As part of the Heritage Lottery Fund funded Commemoration of WW1 in Mill Road Cemetery in May 2014 the year 4 class groups of St Matthew’s School made giant poppies to take to the graves of men commemorated in the cemetery.

An artist, Annabel Lee, was commissioned to work with both Year 4 Classes (60 9-year old children) spending a day with each class making giant poppies on bamboo canes. Each day began with a History Group volunteer doing a ten- minute presentation about the Commemoration of World War 1, and the significance of poppies, why they had become a symbol of remembrance. Children worked in pairs, and each pair was given the name of a soldier commemorated in Mill Road Cemetery whose grave that pair would visit. The children composed a message to that soldier and fixed it to the poppy.

On Friday morning another History volunteer gave a full-year assembly recapping previous ‘poppy’ talks and outlining the event to follow and telling the stories of the soldiers commemorated in the

Parading the poppies from school to the Cemetery
Parading the poppies from school to the Cemetery

 

 

The children walked in a group to the cemetery where they were sub-divided into five groups each with a History volunteer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A small group near a grave
A small group near a grave
Poppy placed near Kent grave
Poppy placed near Kent grave
Each poppy had a label with a message composed by the children
Each poppy had a label with a message composed by the children

 

The volunteer guided the group to six pre-selected graves and said something about the grave and the soldier remembered there.

A pair of children read their message to that soldier, and the poppy was left there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When the children had left the area the poppies were collected and re-sited in the meadow area so the children could all be thanked and could see the poppies massed together before returning to school. Volunteers re-sited the poppies (despite gale force winds) so that children and parents could see them after school. We estimate 35 people, adults and children came.

The poppies and labels were displayed at future events as part of the larger project.

 

Poppies grouped together
Poppies grouped together

 

Comments received included:
i. From child: IR aged 9
Here James and William Hunt lie
Bringing far more than tears to our eyes
They’ll lay buried here for ever more
And families will remember what the boys saw.
It was death, shooting and swords
Not a peaceful death, not a piano with chords.
It was all bombs and fighting,
And at most times you could see no lighting.
Four years lasted the Great War
Some of us know what all those endangered lives saw.
So here we bend and say a prayer
And we shall treat all of the soldiers’ graves with care 3

ii. From Teacher: The project ran very smoothly and all the children were very engaged in it.

iii. From Parent Governor: Many thanks to you and your team of volunteers for organising such a successful WW1 local history project for the year 4 children at St Matthew’s this week. We all (including me!) now know a lot more as a result. Mary [Naylor]’s presentation to the children at school this morning was perfectly pitched and very well received. The volunteer who guided Group D was also extremely knowledgeable and fantastic with the children.

iv. From mother after school: What an amazing way for young people to commemorate the war; a really cool project.’

v. Second mother after school: ‘A creative way of connecting the children to the impact of the war in the locality. My children walk through here every day and this will transform the way they see it.’

v. From a Volunteer: It was a terrific pleasure to be involved with my group of children — all so fresh, eager, unspoiled.

vi. From Facebook: I just wanted to let you know that my son really enjoyed hearing about your family and their connections to the cemetery. Thank you for giving your time to the children and for teaching them about local history.

St Matthew’s School WW1 Event