Day 3 really is the most challenging day on the tour. The children progress from ‘learning about’ First World War to ‘learning from’ the First World War. For many, it’s a real development and advancement in their thinking and their perspective. We began our day at the Newfoundland Memorial at Beaumont Hamel, a site of engagement on the first day of the Battle of the Somme of 1 July, 1916. The children followed the archaeological evidence of a preserved trench system and found themselves silhouetted on a ridge above German machine gun positions - totally exposed and vulnerable. They experienced what it might have felt like to try to move a large number of men through a narrow trench system, ultimately abandoning the safety of the trench and choosing to move over ground. Standing on the exposed ridge, the children were shocked to realise that of 801 Newfoundlanders who engaged on 1 July, only 68 were able to answer the roll call the next day! After leaving Newfoundland Park, we headed for Sunken Lane, the sight of the famous film capture of the explosion of the mine which created the Hawthorn crater. The children worked with photographic evidence to understand how and when the image was captured and more about the influence and significance of the topography in the failed attempt to capture objectives on the day. Standing in what is now a soybean crop field, the children began to really understand what went wrong on the first day of the Battle of the Somme, and how!
After lunch we travelled further south along the Somme front line and a further few months on in the battle. The children visited Caterpillar Valley Cemetery, where they really began to show how far their enquiry skills had come in just a few days. After being given an August/Sept 1916 trench map (overlaid with a modern satellite image) the children were asked; What happened here? What does this location show about how lessons have been learned for 1 July? What was so impressive was how they proposed many totally plausible and tactical suggestions that they would never have been able to come up with 2 short days ago. I also watched as many were clearly visualising in their minds-eye, the advance of British troops from Montauban as well of the subsequent tank advances that took place in front of the Bezentin Ridge.
After dinner, we finished the night with a round of bowling for all. Congratulations to Mr Albrow for his stellar performance – top score!!
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