Every year I learn more about the World Wars 1 and 2. Not just on Remembrance Day but through the novels and poems I teach; such as Wilfred Owen's Dulce et Decorum Est and Private Peaceful by Michael Morpurgo. . But this year seems to be more poignant than others.
Initially I thought it was because this being the 100 years commemoration, the city is awash with more images of poppies than ever - from the striking Tower of London to the 3G's school gates and field covered in handmade poppies. Then I considered that it may have been because the news stories I have come across this week: when ITV news anchor, Charlene White, decided to explain why she didn't wear one on-air, or the tombstone of an 'un-named Negro' apparently killed in a sunken Naval ship disaster being investigated to determine his true identity and why he was not recognised with his fellow compatriots.
But whilst sharing some facts, literature and images with my classes today about the First World War and why the poppy is symbolic of remembrance, I was encouraged by the interest and discussion the teenagers maintained despite many of the children being non-British or first (possibly second) generation British born. This is a vital point because maybe as time moves on, the knowledge, artefacts and conversations about the World Wars are not as prevalent as they once were. But through novels, poetry, exhibitions, tv dramas, and poppies the atrocities of war can be remembered. That our children can learn that it is imperative we spend moments thinking of people who have suffered in wartime, be it soldier or civilian. That we acknowledge that soldiers from a range of countries fought to support the war effort.
So I think this today was a different Remembrance Day for me because as I stood in front of a class of London children, of different colours, nationalities, ages and religions, there was a shared shock at the images of life in the trenches. a disbelief that soldiers their age were fighting in no man's land and I would hope a relief that as one student put it "that won't happen, like now, innit Miss?"