Digging Trenches to Commemorate WW1 at The Royal School | Love The Garden

Digging Trenches to Commemorate WW1 at The Royal School

Geoff Hodge's picture
By Geoff Hodge, Botanical Expert (BSc, MCIHort)

Digging the WW1 trench at The Royal SchoolTo commemorate the centenary of WW1, a team of more than 50 students, parents and teachers from The Royal School in Hindhead, Surrey, volunteered to create their own trench to understand and experience some of the conditions that the soldiers faced in the trenches during World War 1.

To help support their efforts, Joseph Bentley donated a selection of spades, forks, trowels and shovels from its range of garden tools, including the Joseph Bentley Apprentice range that are ergonomically designed for children and made to the same design standards as their full size adult tools.

For a proper authentic experience, all volunteers dressed in clothes that would have been worn at the time and tucked into hearty meals popular with soldiers, such as corned beef hash.  In just a day, the volunteers managed to dig a 15m (50ft) trench up to 1m (3ft) high - given there were miles of trenches dug during the war, some nearly 3m (10ft) high, it really drove home what it might have been like at the time.

Joseph Bentley spades

There was also a time for reflection with one of the girls playing The Last Post on her trumpet. Boys from the Senior School read poems and all the volunteers sung a song.

Joseph Bentley tools

The Joseph Bentley range is a true heritage brand, established in 1895, the tools are beautifully functional and well built, so they could well have been used on the frontline to dig the trenches in WW1.

Principal of The Royal School, Mrs Taylor-Gooby, commented: “We were incredibly impressed by the quality of the Joseph Bentley Apprentice tools and we would like to thank Joseph Bentley for its very generous donation. We did not appreciate that garden tools of this quality were available for children. The school is committed to helping children enjoy horticulture in all its forms. The Junior School has a small allotment for each class and a gardening club, so these tools will get plenty of use. In May each year, we hold a Grow for It event – a day dedicated to gardening and growing for under 10s.”

WW1 school exhibit

Hard at work digging the WW1 trench at The Royal SchoolThe school has created its own exhibit of authentic WW1 artefacts, kindly loaned by Nigel Hirst. Shell splinters, shrapnel balls and a metal heel plate from a soldier's boot were among the memorabilia that he had been given by archaeologists excavating WW1 trenches in Ypres in 2001. Spurred on by these treasures, the children took great pleasure in finding their own ‘artefacts’ while digging – one of which was a name badge saying HP Margaret Dickson. The children are now going to research who this lady is.

The day was a huge success and the school is intending to use the trench for many lessons throughout the Junior and Senior Schools.

Scotts Miracle-Gro supports schools with its annual RHS Chelsea Flower Show Challenge.


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