Hundreds of school children gather to learn stories of heroism that liberated Europe

Published on: Mon, 22/07/2019 - 11:17

School children learn stories of heroism

Almost 1000 young people from across the Midlands forged connections with the lives of British and Commonwealth soldiers last week at the Remember Together Youth Festival 2019. Running from 8 to 12 July, the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire offered schools a day of guided tours, self led activities and facilitated workshops which all built up to a closing Act of Remembrance. Funding from the Royal British Legion, the Arboretum’s parent charity, meant the unforgettable experience was provided free of charge to schools.

Developing on the success of last year’s inaugural Thank You Youth Festival, which looked at the radical social and technological changes bought about as a result of the First World War, this year’s festival focused on the liberation of Europe from Nazi rule by the alliance between Britain, the Commonwealth, the United States and the free armies of Europe in the Second World War. Students participated in a variety of exciting cross-curricular activities in the series of one-day learning events.

Children from twenty two schools immersed themselves in the Second World War; taking on the roles of code breakers, Special Operations Executive agents and parachute manufacturers as well as being inspired by the evacuees and veterans who visited the festival to share their personal stories.

Some schools took the opportunity to participate in the Vessels of Victory project, which is currently running at the Arboretum until 25 September. This artistic tribute commemorates those involved in Operation Neptune, the waterborne component of D-Day. Visitors can decorate one of the 6,939 wooden vessels, each representing an allied vessel involved in the operation, which will be planted in the Merchant Navy Wood. These symbolic tributes create a unique memorial among the trees while raising money to ensure the 150-acre site remains a place to facilitate reflection and foster pride in our country.

Aysha Afridi, Head of Heritage and Learning at the National Memorial Arboretum, said: “It was inspiring to once again see the enthusiasm of the next generation as they sought to get to grips with stories of heroism at our second ever Youth Festival. Our stunning location, home to almost 30,000 maturing trees and 380 memorials created the perfect learning environment away from the classroom where students embraced the freedom of nature as they tackled a series of challenging topics. We are sure that the experience will stay with them for years to come.”