Nov 28, 2018

A week at Shrewsbury International School in Bangkok

I recently spent a week at Shrewsbury International School in Bangkok giving talks and workshops to students. I last visited the school in 2013 and was heartened to view its continued growth and development over the past five years.

In the month prior to the armistice I worked in schools almost every day and have calculated that in that period I spoke to over 2,500 children. Most of these schools were local but I also spent two days at an international school in Toulouse. However, what I had planned for Shrewsbury was more ambitious.

History department – ready for Year 12 students and my talk on 1918

During my visit I spoke to children ranging in age from Year 6 to Year 13 (A-level). For Years 10 – 13 I was explaining how the Great War came to an end, the nature of open fighting on the Western Front and the deteriorating political and economic situation for the Central Powers. We also spent a lot of time focusing on the end of conflict and immediate post-war period during which soldiers were demobilised, returned home and picked up the pieces of their lives. Special focus was given to the psychological effect war had had on men and their reintegration back into civilian life. Whilst there was much focus on Britain I also spoke about the complex political and social feelings in Germany.

For 125 Year 9 students we had the ambitious plan of putting them into groups of six and letting them research the story of an individual soldier. I had chosen a dozen soldiers that I had previously researched, all of whom had a fascinating story. A number had been killed in the war or died of wounds whilst others had survived into old age. A couple were underage (which always strikes a chord with school children), some were officers, one was Canadian, one Australian and all but one had a surviving service or pension record from which interesting information could be gleaned.

Papers with individual soldier’s details ready for Year 9 research workshop

After a demonstration of researching a soldier from me the groups started work. It was a lively and fun workshop with much running around by me from table to table! Having conducted research for an hour each group was asked to present their findings to the room. Undoubtedly the workshop brought home the war’s personal nature against the horrific impersonal casualty figures.

I also had sessions with Year 9 English students looking at the wartime service of Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen, two of the most famous war poets, and how their wartime experiences shaped their writing. Much of this was based on my research and work for the BBC’s War of Words: Soldier Poets of the Somme. This was topped off with a creative writing class where students created their own war poetry.

I am looking forward to working with Shrewsbury International School again and would like to thank Stuart Howard (History) and Victoria Rotheram (English) for their assistance during my visit.

View down the Chao Phraya river with Shrewsbury International School in the foreground

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