Moving Armistice Centenary Commemoration at KEHS

On Friday 9th November, our school staged a moving Armistice Centenary Commemoration, focusing on the role of women and schoolgirls, particularly from the Birmingham area, in World War One. Most of the staff and pupils dressed in contemporary costume and experienced typical school activities of the period...

On Friday 9th November, our school staged a moving Armistice Centenary Commemoration, focusing on the role of women and schoolgirls, particularly from the Birmingham area, in World War One. Most of the staff and pupils dressed in contemporary costume and experienced typical school activities of the period. Some pupils did Swedish drill in place of PE and danced to ragtime music or sang the stirring songs of the time, including ‘Tipperary’ and ‘Keep the Home Fires Burning’. Others recreated the Western Front in a drama session with authentic-looking trenches, barbed wire, flares, darkness and ‘the fog of war’. Groups studied the History and Literature of the War and its aftermath, from the patriotic poetry of the day to the bleak disillusion of the War poets such as Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfrid Owen. The school’s poet laureate Nandini performed a thought-provoking poem specially written for the occasion and groups of girls wrote their own sonnets reflecting their personal impressions of the War. Lunch took the form of a street party at long tables in the dining hall with poppy bunting and typical posters of the period, urging women to ‘Waste not Want not’ and ‘Make do and Mend’. Even the menu was drawn from recipes developed by the renowned King Edward’s cookery teacher Florence George who, in 1917, wrote an influential wartime cookery book, amending her original recipes because of food shortages caused by the blockades. As a poignant reminder, a large commemorative mural was unveiled which was painted by recent school leavers showing the different roles undertaken by women in Birmingham, from bus drivers to scientists, while most of the men of fighting age were away at the Front. Among the local landmarks represented were the Birmingham University clock tower, Steelhouse Lane and the imposing building in New Street, which 100 years ago housed the school at the heart of the city. “I wanted this day to be a landmark in the school’s history, representing the past, present and future,” said Mrs Britton, the event’s organiser. “It’s the culmination of four years of commemorative events as I feel it’s beholden on us as a prestigious girls’ school to mark this extraordinary event in a truly striking way. In place of the roll of honour that so many boys’ schools have, our wonderful Art mural will be a permanent memento that we can look at for decades to come.”

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