Pupils taken back in time to WWI trenches

Pupils taken back in time to WWI trenches

Pupils taken back in time to WWI trenches

First published in News Bucks Free Press: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter

A WAR researcher donned his soldier’s uniform yesterday to take groups of enthralled youngsters back 100 years to life in the trenches.

Mike Willoughby, who has devoted much of the last decade to tracing the lives of soldiers listed on war memorials in the area, brought his extensive wartime treasure chest to Sir William Borlase’s Grammar School in Marlow

Over the next week, the historian will guide over 400 schoolchildren from across Marlow through what life was like for a First World War soldier on the front line.

And this morning it was the turn of Holy Trinity primary in Marlow, which helped organise the installation at Borlase.

Mr Willoughby said: "There is plenty of places kids can go to learn about World War One, but I show them what soldiers ate, what they wore, what they experienced and what they were at risk from.

"In terms of weapons, I try to turn tone down the blood and guts, but if a child asks, the teachers are usually happy with me to tell them the truth.

"The kids love it, they are brilliant. It is their enthusiasm and their questions that make it so worthwhile and if they go home and find a family connection then their enthusiasm builds.

"We rely on them to keep the commemoration going. It’s amazing the number of names on memorials that no one has ever looked into."

Mr Willoughby began researching stories behind WWI soldiers nearly ten years ago after discovering his grandfather’s younger brother died at the Battle of the Somme in 1916.

Since then, he has assembled a large collection of war paraphernalia, including a deactivated rifle, which he uses to bring a soldier’s plight in the trenches to life.

The historian is involved with Henley-based remembrance group Lest We Forget, which ploughs its efforts into bringing lost soldiers’ lives to light.

And the group’s work will be collected in a new book, ‘Bringing Them Home’, to coincide with the outbreak of the conflict later this year.

Pupils from Holy Trinity, Foxes Piece, St Peters and Spinfield schools will attend Mr Willoughby’s talk this week, with younger Borlasians also receiving the same history lesson.

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