Post written by Tarini Tiwari, Grade 11
The First World War ended on the 11th of November, 1918. 99 years later, it is easy for us to forget the importance of it and the men who died. 1.5 million Indians fought over the course of the four-year war, and yet many Indians in today’s world are unaware of this and of their contribution. Each year, ‘Remembrance Day’ is held on the day the war ended in order to remember it and its impact on the world. Remembrance Day celebrations by British, French and Commonwealth nations generally have a hint of victory running through their proceedings, but we chose to hold an assembly that was commemorative of the Indian contribution to the war.
The assembly was, in every form, life-consuming. We would come in early, work through lunch and even have dreams about the war. Everything, from the scripts to the costumes to the dances and to the songs were arranged by the students, with the constant guidance of Mr. Darshan, Ms. Shalini and Mr. Gardner. The best part of creating an assembly was the amount that we learnt, for example, that Gabar Singh Negi’s wife, Satoori, wore her late husband’s Victoria Cross until the day she died.
We followed the format of a traditional memorial service, inclusive of ‘The Last Post’, the one-minute silence and the ‘Reveille’, but we also made it an opportunity for the audience to learn about the realities of the First World War. We started with some words from Mr. Gardner, and I then recited ‘In Flanders Fields’ by John McCrae. We then went into two plays that dramatised real Indian soldiers and their contributions to the war. I think that was the most interesting part for me, personally, as I found the stories so inspiring and full of emotion that it was a sort of honour to present them. This was followed by a dance performance that focused on the themes of war and peace, which was a refreshing change of pace from the solemn stories of the plays. Mr. Harris played ‘The Last Post’ and the ‘Reveille’ on the trumpet, which were, along with the minute’s silence, opportunities for everyone to reflect on the stories we told and the severity of the war.
It was quite stark to see how little some people know about Remembrance Day and the First World War. The most common question that I was posed was, ‘What is a poppy?’. This made us realise that we needed to spread awareness about everything to do with the war, so the assembly was designed to explicitly and creatively explain the war and its consequences to someone who may only know it by name. It was a relief when the assembly was done, but it was also strange to not have rehearsals with the other history students. I think this assembly was a great bonding experience between the students involved, and was also a chance for students and teachers alike to learn more about a war that shaped history.