Armistice 100: Manor Park schoolchildren inspired by past pupils’ First World War sacrifice
PUBLISHED: 16:00 10 November 2018
Imagine sitting in the same classroom where youngsters who fought in the First World War once learned their times tables.
That’s just what children at St Winefride’s Catholic Primary school in Church Road, Manor Park, have been doing for their Remembrance Day project.
The school had only been open five years when the war began and some of its first pupils fought at sea, on land and in the air as research from local history buff Lesley Soloman has shown.
Mrs Soloman used a school register spanning the years 1909 to 1934 – found a cupboard at the school – the 1911 census, and genealogy websites to trace 12 boys who enlisted and a dozen girls who joined the war effort on the home front.
“We wanted pupils to appreciate what they have now. It’s important they understand what the 100 year remembrance is really about,” Mrs Soloman said.
The project began in April after a chance meeting between Mrs Soloman – parachuted in to give a talk at the school when a speaker pulled out – and St Winefride’s headteacher Paul Underwood.
Some stories the retired telephonist uncovered were heart-breaking including one of a former pupil who joined the Royal Flying Corps, which later became the Royal Air Force.
“He joined the school the day it opened,” Mrs Soloman said. “But he lost his life.”
The 64-year-old found out the youngster, who she wouldn’t name out of respect for surviving family, was born in 1899 and died on September 21, 1918, not long before the Allies signed a peace treaty with Germany ending the war.
“He got so far,” Mrs Soloman said.
Besides inspiring the class of 2018 with stories of sacrifice, Mrs Soloman brought history to life showing the eager children medals and blowing a First World War army whistle to help recreate the tense trench atmosphere.
Headteacher Mr Underwood said: “What we found out was fascinating. Manor Park has its challenges, but the children are free because the previous generations, who were so young, fought for them.”
Mrs Soloman added: “We should not allow our history to be forgotten. We should be proud of our ancestors and what they did.”