West Norfolk children’s soldiers to mark war sacrifices
West Norfolk schoolchildren decorated wooden soldiers and placed them in Lynn’s Tower Gardens as part of WWI Soldiers Remembered, on Tuesday.
This is a joint project between West Norfolk Council, Stories of Lynn, and the Royal British Legion (RBL), to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War.
It is part of a larger commemorative project called Return to the Battlefield, which has been devised and led by Gerry Tann,of the Lynn branch of the RBL.
Over six days in September and October, 600 schoolchildren will visit Stories of Lynn, the museum located in the town hall in Lynn, to spend an activity day learning about some of the soldiers from the borough who gave their lives in the First World War.
It began on Tuesday with 100 children from GaytonPrimary and Middleton Primary schools placing their soldiers in Tower Gardens.
Each activity day will start with each child being given a 10-12cm-high wooden soldier that will represent a fallen soldier whose name is recorded in the borough archives’ Roll of Honour.
Each child will record their own name and their soldier’s name on the wooden soldier, decorate it, and learn about their soldier’s wartime experiences from the archives.
As well as examining the Roll of Honour, the children will spend the day meeting costumed characters who will tell them about life in the trenches, and the food on offer to soldiers. They will also analyse real photos and letters sent home from the front.
The finale of each activity day will be a ceremony where the 100 schoolchildren will place their decorated wooden soldiers in Tower Gardens.
The children will march as a group from the town hall to the war memorial in Tower Gardens, accompanied by a drummer. They will place their wooden soldiers in a symbolic ‘No Man’s Land’ and then sing a Great War song.
To protect them from the elements, the wooden soldiers will be on display outdoors temporarily, and then removed to Stories of Lynn before being returned to the children who decorated them; they will be part of a month-long programme of commemorative events up to Armistice Day on November 11.
Mr Tann said: “It unites different personalities and different generations in common remembrance. The combined engagement of all the people involved in the project transforms the land-art installation into a symbol of peace that transcends both time and geographical borders.”
Rachael Williams, learning and engagement officer at Stories of Lynn, said: “It has been an absolute privilege to work on this unique memorial. The children have researched real documents from the Borough Archives and they have learned from our historic interpreters and knowledgeable volunteers about the lives and experiences of individual soldiers during the war.
"Thankfully, many of us can only imagine what it must have been like for those who gave their lives for us, but through this project, we hope we can understand more and that their memory will live on in our hearts forever".
Nick Daubney, borough mayor, said: “It is wonderful that this great number of school children from West Norfolk have shown such interest and stepped up to make this connection in this special way. I know it will mean so much to the families of those who sacrificed their lives, and indeed to all our West Norfolk community".