Peace Field Project - Messines, Belgium 13th - 15th December 2018
Five students from the 6th Form have just returned from a successful residential visit to Belgium.
Wyvern school has signed up to a Peace Field Project organised by the National Children’s Football Alliance – in fact we are the first SEN school in this country to have joined. Its purpose is to commemorate WW1 and the centenary and to celebrate peace by giving schools the opportunity to twin a designated area of their playing field with Flanders Peace Fields, the site of the Christmas Truce. In the week leading up to Christmas 1914, groups of German, British and allied soldiers stopped fighting to sing festive songs. Some soldiers on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day ventured in to “No man’s land” to exchange gifts and to play games of football.
Students shared a room at the Peace Field Hostel and, over the course of a couple of days, were given guided tours of a number of Commonwealth War Memorials and trenches by Ernie Brennan, a representative from the Children’s Football Alliance. They also attended the Last Post, a nightly service that has been conducted at Menin Gate every night, 365 nights a year since the end of WW1.
On the first full day at Messines, students signed a football and placed it at the site of the Christmas Truce. They were shown how close the British and German trenches were and they visited the field where the Truce took place, now marked by just a simple cross. Later that day, students unveiled the Wyvern School plaque at a Peace Field football pitch, twinning us forever with that site.
On the final morning, Wyvern school played Bruges SEN team. Both teams swapped presents at the start of the match, just as the soldiers in 1914 had. Wyvern gave Bruges a signed school shirt and they gave us their club flags. Philippe, the Bruges coach, presented us each a small clay sculpture. In total there were 600, 000 sculptures commissioned, one for each person – civilian or soldier – who died in Belgium between 1914-18.
The opposing team were a couple of years younger, and, without being asked, our students showed a real and intuitive generosity of spirit by playing kindly and shouting words of encouragement to the opposing side. It was still a competitive game, with the younger team being completely unafraid of the older boys, and tackling with determination. The final score was 10-6 to Wyvern.
We sang, or at least attempted to sing, ‘Silent Night’ in four different languages and finally our students signed another football which was placed at a memorial at the hostel. David Ramzan and Philippe signed a Peace Declaration and we have pledged, in the near future, to play a game of football on our school site in the spirit of friendship and humanity of the original truce.
The students were wonderful ambassadors for the school and David, Darren and I couldn’t have been prouder.