Wednesday 24 February 2021

WWI Centenary Commemoration - Thornhill School WWI Centenary Commemoration

Posted by Louise Meah at 2:02PM on 06 November 2018

Day 1 - Monday 5th November

Our week of commemorative events got underway with a very poignant wreath laying ceremony in the specially created commemorative garden. Next to the Thornhill Tommy statue and small white cross, representatives from every tutor group within the academy and the Returners unit placed a wreath, whilst school officers Matthew and Karima read out lines from “Our Remembrance Day: a message from the Fallen” and “Why do I wear a Poppy?”

In lessons there was much activity with poppy biscuits being made in technology, while in French students were making cornflowers – the French symbol of remembrance and in English the role of photographers in WWI was being examined. Our display of student poppies in reception in growing with each day. It surrounds the memorial to Tony Evans, a Thornhill student and member of Hislop house who lost his life in Afghanistan 10 years ago while serving his country.

Representatives from the DLI, one of the largest regiments to fight during WWI, were in the main hall working with groups of students throughout the day. As well as learning about this very famous and well respected regiment, each group was given a series of clues including census records to research the identity of a member of the DLI who fought during WWI. They learned about the soldier’s family, their service record, whether they survived – most did not, and the medals that were given to them. DLI artefacts were also given to the groups with many taking the opportunity to dress up as an officer or handle some of the weapons used by members of the DLI. Whilst with us, Richie a member of the DLI team and an army veteran laid a wreath in our commemorative garden.

The respectful attitudes demonstrated by all of our students have been a source of great pride to us. We look forward to the rest of the week’s events.

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Day 2 - Tuesday 6th November

Tuesday saw much excitement as departmental activities associated with WWI were undertaken by students across school. Y9 students in Science were researching some of the horrific diseases which afflicted troops in the trenches; diseases such as trench foot and trench fever. They were exploring the conditions which allowed the diseases to develop as well as some of the “treatments” that were used including amputation!

In History Y8 students were looking at the British Empire as it was at the time of WWI and focusing upon the huge contribution of the Indian army; Bangladesh being a part of India at that time. In RS students were looking at the involvement of Muslims in the conflict – over 400,000 Muslim soldiers served for Britain in WWI. Some key figures such as Ishar Sigh, Khudadad Khan, both members of the Indian army, and Geoffrey Kennedy, aka Woodbine Willie, a Christian Chaplain who worked with the Indian army were being researched. Posters recognising the contribution of Muslims in WWI were being designed by Y10 students.

Members of Y7 and Y10 had the privilege of spending some time with Major Christopher Chapman of the British army on Tuesday afternoon. Major Chapman is a serving soldier who has undertaken tours of duty in Kosovo, Bosnia and, most recently, Afghanistan.  Students learned about how WWI started the contributions of women to the war effort and how this impacted upon the role of women in the early 20th century, as well as the huge contribution of the Indian army. There was also an opportunity for students to handle actual rifles used during WWI and II – something that was greatly enjoyed by all as well as listening to the ominous sound of the alarm warning of a gas attack. Following the end of the session major Chapman accepted our invitation to lay a wreath on behalf of his regiment in our commemorative garden.

Another amazing day at Thornhill Academy!



Day 3 - Wednesday 7th November

In MFL students have been making Les Bleuets – the French equivalent of the poppy. Les Bleuets is a cornflower which, like the poppy, is a wild flower which grows in the fields in France where much of the fighting during WWI took place. Staff and students have been wearing their cornflowers on their blazers as done by President Macron of France and millions of French citizens at this time to show respect to the French soldiers who fought with the British forces during WWI and II. Wreaths of cornflowers have also been created and will be added to the display in the commemorative garden later in the week. Students have also been busy studying French propaganda posters as used during the war and then creating their own versions. Madame McKend has even brought into school her great grandfather’s  conscription papers to show to students to encourage them to reflect upon the extent to which this monumental event touched all of our lives in some way.   

