This is the recording of our Armistice Day assembly. It is one of the most important days to our school when we remember those ordinary people who gave up so much to give us the opportunities we have in school today. We also think about how we can make the world a better place as we grow up and begin to change the world ourselves. As children we are not just the future but this our present too and we will not forget what has gone before so we do not repeat the mistakes of the past.
History is full of caricatures of people who really existed but we find out about through stories and significant events. We think of Henry VIII as an overweight, over-bearing king who destroyed much of England’s history during his reign. What we often forget is that in his early reign he was forthright, strong and decisive. We think of Charles I only in terms of his dethroning and eventual execution not of the man who stood up for what he believed to be right and would not yield in the face of overwhelming opposition. We remember Winston Churchill as the gregarious cigar smoking, enigmatic leader who drove British troops forward with articulate and inspirational oratory not as the man who made poor decisions about troop deployment in the First World War and sent many to their deaths. It is so easy to look at historical events and just pick out the largest characters; the people who were in charge or who made important strategic decisions that changed the course of history to give us the world we live in today. On days like today, however, it is important not to focus on these people but to recognise the role that ordinary people played in extra-ordinary events.
In 1944 the British launched the infamous D-Day landings, as part of operation Overlord, on the beaches of Normandy. It was an important event in the context of the war and had far-reaching consequences but away from the importance of the victory was the human cost; 20 000 men, boys, women and girls lost their lives over just 50 miles of sand and 15 days. Whilst decisive in the end the operation did not go as planned. It was not supposed to take 15 days. The gunnery outpost should have been taken quickly but the allied troops were pushed back and had to build bunkers and foxholes in an attempt to provide some protection from the constant shelling of the beach. The youngest confirmed soldier on the beaches was just 14 years old, he was killed. In World War 1 the youngest British soldier was 13. Can you imagine in two years’ time our year 6 children shipping out to fight in a war knowing that they are likely to be killed within days? You are fortunate to live in a country free from tyranny, where the destruction of war is far from your doorstep and is a caricature from history or a story that flicks by on the news. In 2016 you would hope that this would be the experience of all children. Whilst there is no chance of children as young as 13 being enlisted to fight in the British forces now, we have seen the devastation wrought in places like Syria and Iraq, where wars still rage. Since 2014, warring sides have recruited younger children, it is estimated, some fighters are as young as seven. More than half of children recruited in cases UNICEF verified in 2015 were under 15.
‘The soldier above all others prays for peace, for it is the soldier who must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war’.
Today is one of the most important days in the school and in society. It is the day when we forget the cartoon characters and remember the real people who gave their lives to ensure that we can live free from war and tyranny. They are the people who must be remembered so that as you grow up and change the world you do so ensuring that the world is a better, fairer place that does not allow war to be the solution to problems – the cost is too great.
‘I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality… I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word’.
Martin Luther King, Jr.