"A night in the trenches" : the French and Australian World War I fighting experience
On the occasion of the official visit to Australia by French president Emmanuel Macron (May 1 - 3, 2018), a ceremony in honor of those who fought in World War I took place at Sydney under French and Australian flags, on May 2nd. Students from French Secondary school named Edouard Branly in Amiens, from the French-Australian Telopea Park School in Canberra and from the Condorcet Secondary school in Sydney took part in the memorial event, during which the students from Amiens presented their school project “A night in the Trenches”.
The project began in September 2017, initiated by a cross-disciplinary team of teachers whose aim was to use a rather different educational approach to help the teenagers understand how the soldiers actually experienced the war. These past months, the students hence visited several museums, took part in workshops, practiced reading English texts in public and created soldier’s diaries.
They also listed all the Australian World War I memorial sites, and worked on the fighting experience of Australian soldiers. The idea was to get them to compare with the French war experience by listing the differences and similarities – the fighting, the homesickness, the boredom between two battles, dealing with mud and bad weather, etc.). Shared memories and histories between France and Australia has also been at the heart of their work.
After a whole year of studying, the students from Lycée Branly and Lycée de la Hotoie in Amiens actually spent a whole night in a former military trench at Machemont, about 6 miles North-East of Compiègne, France. Several activities were organized by the teachers to get the students experience the life of a World War 1 soldier – keeping watch, eating soldier’s food sitting around a fire, writing letters to their relatives, singing, etc. With of course no mobile phones.