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Great Witchingham C of E Primary Academy, Norfolk

Year 3 and 4 pupils from Great Witchingam C of E Primary Academy carrying out a condition survey for Great Witchingham war memorial © War Memorials Trust, 2018
Key stage 2 pupil from Great Witchingham C of E Primary Academy looking at names on Great Witchingham war memorial © War Memorials Trust, 2018
Year 5 and 6 pupils from Great Witchingham Primary School researching those named on Great Witchingham war memorial © War Memorials Trust, 2018
  • County name: Norfolk
  • Group/School name: Great Witchingham C of E Primary Academy
  • Age group: 5 - 11
  • Group type: Key stage 2

Following an INSET day which was delivered by the Heritage School Programme’s Local Heritage Education Manager for the East region, Great Witchingham C of E Primary Academy were put in touch with War Memorial’s Trust Learning Officer.  The INSET had focused on using local heritage as the basis for a local history study and the school was keen to explore the history of their local war memorial and find out more about those named on it.

The visit took place towards the end of November 2018, just after the end of the centenary of the First World War.  The morning was spent working with the year 3/4 class and the afternoon was spent with the year 5/6 class.  Both classes had a session on what war memorials are, visited the war memorial and then researched some of the names.  Years 3 and 4 also considered some of the problems facing war memorials and carried out a condition survey.

Both sessions began with pupils being asked to consider what war memorials are.  Pupils had questions to prompt discussion as well as photographs of a wide variety of war memorials.  After sharing their ideas pupils were shown some war memorials from the local area.  This included Great Witchingham war memorial hall (www.warmemorialsonline.org.uk/memorial/163382) which, unfortunately, was demolished in 2010 due to the cost of repairing it.  Pupils know the site well as it is where their football pitch is now located.  Proceeds from the sale of the site of the original hall were used towards the cost of a new village hall.

The number of war memorials in the UK, when many were created and why this was the case was shared with pupils.  An image of a Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery in Belgium was shown to pupils to help explain that the fallen were not repatriated during the First World War.  Gunner William Robert B. Brown from Great Witchingham, who served with the Royal Garrison Artillery, was buried at the cemetery in Belgium that was shown.  The difficulties relating to distance and cost which families may have faced if they had wanted to travel to their loved one’s grave abroad were discussed.

Both classes then visited their local war memorial (www.warmemorialsonline.org.uk/memorial/152644) which is now located outside the new village hall.  On the way to the memorial the pupils passed St Faith’s Chapel.  This has closed down and is being converted into a house.  In order for the war memorial to remain accessible to the public it was removed from the grounds of the chapel.  The stone tablets with the names on were stored in St Mary’s Church until a new war memorial was created.  This was built to look exactly like the old one and was unveiled on Remembrance Sunday 2014.  While at the war memorial, both classes were shown images of the memorial in its previous location and while it was being stored in the church.

The year 3/4 class carried out a condition survey and when they returned to school they uploaded this to War Memorials Online (www.warmemorialsonline.org.uk/report/152644/view/condition/207139).  They also added some photographs to the record to show the war memorial in its new location.  The year 5/6 class spent time selecting which names they intended to research when they returned to class.

Both classes used the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s ‘Find War Dead’ database to research those named on the war memorial.  The year 3/4 pupils were able to choose from a list of 5 names.  Two of the men on this list had the surname Starling and one of the pupils asked if they could be brothers.  From the research that was carried out it was possible to prove they were indeed brothers because the record on the database showed that they had the same parents.  Years 5/6 had more freedom over who they researched.  This did require some perseverance as sometimes it took time to find the correct result.

Pupils engaged really well with all the activities, particularly the researching names which they really did not want to stop when the session came to an end.  Hopefully this interest will inspire them to ensure that the war memorial is looked after for many years to come.

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