In 2014 the Royal British Legion (RBL) launched a high profile remembrance campaign in the U.K. that captured the nation's imagination. Commemorating the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War, the events culminated with the 'Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red' poppy art feature in the Tower of London.
The Royal British Legion
Inspired by that success, the Paris branch hosted a meeting in early 2015 for teachers who had expressed interest in the idea of a working partnership with the RBL. Pertinent discussion subsequently enabled us to formulate a Remembrance project aimed at informing students of all ages about remembrance, explaining its importance and encouraging young people to express remembrance in a meaningful way.
Aimed at Anglophone schools and sections in Paris and its suburbs, 'Remembrance' is an invitation to pupils to express their impressions of the theme, using whatever medium they wish. The project has spread from the international schools to French schools in other areas of France. The Paris branch of the RBL has been overwhelmed by the enthusiasm of the teachers participating in the project as well the high standard of students' work submitted.
Teachers develop the project in different ways, with support from the Paris branch in the classroom work if requested. Entries are communicated to the RBL and exhibited at prestigious venues such as the British Embassy and the RBL's Remembrance service on 11th November in Paris' Notre Dame cathedral. Schools are invited to join the RBL for the Service of Remembrance on 11th November, as well as to other events such as the reanimation of the flame under the Arc de Triomphe on 4th August, commemorations at local memorials and events at the British Embassy.
The students' work has proved to be diverse and imaginative, ranging from artwork to writing, film and music. Participants in our project range in age from four to seventeen years old, and whilst most participants are Anglophone, we also welcome students learning English as a foreign language. A highlight of 2015 was the piano composition of a lycéenne from the Institut de Notre Dame in Saint Germain-en-Laye, composed in response to a study of the First World War and performed by her in Notre Dame in Paris on 11th November.
During the same service, two ten-year-old pupils read their own poems to the large congregation, following class work on the Second World War in the British Section of the Lycée International. The following year, the BBC recorded two pupils reading their poems, a recording that was subsequently transmitted in the Daily Act of Worship on Radio 4.
The project continues to run successfully. Schools can request a visit from the RBL to learn about remembrance and its importance. This enables pupils to better understand the sacrifice of those who have died or suffered through service in the Armed Forces. Remembrance is an integral part of the Royal British Legion's work, closely associated with fundraising that continues to respond to the needs of servicemen and ex-servicemen - and women - as well as their families. It is shared with the youngest generation who always enjoy learning the story behind the emblem of the poppy.