a book.
Something that was really brought home to me when we moved Jonnie from one school to his current one five years ago. A sudden decsion, for all sorts of reasons. We went to look at one that been recommended to us by a good friend who is himself a Deputy Head and said he really recommended it. We paid a visit and loved the school. The setting. The ethos. The boys themselves that we saw all seemed happy and polite.
Whilst Jonnie sat an entrance exam the Headmaster invited us to his study for a cuppa and told us an example of how they taught at the school. It related to history. And the war in particular
He explained that the boys would not necessarily get the most out of learning about the Wars by sitting in a classroom. They wouldn’t really engage with something that had happened over 60 years ago. It would sort of be “but Sir why are learning about this, it’s just dull” so he decided to make it a bit more exciting. A bit more engaging. A bit more real.
First they hired a digger
Next they dug a trench. A proper trench. On the school grounds.
It rained. A lot.
The trench filled with water.
The boys laughed
“don’t laugh boys, you are sleeping in that tonight”.
“yep, as soldiers not much older than you had to”
The boys, doing as they were told, clambered into the trench and tried to sleep. They couldn’t sleep. It was cold. It was wet. They were miserable.
“Sir, can we go in now?”
“Nope. Those soldiers couldn’t. This is what war is about. This is what War is like”
The night wore on and some boys did manage to sleep, some told stories.
Until the Headmaster let off fireworks at 2am to mimic gunfire, right over their heads.
Those boys learned about war that night. That learned what it was like to be young. Cold. Afraid. Startled. They learned a lot. History came alive for them. And a connection to their family members who had fought in the war was made.
We will remember them.