World War I – Commemorating 100 Years

Published: March 18th 2014

This year signifies 100 years since the outbreak of World War I. From the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, through the many theatres of war and to the new technology utilised for trench warfare, the world was faced by a period in history that was sure to change how we lived our lives. Politics evolved, territories were remapped and the economic structure of many states would become devastated and require a redesign. Here we take a look at the upcoming events commemorating 100 years since the start of the Great War and how your students can benefit from crossing the Channel this year.

Museum of the Great War
The impact of war
 
The Great War. At first glimpse this may seem a peculiar choice of words, but in this case represents a post-war assessment that reflects the grand scale of war and the far-reaching impact on the many lives lost and destroyed. From school we learn about the major players of the war - the primary triggers, secondary causes and a collection of chess-like moves that saw this war come to a head. We even consider the story of the Christmas armistice as British and German forces came together for a football match, but the facts of war can sometimes overshadow the memory of those who fought and lost their lives. Lest we forget, this global war had a global impact.  
 
As we reach the 100 year mark the passing of the last surviving souls from the Great War years takes this event deep into the history books for our new learners. When we think of World War I the common view is of the conflict fought on the Western Front. Our knowledge develops from the war that was fought on the battlefields of the Somme and Ypres to one of Britain’s first campaigns which saw them join forces with Japan to overrun a German colony in China. At both primary and secondary school we can investigate the war at home and the impact of conflict on the lives that supported the effort behind the scenes. It is all too easy to forget that everyday life, though greatly affected through rations, lost loved ones and an evolving political climate, did continue. 
Beaumont Hamel
What you can do
 
This year provides the perfect opportunity to explore the impact of war on the towns and countryside and to build upon your own study of World War I. Explore the development of trench warfare in the Somme at Beaumont Hamel or the network of tunnels under the town at the 1916 Museum in Albert or even re-enact the position of the British forces in Ypres at the Yorkshire Trench and Dugout. Inspiration doesn’t get much clearer than to stand in these locations and soak up the enduring sense of poignancy felt amongst those that visit and the almost eerie atmosphere built up by knowledge of the events. Look out across the slopes of Hill 62 or close your eyes to combine the setting with your imagination of events and you’ll soon find the silence of the land becomes deafening. 
 
A cemetery, like Tyne Cot, soon becomes a source to explore the scale of war in Europe with 8,367 unidentified graves alone. A tour to the battlefields of the Somme and Ypres provides an open resource, a library of questions and thoughts to stimulate investigation and enquiry. The trips provide the settings to inspire the poets amongst your students and artists who can capture the moving scenes captured by early photography and personal accounts.  A stop at the In Flanders Fields Museum allows students to explore militarism, alliances, imperialism and nationalism in the build up to war and the invasion of Belgium by German forces. Combined with interactive exhibitions, the experiences gained from an educational tour to the battlefields of World War I provides an insight not replicated by books and websites alone.
Already events are planned beyond 2014 with the following dates set for the diary:
 
4th August 2014 (100 years since the start of the war)
 
1st July 2016 (centenary for the Battle of the Somme)
 
11th November 2018 (marking 100 years since the signing of the armistice).
Thiepval Memorial
What others are doing
 
Schools, individuals and organisations are working towards developing their own way of commemorating World War I. From the Royal Mint releasing a £2 Brilliant Uncirculated Coin adorned with the face of Lord Kitchener to the Royal Mail releasing a series of special stamps to commemorate the Great War, the exposure this 100 year anniversary is receiving is sure to raise awareness, intrigue and further education into World War I. 
 
The Tour de France will also be commemorating World War I by holding stage 5 of the race in Ypres. The race itself has history dating back to the war years as it saw a period of 4 years without the Tour. Our very own Travelbound International Product Manager will also be donning the Lycra in the Pedal To Paris. Cycling over 450 kms in 4 days, Natalie and the rest of the Elford family will be fundraising for the Royal British Legion set up following World War I to support the ex-Service community and members of the British Armed Forces. 
Whether you are looking to plan an educational trip for your students to the battlefields of the Somme and Ypres or are looking to commemorate World War I through a scheme of work at your school, we want to hear from you. We want you to send in examples of war poetry you may have been working on or even works of art you have sketched in class for us to post on our blog. Scheduled to visit the World War I battlefields? Why not send us your images either by post or e-mail and get your picture on our website or Facebook
 
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A poem to get you started…
 
Echo
 
Bullets swarmed like bees,
A chorus of men rang true.
Comrades fell to their knees,
Memories outlast the morning dew.