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Mildenhall College Academy revives First World War tradition

Mildenhall College Academy takes pupils on a unique journey to learn some of the untold history of the First World War

Posted by Stephanie Broad | March 02, 2016 | School life

History pupils from year seven to 12 at the academy, part of Academy Transformation Trust, recently visited Belgium to visit Talbot House, near Ypres. The UK armed forces rented the residence from a Belgian businessman and turned it into a club that all British soldiers could visit to escape the horrors and stresses of being on the front line.

Talbot House was a unique place where all military personnel abandoned rank upon entering. Soldiers could chat, have a cup of tea, play chess, read books – it even had a chapel.

The trip was organised by teachers Richard Kerridge and Sacha Cinnamond from Mildenhall College Academy’s history department, but included four other schools in the region as well. The aim of the trip was to ‘de-bunk’ some of the myths or untold stories from the First World War.

Pupils explored Talbot House and learned of the importance of this special place, including the ‘Happy Hopper’ cabaret shows the soldiers performed for locals in the adjacent hop barn.

In December 2016, Mildenhall pupils will have the once in a lifetime opportunity to travel back to Belgium and recreate the atmosphere of Talbot House in its heyday, when they will be allowed to use the house and hop barn to stage their own ‘Happy Hopper’ show!

Richard Kerridge, Mildenhall’s Humanities Faculty Leader, explains: “As part of bringing these lessons to life and as part of the centenary of the First World War, we are going to work with pupils to plan a show and to re-create the atmosphere of Talbot House during wartime.

“We are lucky to have been invited to ‘take over’ the whole of Talbot House and the barn this December, dressing up as soldiers from the time and serving tea, moving about the house, playing chess or reading, just as soldiers from the time would have done. 

“The students are also very excited about organising and starring in their own Happy Hopper production! We have already had a few volunteers and suggestions for some of the acts and we are going to invite parents to make the journey with us and be a part of the audience.”

“We want to tell pupils the stories that never get told and encourage them to look beyond what they are normally taught about history.”

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