Connecting past and present for Remembrance Sunday (9 November 2014)
by Keith Griffin
Suitable for Key Stage 2
To explain the meaning of Remembrance Sunday, looking at peace and war, present and past, the victims.
Preparation and materials
- You will need four remembrance crosses, red poppies or other symbol of war. Alternatively, you might like to gather props indicating a soldier, nurse, farmer and housewife. Also, a candle and lighter or matches, if desired.
- Some images of war could be displayed, but this is optional.
- Note that, during the period of commemoration of the First World War, you may want to consider where this can be mentioned or the assembly adapted.
- Have available ‘Nimrod’ from the Enigma Variations by Elgar and the means to play it at the end of the assembly.
- Assuming you are giving this assembly in the week before Remembrance Sunday, ask the children, ‘What's special about this coming Sunday?’ Wait for someone to answer, ‘It’s Remembrance Sunday.’
- Then ask, ‘What are we “remembering”?’ Expect answers along the lines of, 'People who died in war', 'Soldiers', 'The two World Wars'.
- Affirm the children’s answers and ask for a volunteer. Have him or her stand at the front and ask, ‘What is your name?’
Let's say it's Jack. Give him the name 'Corporal Jack' and tell a brief tale about Jack as a soldier who died in the Second World War. For a girl called Hannah, for example, call her ‘Nurse Hannah’ and tell a story about Nurse Hannah working in a field hospital and being killed by an explosion.
Finish by handing your volunteer a remembrance cross, poppy, alternative symbol or soldier or nurse props. Ask Corporal Jack or Nurse Hannah to face the audience.
- Explain to the children that when you say, 'This is Corporal Jack/Nurse Hannah' and point to him or her, they are to reply, 'We will remember'. Then repeat these words, with an air of solemnity.
- Next, ask the children, 'Who else do we remember?'
Listen to their answers and mention the importance of remembering ordinary people who die as a result of war, too, possibly explaining the word 'civilians'.
Repeat Step 3 with a second volunteer, but this time tell a story of a civilian farmer having to grow as much food as possible with a limited number of workers, as all the young men had gone to war, or a housewife, struggling to feed her family on the rations available and keeping her children safe during the Blitz. As before, give him or her a cross, poppy or other symbol or prop relating to farming or being a housewife.
- As before, say, 'This is . . . ‘, pointing to him or her so the children will reply, 'We will remember.’
- Talk next about the importance of remembering foreign soldiers who die in war. All are victims.
Now, invite a third volunteer, this time calling him ‘Johann’ or her ‘Ulrike’, to play a First World War German soldier or nurse. Continue as before, giving him or her a cross or other item or prop and finishing with all saying, ‘We will remember.’
- Now talk about ‘remembering’ in its sense of relating to the past.
Ask, ‘Do you remember what you had for breakfast this morning?’ Then explain how we can remember in relation to the present and future as well as the past. We do this when we, for example, remember what we need to do after this assembly, what the next lesson in school is going to be and so on.
- Explain that alongside remembering those such as Jack, Hannah, Johann and Ulrike from the past on Remembrance Sunday, we also remember soldiers, nurses and others involved in wars today, plus civilian victims of current conflicts and war everywhere.
Mention a current conflict and ask a volunteer to come forward to represent the victims of that conflict, maybe with an emphasis on children who have suffered, if that is relevant.
Ask this child to sit in front of the others and give him or her a cross or other item, too. As before, ask for his or her name, say, 'This is . . . ' and pointing to him or her to indicate for the children to say, 'We will remember.’
- Finally, mention that we remember the hope of peace. Light the candle, if using, ask a final volunteer to hold it and spend a period of time in silence, displaying the images of war, if you decided to include them.
Time for reflection
Today we think of soldiers Jack and Johann, nurses Hannah and Ulrike and the other people who died in battle during the World Wars.
Today we think of the men, women and children who are involved in wars right now.
Today we think of all the victims of conflict in countries around the world.
We think of soldiers and civilians in different countries who may die today.
We say one last time, ‘We will remember.’
Give us the hope that wars may come to an end.
Help us to make peace.
‘Nimrod’ from the Enigma Variations by Elgar