Puketaha School students took part in a recreation of the Battle of Mons last week when Major Blunder dropped by. He writes about the educational (and fun) event for Number 8 Network.
“AS WITH any performance the crowd was gathered, 110 Year 5-8 students of Puketaha School in this instance; sitting, listening, absorbing, raring to get to the exciting bit – the Pacifist Battle.
But first we had exercises. How to stand, turn, form column and line, all in military style, all with a surprising crispness. And then the splitting off of blocks of students to represent the belligerent powers at the very start of the Great War, the young man chosen to represent the Ottoman Empire’s 200,000-strong army looked decided nervous, as did the young chap sitting down to represent Britain’s 120,000 professional soldiers. Especially when they looked at the size of the German horde in one corner of the hall – 19 children in all. Certainly a simplistic demonstration, but one that sticks in the mind.
And then onwards into the body of the presentation on the Battle of Mons: Imperial forces outnumbered 4:1, out gunned in artillery 2:1; the carnage levelled amongst the Germans by devastatingly accurate rapid rifle fire; the courage of men standing their ground to the very last; the two VCs awarded on the first day. All the makings of a great and tragic story, with more bite than any televisual drama, because it happened to real people.
And then an exercise in mathematics; ‘Dying by the Numbers’. Every child takes a number at random, two pairs are placed at either end of the stage as machine gunners and told to “sweep the room” once we start.
The scene is set, the feelings described, the fear, the dread, the trepidation, a call of “Fix Bayonets!” and then “Over the Top!” and they move forward, slowly. A number is called and the first lot drop where they stand, a whole swathe in the front rank.
The next number and it starts to get very real as they advance, the third number and then “16!” as the trench mortar round wipes out the left-hand side of the hall. Those still standing on the right press on, but the looks on the faces are something to see; a mixture of dawning realisation, a little disbelief, some shock. Post-battle 2/3 rise as wounded and assemble at the dressing station, only to have another third drop from their wounds. Point made, they regroup in their imaginary trench, only to receive a “21!” – high explosive shell.
Certainly not a PC approach to discussing the Great War, for which one makes no apology; the material is all about respect.
The students themselves did exceptionally well, the best one has seen so far. They endeavoured to answer one’s own questions with what they already knew, and asked good questions themselves.
And to cap it all they performed admirably in the Pacifist Battle to follow, where the plucky Belgians took no nonsense from the German Sausages – the insults may require work, but their verve and enthusiasm was unquestionable.
Well Done, Puketaha School! A pleasure as always.”
– Alf’s Imperial Army, Northern Command, Fifth Waikato Dragoons Regiment, Officer Commanding Major Blunder
To find out more about the Battle of Mons, click this.
And click this handy link to view a slide show of the Battle of Hastings (at Puketaha School!)