A PRIMARY school in York has dug deep to replicate life in the trenches of the First World War.

A 30 metre-long channel has been excavated at Lord Deramore’s School in Heslington as part of an ambitious project to construct a replica war-time trench as part of a series of events commemorating Armistice Day.

Though not quite as deep as the originals, the trench sides are shored with rough-sawn planks and sand-bags, its floor is muddy, and the recreation of No Man's Land in front is pitted by shell-holes and crossed by a coil of imitation barbed-wire.

The trench ends at a sunken bunker which the children will be using for outdoor classes, including cooking authentic war rations on an outdoor stove.

Head teacher, Sheena Powley, said: “We are trying to bring history alive for the children.

"Obviously we can’t recreate the true horror of life in the trenches. No child could cope with that. But we do want them to gain a deeper understanding of the conditions people had to endure a century ago. Indoor replica trenches are interesting, but they are clean, dry and warm: ours has a very different feeling which the children have really responded to.

"Many of the parents have found the replica very evocative and moving, too, especially since the children planted felt poppies in No Man’s Land on Armistice Day. We hope that an understanding of the past will represent our best hope for avoiding future wars. ”

The section of front line ‘fighting trench’ was designed by Al Oswald, an expert from the University of York’s archaeology department who is also a parent at the school. It is based on a War Office military fieldwork manual that was in use during the Great War.

The construction work was done by Steve Danby, another parent at the school who is also Director of Playscheme, a York-based company which designs and builds playgrounds throughout the UK.

Mr Oswald said: “Filled-in First World War practice trenches are still visible on Walmgate Stray at the back of Fulford Barracks and we have walked the whole school over there, not just to show the children real-life remains, but also to show them how much of the landscape that the children know was created by the War.

"People tend to overlook the fact that the allotments were established in 1918, and that the general public only gained full access to the common land in the wake of the war, in recognition of the enormous sacrifices the whole population had made.”

Mr Danby said: “We enjoyed building the trench and making it look authentic. But when we finished, we suddenly found it really sobering experience, looking at what we had made. Hopefully, the children will begin to understand the awfulness of war too.”

  • BUDDING young writers are being urged to put pen to paper as The Press launches its schools’ poetry competition.

The contest aims to help commemorate the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War and we are appealing to all secondary schools in York to get involved.

The competition will be judged by a panel of experts, and the winner will receive the latest iPad.

The top ten poems and the including the overall winner will be published in The Press. To enter go to http://www.yorkpress.co.uk/ww1poetry/