When I was young, I heard tales (and songs, like the one above) of the Great War from old people who had been young when they went out to the battlefields. The songs were resolutely cheerful, and curiously, the people I met, at least, had memories of the war that were almost entirely positive. They recalled being excited to be away from home, away from parents telling them what to do, glad they were doing a useful job instead of being stuck labouring on a farm or drudging in someone's house. They liked the cameraderie, the feeling of being caught up in something big, they travelled to new places, they met the opposite sex. None of them mentioned the sufferings and horrors which they must have seen. One old man even told me it had been the best time of his life.
I think now that they, like most teenagers, were just insulated from it by the self absorption and energy of youth, but it shows the value of first hand testimony when looking at the past from today's perspective. .
We have not tried to convey to the children how horrible war is, partly because some of them are refugees from countries at war, and know first hand, and partly because it is wrong to inflict horrors unnecessarily on children. But we did discuss how the people actually involved in going to war might have felt, and what reasons they would have heard both for and against. .
We had an interesting moment when Vanessa asked those who disapproved of going to war to stand aside. Nearly half the class did so and formed a group of "conscientious objectors." Within seconds, those who had chosen to "go for soldiers" had started to jeer and call "coward!" We stopped them, of course, but it was enough to persuade half the group of "conscientious objectors" that they should change sides and be with the soldiers after all.
It taught them something about peer pressure. And at the end, a few diehards decided to be conscientious objectors, despite everything. .