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Memorials

Reflects on the significance of national and local war memorials.

by Alan M. Barker

Suitable for Key Stage 3

Aims

To reflect on the significance of national and local war memorials.

Preparation and materials

  • Gather copyright-free images of the Cenotaph, Whitehall, and Remembrance Day poppies (for example, at: www.flickr.com/photos/assemblies/9579018442/in/set-72157635203755096) and have the means to show them in the assembly.
  • Identify your local war memorial and take some images to use in the assembly, including any names or inscriptions found on it. This could be undertaken as a class exercise.
  • Ascertain, if possible, when local acts of remembrance are held.
  • Find a recording of the Last Post and have the means to play it during the time for reflection.
  • Details and photographs of local war memorials can be submitted to and found at:  www.warmemorialsonline.org.uk
  • Armistice Day was traditionally observed at 11 a.m. on 11 November. During the Second World War, the observation of two minutes’ silence was moved to the Sunday nearest to 11 November and, in the years since, this became known as Remembrance Sunday. More recently, Armistice Day has also become more widely observed.
  • This assembly links with material contained in the assemblies Armistice Day (http://www.assemblies.org.uk/pri/1376/armistice-day-11-november) and The Poppy Appeal (http://www.assemblies.org.uk/pri/1378/the-poppy-appeal).

Assembly

  1. Refer to the national service of remembrance held on Remembrance Sunday at the Cenotaph on Whitehall, London. With the support of your chosen images, explain that the Cenotaph was unveiled on 11 November 1920 – Armistice Day – the anniversary of the ceasefire that ended the First World War in Europe.

  2. Explain that, during the service, two minutes of silence are kept – the first, it is sometimes said, to remember the millions of people killed in the conflict; the second to be mindful of the needs of their families and other survivors. Poppy wreaths are laid around the memorial, which bears the inscription ‘The Glorious Dead’. The ceremony ends with a march past. Those who have served with the armed forces (known as ‘veterans’) show their respect for their fallen comrades.

  3. Invite the children to consider why such a memorial was thought to be important. 

    Reflect that a lasting monument, such as the Cenotaph, helps to ensure that those killed in war are remembered. A monument also provides a place where people can gather to remember. The word ‘cenotaph’ literally means ‘empty tomb’ in Greek. It is a very special and solemn place.

  4. Continue by inviting the children to identify where the local war memorial is and mention any local acts of remembrance. Observe that, after 1918, war memorials were erected in almost every village and town. They are of different sizes and design. Many bear the names of local men who died. Illustrate the significance of this. As the list of those who had died was read during services of remembrance in the years following the war, local people would hear names that had been familiar to them, often from hearing them during the calling of the school registers. Some families lost two or more children, mainly sons.

  5. Observe that local war memorials are special and solemn places. Refer to the need to respect and care for them. Not only does a war memorial honour those who have died but it is also a place where the living can remember.

Time for reflection

Display an image of the Cenotaph and/or remembrance poppies.

Arrange for one of the children to read the traditional words of remembrance and ask everybody to say the words of the response at the end – ‘We will remember them’: 

They shall not grow old as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

Response: We will remember them.

Music

Play recording of the Last Post.

Publication date: November 2013   (Vol.15 No.11)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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