Learning all the lessons of war

Kingsfield School pupils at Chatteris
Kingsfield School pupils at Chatteris

We will remember them. It’s a message that children from Kingsfield Primary School in Chatteris have taken to heart in a big way - and they are providing an inspiring example for others to follow during next year’s First World War centenary commemorations.

The 47 pupils from the school’s Year 6 are playing a leading role in all the town’s Remembrance activities this year.

Chatteris soldiers

Chatteris soldiers

Last Saturday they children were at the heart of the Royal British Legion’s Remembrance Concert in St Peter’s Church, performing readings, poems and songs. This weekend they will be taking part in the Remembrance Sunday parade, where they will place a wreath by the war memorial, and they will also be part of the two minutes’ silence there on Monday, the official Armistice Day.

Later they will place crosses with poppies at the graves of all those killed in the war who are buried in the local graveyards.

It is all part of their work on “Chatteris Remembers”, a special project that has won a £34,700 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. It aims to highlight the lives of all the people from the town who died in the conflict and are commemorated on the town’s war memorial.

The children have also stitched together an impressive patchwork that is the centrepiece of the annual Royal British Legion display in the window of Maxey Grounds estate agency.

Made up of squares commemorating individual soldiers, it sits alongside a striking photograph of the 11th Battalion, the Suffolk Regiment, known as “the Cambridgeshire Pals Battalion”, which included a contingent from Chatteris.

The 11th Suffolks suffered devastating losses on the first day of the battle of the Somme in 1916. Within a few hours, 691 of the 850 in the battalion were either killed, missing or wounded. Six soldiers from Chatteris are known to have died on that day.

Rhys Davies, one of the teachers leading the project, said: “The children have got very involved and done some great work already. It has really brought home to them what local people went through. We’ll be carrying the project on through the year – and maybe all our activities will give other people ideas for things they could do, too.”

Rachel Fuller, development officer for the Heritage Lottery Fund East of England, said: “This community project is enabling young people to explore an important part of the heritage of Chatteris. With the Centenary approaching, we’re keen to hear from other groups in Fenland with project ideas that involve people in learning about the many different aspects of the First World War.”

Gordon Phillips, project coordinator, said: “We have gained a great deal of knowledge so far. We would still like to hear from anyone with stories, photographs, letters or other information on Chatteris soldiers during the war. Email chatterisremembers@gmail.com or call 01354 692323.”