Teachers dig up children’s playground in favour of First World War trenches

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A school has turned part of its playground into a replica First World War trench system that makes an incredible classroom for history lessons.

The scaled-down trenches allow pupils to get an authentic, hands-on lesson on what life and conditions were like for soldiers on the Western Front.

The 100ft by 50ft plot includes a mini network of 4ft deep trenches.

The narrow ditches have been shored up using wooden boards and sheets of corrugated iron, just like how they were built in the war.

There are two dug outs, latrines, a firing step and a first aid post.

Dozens of fake rats have also been scattered about the trenches along with replica Lee Enfield rifles and bayonets, spent ammunition and a period radio system.

The plot also has an area of no man’s land and fake barbed wire. A sound system playing recorded gunfire and explosions adds to the experience.

As well as being given educational talks in the trenches, students also take part in re-enactment demonstrations.

GCSE English literature pupils regularly have lessons in them to inspire them to learn about First World War poets like Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen.

And media studies students have also used the educational facility to film period drama videos.

The outdoor classroom is believed to be the first of its kind in the country and schools from miles around are now booking up paid visits to get a real feel of the award winning movie 1917.

The idea for it was the brainchild of Keith Grainger, the principal of Garth Hill College in Bracknell, Berkshire.

The construction of it was overseen by Cliff Mandville, the school’s site manager and self-confessed history buff.

It was funded by a Heritage Lottery grant of £10,000 as well as donations from the local council and rotary club.

Mr Grainger said: ‘The Trench Experience is a wonderful opportunity for pupils to make a strong connection with the past and engage in the remembrance of the First World War.

‘It allows students and visitors to walk through a realistic trench in order to gain an understanding of a soldier’s life at the front.’

Phil Healy, marketing and events coordinator at Garth Hill, added: ‘It has been built on part of our field on the edge of the site that wasn’t really being used.

‘The trenches have been dug at four foot deep which is ideal for the height of children.

‘We have no idea what life was like in the trenches in the First World War but this does give our students a bit of an insight.

‘We have tried to make it as authentic as possible and we think it is incredibly detailed.

‘It rained last week and it was filthy and muddy in our trenches but that is what it was like.

‘Yes you can read the First World War in a history book but we think this facility gives them some hands-on walk through experience.

‘When you get a group of students in the trenches and realise how tight and cramped it is it does give you some level of understanding.’

Garth Hill College, which caters for 1,300 pupils aged between 11 and 19, has received parties from other schools in the area for a visit.

They have put together a special teaching package for such visits but have not been given extra funding or resources to do so.

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