On Monday 8 September Haileybury commemorated the centenary of the First World War with the official opening of a section of a replica trench within its grounds today.
At a ceremony attended by Haileybury pupils, alumni and members of the community, the trench was officially opened by the Rt Hon Mark Francois MP, Minister of State for the Armed Forces. It was constructed to mark the centenary of the First World War, in which Haileybury lost 589 pupils and staff. The trench was created to provide a vivid illustration of the experiences of the First World War for pupils of Haileybury and surrounding schools and is fitted with duckboards, fire steps and dugouts. A thousand children from local primary and preparatory schools will experience a sense of life in a trench at the Front during 36 visits scheduled from September to December.
Historian and military adviser on the film War Horse Andrew Robertshaw has designed the full-size replica trench section exclusively for the school with the help of history enthusiast and author Ryan Gearing.
Joe Davies, Master of Haileybury, said: “We are delighted that Rt Hon Mark Francois MP was able to join us in commemorating the centenary and the opening of our replica trench, a tangible symbol that will be shared not only with our pupils but also local schools. The construction of the replica trench is a grim echo of the school’s history, as Haileybury pupils during the war traded their physical education lessons for trench building training on the College’s grounds. Creating the Haileybury Trench Trail has allowed us to create a learning experience to connect to our past, and to explore personal accounts of the war both on the front line and at home.”
The trench has been conceived as part of the ‘Haileybury Trench Trail’, which uses the school’s archive material, architecture, chapel and memorials to trace Haileybury’s historic links with the First World War and reflect on the struggles and sacrifices made both at home and at the front during the conflict. Stories about the school’s notable alumni including future Prime Minister Clement Atlee as well as his brother Tom, who was imprisoned for his stance as a conscientious objector during the conflict, are featured as part of the trail.
Local radio station BBC Three Counties Radio covered the opening during their broadcast from the school on Monday. Listen again to some or all of the 3 hour programme: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p025gx6f