To mark one hundred years since the end of the First World War, Vandyke students and staff recently hosted a series of Remembrance assemblies. A reflective tone was set on entrance into the theatre by the haunting backdrop of Tindersticks’ Ypres soundscape; commissioned by the In Flanders Field museum as an aural memorial-without-walls to the hundreds of thousands who died during the battles for the town.
The assembly was framed by the words of war poet Wilfred Owen, who served in the Hundred Days Offensive and whose works provided a stark and realistic foil to the patriotic verse of the time. A selection of students from all year groups, organised by Miss Peplow, offered a powerful reading of Exposure, a poem illustrating the horrific desolation and futility of this unique war.
Mr Mitchell then recounted the deeply personal story of his grandfather, who fought in the First World War as a young man. Mr Mitchell shared moving excerpts from his grandfather’s diary, which illustrated the movements and frequent backtracking of troops during the Battle of the Somme. Mr Carroll and Mr Phillips offered a different perspective – translating a poem by German war poet, Karl Kraus. The harrowing message of Kraus’ words strongly conveyed the unifying horrors of war; and how the human experience united men above borders or national loyalties. Mme. Rhoden and Sixth Form student Ella Fox shared a particularly tragic letter from a young French soldier, whose life was ultimately cut short by the consequences of a gas attack.
The assembly culminated in a moving piece by the Drama Group, who captivated students with their poignant insight into daily life in the trenches, and the torment of those left at home. The piece provided a powerful and thought-provoking end to the presentation, and the haunting rendition of Only Remembered from War Horse lingered in the minds of the audience long after they left the theatre.
Also, on Friday, Year 9 students Sarah Roff, Jessica Parker-Naples and Liam Field accompanied Sixth Form students Jack McTeer and Neve Atkinson to the memorial at the Leighton Buzzard Cenotaph, where a reading was performed and respects paid on behalf of Vandyke Upper School.
Thank you to all students and staff for your participation and engagement.