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Bream Primary School, Gloucestershire 2012

Children studying Bream war memorial, Gloucestershire © J Peach-Miles, 2012
Children studying Bream war memorial, Gloucestershire © J Peach-Miles, 2012
Thank you letter from pupil to War Memorials Trust
  • County name: Gloucestershire
  • Group/School name: Bream Primary School
  • Age group: 5 - 11
  • Group type: Primary School

The pupils at Bream Primary School traditionally visit the local cenotaph around November 11th to pay their respects to the local men and women who lost their lives in the First and Second World Wars and to take part in an Act of Remembrance. In November 2012 the Year 5 class had been studying the Second World War and were keen to use the forthcoming commemorations as an opportunity to find out more about the war memorial and those remembered on it.

War Memorials Trust was contacted by the school for support with this, and the Trust’s Learning Officer visited the school to teach Year 5 for a day using the Trust’s primary school lesson plans and other resources.

To begin with, pupils were taught what war memorials are and why they exist. Using photographs from War Memorials Trust’s gallery of war memorial images they examined a range of different types of memorials to understand the differences between them and the communities that created them. Pupils also considered the feelings of those communities in the immediate aftermath of war and came to understand the various motives for creating a memorial to locals who had not returned home.

Following this introduction (and taking advantage of a brief dry spell in an otherwise rainy day!) the children were taken out of school to visit the memorial, which is a short walk away. Here they studied the memorial and, using War Memorials Trust’s primary resource sheet, Looking at a war memorial, noted its features and inscriptions. In a small community like this it was no surprise that several names on the memorial were recognised by the children because descendants of the fallen still lived locally. The children’s observations were thorough and they were interested to learn the significance of the images and words shown on the memorial, as well as the meaning of the word ‘cenotaph.’

Before returning to school for the afternoon the children were told the story of one of the men named on the memorial, who was killed in 1918 at the age of 19. This helped to bring home to pupils the significance of the memorial, and set the scene for the afternoon session.

Back in the classroom, the pupils were introduced to the resources available for finding out more about those commemorated on the war memorial and spent some time on the school computers using the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website to research them. This led to some surprising finds and the children enjoyed being able to find out, and tell others, more about ‘their’ casualty. The day ended with each child presenting some of the information they had found out and hearing the poem, ‘In Flanders Fields,’ to reinforce some of what they had learnt that day. This last activity also provided an interesting link to the poetry work the pupils had recently started in their Literacy lessons.

A week later the whole school returned to the cenotaph for the traditional Act of Remembrance. As one Year 5 pupil put it when he wrote to War Memorials Trust to thank the Learning Officer for her visit, “it was nice to know who we were remembering.” The Trust was delighted to receive the children’s letters and hear that they had found the day interesting and enjoyable. Several children, their teacher tells us, were enthused by what they had learnt and had continued their research in their own time, with one boy discovering previously unknown information about a family member. Such an outcome is really encouraging and we hope more schools will benefit from similar projects as we approach the First World War centenary.

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