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Charleschandler

Visiting the Western Front with teenagers

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Charleschandler

Hello all, 

 

After many many trips to the Front over the years (particularly Ypres), taking friends along, small groups etc.,  we’re doing our very first visit in July with friends who have children - two boys, 13 and 15.

 

Looking for some advice - is there any particular reading you’d recommend for that age group to help them relate to what happened, which they could do before we go? And how do you explain / show them things there without completely traumatising them?

 

I’ve asked their parents if they have any relatives who served in the war as I thought it might help to bring it down to an individual human scale.

 

Many thanks

 

ps meant to say - they’re good lads you could take anywhere so I have no concerns about how they’ll behave when we’re there - I just want them to get something out of the trip. 

 

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chaz

the family history aspect is a good start, this would start an itinery.

Martin and Mary Middlebrook's Somme battlefields is a good reference book, not too complicated but sill describes area and features. also laid out in areas.

you could ask their schools if they have anything planned, my two boys were each taken to different ones . one to Terlincthun, the other to Connaught.

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Dave1418

Hi

if you’re going to Hawthorne Ridge look up the IR 119 War diary (English translation) for the 1st July. It’s has some excellent accounts of the battle for the crater and the ensuing hand to hand fighting. Standing on the edge of the crater and looking down onto the sunken lane you can then talk about the troops leaving the sunken lane in line and how the cemetery is laid out next to it, and how they were hit byy interlocking fire from IR121 on Redan Ridge. It’s a position which allows you to see so much in such a small area.

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DorsetDan

The 1916 Battle of the Somme film could be useful ( especially the wonderful Then and Now available on line ) if you are going to the area Dave has suggested . Also the same could be said about the Shrine view point at Mametz , also a lot to see and features in the film .

 

Good luck with your trip   DD

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nigelcave

First question - are they coming because they are naturally interested or coming because their parents are (and for how long are you visiting)? Once that is known, easier to give useful advice.

 

I spent years bringing 14-15 year-olds to the WF and I must admit the thought of 'trauma' had not crossed my mind (possibly because it did not mine when I came for the first time when I was 14). Given what they see on the news these days, not to mention films etc, I think you should be OK with anything that you are likely to share. The fact that there are two of them helps, I think.

 

There was (still is) an excellent A4 sized 'booklet' (48? 64? pages), glossy pages, that I used to help with teenaged small parties; deals with a number of areas and stories in straightforward language, with clear mapping and pix. Of its time, but very useful. I seem to recall seeing copies of it at Thiepval when I was last there. Away from home, so cannot check title.

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simond9x

I agree with DorsetDan about the 1916 film. I'd also recommend that they watch last year's Peter Jackson film 'They Shall Not Grow Old' - being in colour and with added sound, it might appeal more to a young audience. I think anything that brings home to them that these events didn't happen to a bunch of old men, they happened to lads not much older than themselves.

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Herekawe

When I was there last year as my son and I  stood looking  at the Hawthorne crater we had the explosion on my mobile phone.

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keithfazzani

I suspect that like most teenagers they have smart phones. CWGC has two downloadable apps. One covers all cemeteries and memorials and the other is Thiepval specific. Worth having a look at. With the cemetery one they can explore all nearby cemeteries from where they are. If nothing else it demonstrates the scale, they can also feel involved in navigating from site to site. The other one has more detail on Thiepval. They are both free to download. 

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Neil Mackenzie
On 14/05/2019 at 12:23, Charleschandler said:

I’ve asked their parents if they have any relatives who served in the war as I thought it might help to bring it down to an individual human scale. 

 

Where are you going, Ypres, the Somme, both or somewhere else?

 

Even if they haven't got relatives maybe get a few names off their local war memorial - especially if you can find a lad who lived near to them - and find a bit about them.

 

Neil

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Lady Linda

May be you could get them to look for their own surname if you go to a large place like Thiepval or Menin Gate, who knows that could get them started on family history.

Also show them the trench art, everyone I know finds it fascinating. Also things like Talbot House where the soldiers had there r and r and things like the Wiper Times, which personifies the British sense of humour in times of trouble.

Above all be relaxed about it all and what ever you do they will find their own interest in what you show them.

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Charleschandler

Many thanks all. Some interesting suggestions - all taken on board. Really SINCERE apologies for the delay in replying - work has been taking over a little of late...catching up on some overdue 'correpondence' today!! 

 

We're going to Ypres for just a couple of days this time, to see how the boys get on with it. We also need to try to fit in a visit to the Westvleteren brewery for their dad :thumbsup:

 

I think watching the Peter Jackson film would be a good idea, we have it on DVD so we could all watch it together and they can ask questions as we go along.

 

They and their dad are very tech orientated so I'm sure apps will go down well. As will the interactivity of the IFF museum.

