2016 marks the second high point of the commemorations for the centenary of the First World War following events organised in 2014. In 1916, the Battle of the Somme thrust tens of thousands of servicemen into trench warfare, ensuing in massive loss of life.
On 1 July 2016, the United Kingdom and France organised a joint ceremony of commemoration for those who fell at the Somme at Thiepval Memorial. 300 young people from Britain and 300 from France took part in this ceremony to represent the 600 individual graves in the cemetery of Thiepval.
"600 school children remember": a cultural and educational project
The local education authority in Amiens, the region where the battle took place, and the British Council worked together to design a Somme education project aimed at supporting Franco-British school partnerships. Twelve French and twelve British schools were selected and worked in tandem on Somme-related projects over the 6 months leading up to the ceremony - the aim being to form lasting partnerships between the selected schools that extended beyond the ceremony.
The 600 school children played an active role in the ceremony, laying flowers on the graves. Together, schools also created joint artwork representing their project theme and this work was presented in the margins of the ceremony.
In the days leading up to the ceremony, the children came together for a series of interactive workshops to learn more about the Battle of the Somme and to prepare a pop-up museum to be exhibited locally with a view to going on tour. Partner schools had the opportunity to tell the story of what they had created together to shape their own commemoration of the Battle of the Somme and, in turn, creates a legacy for future generations.
A series of classroom resources are available to enable you to work with your students to develop activities linked to commemorating the Battle of the Somme and the historical and cultural issues around the First World War.
- Remembering the battle of the Somme - classroom resource contains resources to help students find out more about the conflict and better understand it. These resources were developed by the British Council in partnership with the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, the First World War Centenary Battlefield Tours Programme, the UCL Institute of Education and the Big Ideas Company.
- La Somme dans la Première Guerre mondiale - le livret du centenaire. Developed by the Amiens local education authority in partnership with the Conseil général de la Somme, this educational booklet describes the mounting tensions, the beginning of the war, the fighting, how the Battle of the Somme ended as a result of depleted forces, the role of civilians and so on. It contains many archive documents which can be used to introduce students to historical research.
- The information and resource service for Amiens local education authority has dedicated a platform to classroom resources and activities around the First World War theme, also featuring educational initiatives developed in the region and upcoming events. Access CRDP resources.
- The Canopé network supports the commemoration of the First World War and offers resources in a range of formats, as well as tips for developing lesson plans for the classroom.
- La Mission du centenaire de la Première Guerre mondiale offers an education hub which brings together resources and initiatives developed by schools and remembrance sites. Access the educational hub at the Mission du centenaire.
- The French Defence Ministry gives access to many documents online (war diaries of French battalions etc.) and information on soldiers who fought in the First World War. Access French Defence Ministry Resources.
- Finally, in order to understand the importance of the Battle of the Somme for the British, it is worth watching this 8-minute film on British soldiers on the frontline at the Somme in 1916. This film was produced by the Mission du centenaire in partnership with the British Department for Culture, Media and Sport.