‘Living Memory’ was a national project developed by the Big Ideas Company and Commonwealth War Graves Commission in 2016 to mark the anniversary of the Battle of the Somme. The project encouraged local communities to remember the ‘Forgotten Front’ of over 300,000 war graves and burials in Britain from both world wars and remember the stories of the service men and women who died.
At Royal Victoria Country Park, we worked with a group of Year 11 History students from Wildern School. The students researched the stories of some of the casualties of the Somme buried in the Netley Military Cemetery. Each student chose a soldier to research using genealogy, census and military records online. They used their research to write individual biographies for the soldiers. Each one was supported by documentary evidence.
On Friday 18th November 2016, the centenary of the ending of the Battle of the Somme, we held a commemorative event at the Park for students to exhibit their work and share their research. Following the event, guests joined us at the Netley Military Cemetery for a short service to commemorate the centenary of the ending of the Battle of the Somme, and the soldiers who died.
Students came to know and understand the soldiers, and they engaged emotionally as well as academically with the project. Many students were genuinely moved by some of their findings about the soldiers’ experiences. They certainly achieved the aims of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission project to return those men to ‘Living Memory’ and developed both personally and as historians in doing so.