Trip report: Steeple Claydon School students meet D-day veterans
Published: June 23th 2014
A school trip to Normandy to meet six WWII D-day veterans – for the 70th anniversary of the D-day landings - will have a lasting impact on the students who attended, according to one of the organisers.
Heidi Bramwell, Assistant Headteacher at Steeple Claydon School took 36 primary school children from her school to meet the veterans at Travelbound’s Chateau du Molay in Normandy in June. The group were away from June 3rd to June 6th and also visited other D-day battlefield sites like Omaha Beach and Pointe du Hoc during their stay.
“The students further developed their sense of empathy and were able to put themselves in someone else’s shoes,” says Heidi. “The children really understood how serious it was and how difficult it was for the soldiers. Many of those fighting were very, very young and many of the students have brothers and sisters that age.”
“The trip will have a positive impact on their writing ability as they will have first-hand experiences to draw on when writing about the topic,” she added.
It was also a special trip for one of the other teachers at the school, Mrs Jennings (pictured right), who retires in July, says Heidi.
“Mrs Jennings stood on Omaha Beach and spoke to the students about what the conditions would have been like for troops landing there during the Normandy campaign,” she adds.
“She wanted to help the students step into the shoes of the soldiers who were running for their lives and fighting for their country in a situation where there were bombs going off everywhere around them. She then came up with some questions for the students on what the soldiers might have been feeling at the time. It really got them thinking,” Heidi comments.
D-day veterans give eyewitness accounts to students
On the afternoon of June the 5th, Captain David Render of Sherwood Rangers Yeomanry - a WWII D-day veteran (now retired) - joined five others D-day veterans to speak to students at the chateau and answer their questions.
“Capt Render’s talk really put the D-day fighting into context for them,” says Heidi. “The children took it very seriously. They wanted to know what it was like to be there, where they ate, what they ate, where they slept and how their families would have found out if they had died. They really imagined themselves in the place of the soldiers,” she says.
Martin Kerry a former Sherwood Ranger and member of the Sherwood Rangers Association also spoke to the students the same afternoon. He brought along some WWII uniforms, a decommissioned rifle, helmets and some tins which the soldiers would have eaten their meals out of.
According to Heidi, all the students had an opportunity to hold the rifle, wear a helmet and try on a uniform and beret. It gave them a sense of how uncomfortable and heavy the equipment was and helped them understand the seriousness of the war, she says.
“The children were all discussing the veterans’ talk and asking questions about it all the way home. When they got home they had lots to talk about and the coverage of the D-day anniversary events was also all over the news,” Heidi adds.
If you would like to find out more about our battlefields tours to France you can contact the Travelbound sales. Or browse our history trips to France to find out about our other history tours in the area.
By Tim Jenkins