 

I've identified a number of Horley men buried / commemorated in the Salient and the idea is we'll try to find some of them as we do the tour. I think they'll engage with the grave location process and their parents do too. As we live near Dorking, we will of course also be visiting Joe Strudwick's grave at Essex Farm.

 

Thanks again -

 

Best wishes,

 

Bob

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seaJane

Hi Bob, 

 

Horley Surrey? I lived there 1964-1987 (my parents didn't move till 2005). 

 

This man is one of theirs:   https://www.surreyinthegreatwar.org.uk/person/94334

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Marilyne

hi. 

 

good luck with your trip !!! (she sais with a mischievous smile on her face...) 

Kidding. !!!! I'm sure they are great kids!! 

 

The Passchendaele Museum in Zonnebeke actually has a lot of explanation tables tailored to the younger... they can try and put on a helmet, play the games the soldiers played, that sort of things. So it's really made so that they cannot see the most horrible parts. And the boys will certainly be thrilled by the shells display!! 

Forget IFF museum with kids... too much, too messy... 

But take them for a waffle accross IFF !!! 

 

M.

 

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WilliamRev
Posted (edited)

In case you haven't left yet, here are several thoughts, for what they are worth:

 

In my opinion, the Passchendaele Museum at Zonnebeke is FAR better than In Flanders Field museum, which is a sad busy mess which will just confuse them (although if you and your boys have a head for heights, the climb to the top of the Cloth Hall Tower is scary but fantastic).

 

Chatting to a friend's 15 year old son who had been on a school trip to Ieper, what really impressed him were the trenches at Sanctuary Wood Museum, and the vastness of Tyne Cot Cemetery (note loos need a 50 Eurocent coin to use). He loved the Menin Gate itself, but waiting an hour or so for the Last Post Ceremony was a bore and not worth it. The Pool of Peace on Menin Ridge was also a hit. In other words, young people are fascinated by actual things that remain from the war, or things that they can relate to  - trenches, concrete bunkers, vast craters in the ground, impressive monuments etc. 

 

Tracing the steps of a soldier or group of soldiers is an excellent idea, focusing attention. In the museums you can look for the kind of Lee Enfield rifle that he would have had, and his cap badge, equipment etc.

 

The little Hooge Crater Museum is interesting, and the loos and excellent cafe make it a vital staging post (there is a theme park two hundred metres north, although I think that 13 and 15 year olds will probably consider themselves too cool for such things).

 

Tiny but vital point: (it is two years since I last visited Ieper, but if things haven't changed) on a Sunday nearly all of the shops in Ieper are closed, but if you need to buy sandwiches and other supplies, from 8am until noon the Eurospar is open. Go eastwards out of the Menin Gate, take the second turn on the right at the junction with traffic lights, and it is 100 metres further on your right, opposite the town cemetery, with good parking.

 

William 

Edited by WilliamRev
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tonyoz777

I'm taking my 13 and 16 year old Grt Nephews next year so would interested to hear how you got on and what they reacted to.

 

Hope it's a good trip for you

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dah

Maybe rather late in joining this thread......

 

How likely are they (at 13 & 15) to actually pre-read a book about the war? I think an appropriate film or DVD is more likely to fit the bill.

 

I note that you'd prefer not to leave them traumatised. Personally I think the essential 'human' message behind/beneath those gravestones (and the war itself) is all about trauma......something that is not immediately apparent in our beautifully designed and kept CWGC cemeteries.

 

The historical events are probably not going to be of great interest to teenagers. They need to imagine themselves in those trenches.......to identify with those young men (not so much through tracing relatives or names off the local memorial).....to understand that those young guys were essentially the same as they are. It was an accident of fate that they were born at a time that took them from their ordinary lives into the deadly business of war, into a lethal environment where young lives can be cut short or significantly damaged in the blink of an eye....often with bravery or training having very little to do with it. Wrong place at the wrong time is all it takes. 

 

 Suggested films.

'Journey's End' (available now on DVD or Netflix) has no X-rated battle scenes like 'Saving Private Ryan'.....but nevertheless conveys the psychological strain that soldiers in the front line can be subject to, as well as the fragility of life when the shells start flying. A powerful story without being visually gruesome.              

'All quiet on the Western Front' is without doubt a classic book (if they can be expected to read it). If not, then it is also available on DVD. It's central message is similar,....young men eagerly enlisting in anticipation of adventure, only to be confronted with a very different reality  It also shows the close camaraderie and interdependency of the soldiers....and how, pitted against the grinding destruction of something much larger than themselves, they end up fighting to keep one another alive.  

 

 

Good luck, 

 

David

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Charleschandler

SINCERE apologies to all those who've commented without me replying - I don't know where the last few weeks have gone (well, work mainly) - we're off to Ypres today and hopefully the boys will get something from the experience. Wish me luck! :D

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Marilyne

Good luck, have fun and have a waffle for me !!!

 

M.

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Neil Mackenzie

Hope you all have a great time.

 

Neil

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