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  • Writer's pictureESSEX FREE PRESS

EPS students honour legacy of fallen soldiers

by Adam Gault

This year’s Remembrance Day took on a special significance for many as it marked 100 years since the signing of the Armistice of 11 November 1918, which ended the First World War.

Looking to explore deeper into the human element of the Canadian soldiers involved in the Great War, Essex Public School grade six teacher, Les Mepham, had his students engage in a special class assignment. Each student researched a fallen Canadian soldier, who had lost their lives in August of 1918, during the dying days of the war. This was a part of their social studies curriculum.

“I made a question page for [the students] to scour through the soldiers personnel file that’s listed on the National Archives website, and learn a little more about their soldier,” Mepham explained of the student’s initial research process.

After completing the question page, which asked the students to describe some personal details of the soldier they were researching, such as their profession, appearance, and hometown, the students then made a small tribute, in the form of a written note, thanking the soldier, and Royal British Legion cross and poppy. Mepham will take the items to each respective soldier’s grave in France this coming summer, as he did for a similar assignment two years ago.

“Our focus this year is on a group of soldiers who lie in a very small cemetery about an hour-and-a-half northeast of Paris,” Mepham said of the Beaucourt British Cemetery, located close to the site of the Battle of Amiens, which marked the beginning of the Hundred Days Offensive that led to the defeat of Germany and the Central Powers. “It contains 84 graves altogether, 72 of which are Canadian, and these are mostly young soldiers who lost their lives at the beginning of [the Hundred Days Offensive].” Students gained a greater appreciation for the human element of war throughout the assignment, with many coming to realize the solider they researched was an everyday person, put into extraordinary circumstances.

“It’s interesting to find out about the person, if they were married or not, and what they went through to go over there,” grade six student, Reese Farough, said. “They sacrificed themselves so we can have the freedom we have today. Never forget the people that fought in war, because they didn’t have to do it, but that volunteered to do it so you can have the life you do today.”

Bringing life to the names we find on cenotaphs and military headstones was a key objective of Mepham’s class assignment, who said the personal element of war is often lost when looking at the statistical numbers of past battles and conflicts.

“When we look at losses in war, we often see numbers. But every one of those numbers is somebody’s son, it’s potentially somebody’s father or uncle or brother, and that makes it real,” Mepham explained. “That I think hits home a whole lot more than reading numbers or seeing statistics, or just reading an article about war. It’s real, it makes it seem real.” 


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