Wildern School’s Living Memory Project

Commemorating the centenary of the ending of the Battle of the Somme

After initially being contacted by Ursula Pearce at Royal Victoria Country Park, I quickly realised what an exciting and poignant opportunity the Living Memory Project presented. Having already completed their History GCSE to the highest standard a year early, I also knew that I had an exceptional group of 18 Y11 students at Wildern School who would not only work extremely hard on the project, but who would also fully engage with it and appreciate its significance.

The students met with Ursula in early September 2016, and then began to research the different men who may have possibly been involved in the Battle of the Somme. They selected a variety of men based on personal reasons. Some chose men who had the same first or last name as themselves whilst others chose men who had links to similar parts of the country to their own families. Through this work they developed not only their research skills, but also their ability to assess and contrast evidence when they found conflicting information. They also had the opportunity to work as field historians when plotting the graves in the cemetery as they tried to find the graves of the soldiers that they had researched.

As the project progressed, the personal engagement of the students with ‘their’ soldiers also developed and the men became so much more than merely a name on a piece of paper. From my own point of view as a History teacher, I will never forget the moment when one of our students was visibly moved upon discovering her soldier’s grave. Through her work on the project she felt that she could identify and connect with someone from the past in a way that she had not necessarily done before. In her own words, she said that she “knew that his nickname was Jack and that his mother was a teacher and the name of his primary school”. It was moments like this (and there were many more) that highlighted how special the project really was and how far beyond the classroom our students were able to go as a result of their involvement in it.

I can say with absolute conviction that all of the students involved gained both academically and personally from the work that they did through the Living Memory Project and it will be something that they, and we as a school, will remember with pride.

Amanda Warner, Head of Humanities
Wildern School