Guardians of the Past

4th July 2014

On Friday 4th July Hautlieu hosted an island wide schools event for Gifted and Talented pupils to help them understand more about the causes and events of WWI and in particular their impact on Jersey and its people.
The day started with an address from Professor Matthew Cragoe of the University of Sussex who gave an excellent lecture on the origins of the outbreak of war in 1914, the extent of German blame for this event and the role of other countries, notably France and Russia, in contributing to the tensions of 1914. The students then broke into different groups and each were given a different theme to explore in their workshops (more details attached). Some student explored moving contemporary sources from real islanders and gained a greater understanding of the role of the archives in preserving Jersey’s unique heritage. Others engaged in a challenging code-breaking activity that led on to a practical experiment with early rocketry and calculating angles and trajectories. More creative students were able to compose a piece of music using digital software, write poems and short stories about the experience of war or produce a piece of artwork reflecting on the sacrifices of the dead, wounded and families left behind. At the end of the day a small group also performed a moving and evocative dramatic production.

 The session ended with a recorded address from local historian Ian Ronayne on the impact of the war on the Channel Islands. Students gained a greater appreciation of the impacts of manpower shortages, particularly as French labourers returned home, in the potato industry as well the tensions that arose between rural and urban parishes over equality of sacrifice.

 The day was challenging on an academic and an emotional level for many students and all left with a sense that the centenary of 1914 marked a significant event in local, national and international history and a greater appetite for following the numerous planned events that will characterise 2014-2018.