On Monday 1 October 2018 all our students took part in a visit to Brookwood Military Cemetery in Surrey, which is the largest military cemetery in the UK and is maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC). Those buried represent all branches of service and all six of the Commission’s member governments: Australia, Canada, India, New Zealand, South Africa and the United Kingdom. In addition to the Commonwealth plots, the cemetery also contains French, German, Polish, Czechoslovakian, Belgian and Italian sections as well as a number of war graves of other nationalities, all cared for by the Commission. This trip falls within the wider context of activities to commemorate the centenary of the end of World War I.
During the visit the students were given a tour of the cemetery by an official guide of the CWGC who shared personal stories of men and women who died in the First and the Second World Wars. Each had been carefully chosen to shine a light on the human cost of fighting. Brookwood Military Cemetery arose from the need to care for the unprecedented scale of World War I casualties. Behind every one of the headstones or names on a memorial to the fallen is a human story just waiting to be told. The educational purpose of the visit was to remind our students of the human cost of both World Wars, the sheer diversity of those who took part and the global nature of that sacrifice and remembrance today. Of particular interest was the determination of those who built this memorial site to treat all soldiers with equality, making no distinction on account of rank, race or faith. As a follow up to the visit, the students researched chosen names carved on the headstones on the CWGC online database to retrieve more information about the soldiers, the regiments they fought in and the communities they came from. Moreover, they showed great enthusiasm for creating a poster that will reflect their impressions, thoughts and feelings after visiting such an important memorial site.