Local historians Mike Pringle and Mark Sutton from the Swindon in the Great War project were invited to Lydiard Park Academy on 21 March to work with over 40 Year 9 students from the academy, Commonweal, Crowdy’s Hill, The Ridgeway, St Joseph’s, Nova Hreod and Kingsdown schools.
Mark brought his collection of World War I artefacts like flags, military equipment and medals for the youngsters to see and touch.
During the day groups engaged in cooking using 100 year old recipes, and recreated stews made in the trenches, examined photographs of soldiers who went to war and the women who were left behind, and discussed the changes to Swindon society. They also learnt popular songs of the day and visited the Commonwealth war graves at Radnor Street cemetery in the town centre.
The day was recorded and a short film was made and presented at the afternoon presentation to children from Oliver Tomkins Primary School and parents who came along to Lydiard Park Academy.
Mike said the day was the first of several Swindon in the Great War hoped to become involved with at schools across the town. "We were very impressed by how the young people took to the project. It started slowly, as you’d expect when students from different schools come together to work on something new, but once the objectives were set out they were off, researching and coming up with ideas, taking the day in directions we didn’t expect.
"Their confidence and their desire to learn was amazing."
David Finney, history teacher from Kingsdown, added: "The day was really successful. Handling 100 year old military equipment fascinated the students as was looking at and discussing photographs from so long ago.
"Vicky Buchalik from Lydiard Park Academy did a great job bringing seven schools together to study the same subject and Mike and Mark gave the learning opportunity a different slant. The visit to Radnor Street cemetery was really important."
Right, Mike Pringle and Mark Sutton with Kingsdown students Oliver March, Emily Faulkes, Tilly Wale, Harry Mundy
Kingsdown student Oliver March: "It’s hard to imagine what it was like to be in the trenches; life was really hard for the soldiers and so many didn’t come back."
Emily Faulkes, also from Kingsdown: "We learnt a lot about what it was like to be in Swindon one hundred years ago. I was interested in what it was like for all the mothers and girls when all the men went off to become soldiers. I think all of us will pay a lot more attention to the documentaries on World War I."
Mark Sutton told the audience in the afternoon session that he’d been fascinated about the impact of the Great War on Swindon for much of his life. "Some people say 1914 is long ago, but the era is a time we must not forget. We talk to young people thinking they might not be interested but so many are aware of their family histories where somebody was involved in some way."
Read more about Swindon in the Great War
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