In Technology Y9 students have an impressive production line of miniature wooden Tommies, all resplendent in their green helmets, while Y7 students have been making Remembrance Jars: recycled jars with a silhouette of a soldier and back lit with a battery operated tea light. Each jar is being dedicated to a soldier to lost their life fighting for their country. Mr Miller is leading operations down in technology with students of all ages thoroughly enjoying their work and learning so much about world conflict along the way. Hessian wreaths have been made in textiles lessons and there are phenomenally tasty poppy biscuits being made in Food technology lessons – on sale at break and lunchtimes for 20p.

Key Stage 3 Art students have been exploring the use of light to enhance silhouetted images of remembrance. They have used collage to create stained glass effects and these look striking against the windows of the main hall as the sun rises. In Graphic Communications, Yr 9 students have used their professional Photoshop skills to create professional photo collages which each have their own personal and meaningful messages relating to The Great War. We welcomed artist Pui Lee into Thornhill on Wednesday to work with our Yr 9 Art students on the theme of remembrance in association with Sunderland Culture and the Pages of the Sea Project driven by artist Danny Boyle. Students explored the idea of remembrance and the people who are most important to us, past and present. Connecting memories to sounds, smells and items students explored new skills of working in 3D to bring these memories to life. Students developed skills working in paper and clay to create objects which personally connected them to their important person.  We will return to this work next week to consider how they might present their personal and contemporary approach to the theme of remembrance in a more permanent installation within the school grounds.



Day 4 - Thursday 8th November

Today we were privileged to have representatives from the Air Training Corps in school to take our students through their paces. Flight Lieutenant James Yeo assisted by Cadet Elliot Barker, both ex Thornhill students, worked with Years 8 & 9 classes on communication and leadership - both essential skills in the battlefield. Supervised by Ms Moon, the students were split into 2 groups, who were then each given a large bag containing various objects which had to be used to build a working wheel barrow to transport the filled bag across the small hall. The groups all set to work quickly but as they each learned, the key to success was communication and leadership! All students, as ever, gave their best efforts to the challenge and all commented upon how much enjoyment they took form the session. At the end of school Flight Lieutenant Yeo accepted our invitation to lay a wreath on behalf of the Air training Corps in our commemorative garden.

In departments there was much feverish activity trying to complete the work to add to the exhibition which opens on Friday. In History the classroom floors looked like a battle zone as Year7 students worked on their WWI trenches – constructed in a shoe box with papier mashe. In Geography the countries of the world involved in the conflict were being mapped, whilst in PE students were being put through their paces with the training ground drills. Little did they know how hard these drills were!!

Another amazing day as Thornhill students immerse themselves in WWI experiences.



Day 5 - Friday 9th November

There was much excitement today as we moved into the final day of our WWI centenary event in which the exhibition of student work and collection of war memorabilia went on display.

We began, however, with a visit from veterans of the Falkland and Afghan conflicts who spoke to members of Y9 about their experiences in battle and brought many artefacts from the conflicts, including a respirator, into school for the students to see. Following the presentation British army veteran Captain Kevin Gibson laid a wreath in our memorial garden surrounded by the whole academy population – students and staff while a one minute silence was observed by all.

Throughout the day all academy students have visited the exhibition and have had the opportunity to see their amazing work on display. In addition, Mr Leadbeater’s KS3 choir performed a feat of endurance in leading our community singing of war time favouirites such as “It’s a long way to Tipperary”, “Pack up your Troubles” and “Keep the Home Fires Burning”. All were agreed that it was a fantastic experience:

“I found this week and especially today very inspirational and I feel like I’ve done my part for our soldiers. Especially my great grandad who very bravely fought on the front line and was shot but made it home.” Charlie Simpson (Y7)

The school day ended with the laying of a wreath by 3 students who are members of the cadets: Travis Conlin, Jake Gray and Ben Heaton who proudly attended today in their military uniforms.

Members of the local community who had been invited into school to see the exhibition were hugely impressed with the efforts of our students who have yet again exceeded our expectations of them.

Well done to all involved and all have been involved – a whole school effort which has been amazingly successful in raising awareness of the sacrifices made by others for us.


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