We will remember them
by Alan M. Barker
Suitable for Key Stage 3/4
To consider the significance of traditional words of remembrance.
Preparation and materials
- You will need a copy of Robert Laurence Binyon’s poem For the Fallen (available at: www.greatwar.co.uk/poems/laurence-binyon-for-the-fallen.htm, which also includes a portrait of the poet). It is possible to use only verses 1, 3, 4 and 5, depending on the ages of those present, but explain that they are from a longer poem.
- You may like for the students to read the lines from the poem.
- Students could also be invited to compose short poems expressing their response to war ahead of the assembly, to be read in Step 8.
- You may like to use the PowerPoint slides available for this assembly, including the following words from the above poem: ‘At the going down of the sun and in the morning We will remember them.’
- Have available the song ‘We will remember them’ by Artists Unite to Remember (2009), recorded to raise money for The Royal British Legion, and the means to play it at the end of the assembly. Alternatively, you could show the video of the song (available at: www.britishlegion.org.uk/about-us/news/fundraising/special-song-for-remembrance-recorded).
- Refer to the commemorations marking the beginning of the First World War.
- Display the PowerPoint slides, with the words, ‘At the going down of the sun and in the morning We will remember them’, if using. Otherwise, just read them out and pause for a moment.
Explain that the words ‘We will remember them’ can be seen on many war memorials and the same phrase is used in Remembrance Sunday ceremonies. In the Act of Homage, everyone responds by echoing the words, ‘We will remember them’.
- Refer to the source of the words. They are not from the Bible, nor other ancient writings, but from a poem written by Robert Laurence Binyon.
Read either the whole of the poem For the Fallen or selected verses or invite the students to read the lines assigned to them, as decided during your preparation.
- Invite everyone to give their responses to the poem. What feelings are evoked? How does it describe the courage of those who fought and the consequences of war?
Observe that the lines reflect contrasting emotions of pride and gratitude, sadness and sorrow.
- Remark that everyone might be surprised to learn the poem wasn’t written after the Great War. In fact, it was published on 21 September 1914, only seven weeks after the fighting began.
Robert Laurence Binyon wrote it as he sat on a clifftop in Cornwall shortly after the first regiments had left for France. This time was marked by cheerfulness and high hopes. People said, ‘The war will be over by Christmas’. Unfortunately it wasn’t. In the four terrible years that followed, many thousands of lives were lost.
- As a Quaker, Robert Laurence Binyon was a pacifist. He believed that it was wrong to use violence to settle disputes. He foresaw that great suffering and enormous loss of life would result from the war. He was too old to enlist, but later joined the Red Cross and cared for those who were wounded.
- Invite everyone to consider their own personal responses to wars and conflicts currently in the news.
Are the devastating effects of armed conflict sufficiently appreciated today? What feelings and fears might they wish to express?
- Introduce the reading of poems written by the students, if using.
- To conclude the assembly, invite everyone to reflect on the words, ‘We will remember them’.
It is proper that we honour those who served their country. It’s also important to never forget the terrible loss of life that results from war.
Time for reflection
Read the whole poem or verses from For the Fallen that were read out in Step 3.
If appropriate, conclude with an Act of Homage using the words:
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.
We will remember them.
‘We will remember them’ by Artists Unite to Remember