On Wednesday June 4th Form 3 pupils enjoyed a series of sessions in preparation for their visit to the WWI Battlefields in Flanders later this month. The morning of activities was just the first of a series that will take place over the next four years. Each one will give pupils access to photographs and documents from the Christ College Archive so that they can explore world events through the experiences of Old Breconians.
With this year’s focus on the early days of WWI, including recruitment and the Belgian advance, and the role of doctors in the war, Forms 3S and 3R used archival material to piece together the experience of war from the point of view of three very different Old Breconians: Canon A E Donaldson, who would have known almost every one of the 447 Old Breconians who served in the First World War; M. van Emelen, a Belgian refugee who became a French and Art Master at Christ College; W M Howells, a qualified medical practitioner who served with the RAMC.
Form 3T researched the war service of the Cricket XI of 1914, almost all of whom served in the First World War. By the beginning of September 1914, just as their team-mates were returning to school for the new term, four of the players and two of the Masters had left Christ College to enlist. Their researches revealed that three of the players were killed in the war. Discovering more about team’s experience of school and their service during the war led to a thoughtful re-enactment of their photograph on the steps of School House.
Continuing work already begun in History lessons, Mrs Allen gave pupils an overview of key moments in 1914 and focused on the significance of the areas pupils will visit. Pupils gained a deeper understanding of the German advance on Belgium through the destruction of Louvain as described in an account of in ‘The Breconian’ written by M. van Emelen, whose family arrived as refugees in Hay in September 1914. As pupils learned about failure of the Schlieffen plan and the significant Battles such as those at the Marne in September 1914, they were able to learn more about a important moment of the war on the Aisne through the experience of Old Breconian, W M Howells, a medical officer who was wounded while stopping to attend an injured driver.
Mrs Tanner developed the medical theme in her session with activities related to the Advanced Dressing Station at Essex Farm, which Form 3 will see on their visit. Using pictures and sources, pupils retraced the steps of an injured soldier. They also followed the story of Lieutenant Alexis Helmer, whose death at the age of 22 is supposed to have prompted Major John McCrae’s ‘In Flanders Fields’, before reading the poem itself and exploring its message.
Following the success of the morning’s activities, all of Form 3 are looking forward to making the most of their visit to Ypres and the battlefields later this month. Their work will continue on their return when they will develop their ideas to write monologues that will tell the experience of individuals whose lives were changed by the events of 1914-1918.
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