Pupils mark war centenary with trench

Fitzalan High School near Grangetown has been involved in its own project to mark 100 years since the outbreak of World War One, including constructing a trench in the grounds. Grangetown Local History Society was delighted to be invited to the commemoration day. Here pupils and their history teacher write about their experience.

How we built our trench

The trench project began with volunteers deciding to build a trench for our school's First World War Centenary Day. As we started the floor had been levelled out by a digger and used the mud to fill sandbags. At the same time we collected wooden pallets and brought them to the trench site. The pallets were used as duckboards for the floor of the trench. We built up the trench by stacking lots of the wooden pallets on top of each other and used poles to support the sides. Afterwards we put lots of strips of wood on the sides to seal up the walls. The sandbags were stacked up against the walls. Next we carried corrugated iron and nailed it to the front of the trench. Finally we added fire steps so that it would be possible to shoot over the top.

The outcome was that our trench looked very realistic and it was a good experience. We had lots of fun along with working and applying teamwork in the process. The trench was completed after just a few days of hard work.

We made this trench to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the First World War, to remember those who sacrificed their lives to fight for their country and freedom. We displayed our trench on the 10th July on our First World War Centenary Day. All pupils in Key Stage 3 had a special timetable so that they could learn about life in the trenches and the First World War. There were special assemblies and all of the different departments across the school joined in. We also had a re-enactor visit (a Tommy) and First World War artefact boxes from Cardiff Castle. Mr Ward from History Needs You who helped us build the trench was also there.

Ray Hext and Jake Holmes (Year 8)

A suitable memorial

It was back in February 2014 when we decided that we would like to mark the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War. It seemed a bit ambitious but we decided that a permanent replica trench would not only be a fitting way to commemorate the anniversary but also a teaching resource and a suitable memorial.

It took a while to get going and at one point it did seem that we were not going to be able to construct a trench. However, we contacted Matthew Ward of History Needs You and with only a few weeks to go, he was able to get the project moving. With donations of materials, a grant from the Welsh Government and help from staff and pupils the trench was completed.

What was particularly nice was that staff across the school expressed support for the project and wanted to have a whole day of activities related to the First World War, so as well as the trench and a re-enactor, we had tissue paper poppies being made, statistics being reproduced on a big chart of poppies, artefacts being investigated, First World War music and much more.

Of particular interest to the Grangetown Local History Society was an activity run by the Design and Technology Department where pupils made crosses with laminated poppies each inscribed with a local soldier's name. The trench project and our First World War Centenary Day was very memorable and interesting.

We will be doing more activities as the commemorations continue over the next four years.

Adrian Smith, History Teacher

© Grangetown Local History Society/Webmaster 2014. © Photos: Roy Paul Back to Grangetown at War