Five pupils’ brilliant model for WW1 project

2014-11-15 00:00

A POEM written nearly 100 years ago captured the imagination of five Grade 9 pupils and inspired them to make a model now on display in a museum.

The English syllabus poetry selection being studied by five pupils from Thomas More College in Kloof — Matthew Bartlett (15), Andrew Smith (15), Alex Boardman (14) Ciaran Mons (15) and Dominic King (15) — included the poem, Dulce et Decorum est, written during World War 1 by Wilfred Owen.

The poem describes a poison gas attack and the gruesome death of a soldier unable to get his gas-mask on in time. The ironic title is taken from a line by Roman poet Horace: “It is sweet and fitting to die for your country.”

“It was the poem in the collection we liked the most,” said Bartlett. “It’s very descriptive of what happened and it went against the grain in saying that it wasn’t a good thing to die for your country. It really captures the waste of life.”

Owen was killed just a few days short of the war’s end in November 1918.

Earlier this year Thomas More pupils were set a project to create a model reflecting an aspect of World War 1 to mark the centenary of the war’s outbreak in 1914.

While other pupils created trenches, bunkers and hospitals, the group of five friends came up with the idea of combining their favourite poem with a battlefield.

Dominic thought it would be a good idea to use the poem itself as part of the model in a book “with a stanza on each page”.

Alex’s father had a collection of models of German soldiers from World War 2, which the pupils adapted to look like British Soldiers from World War 1. “We used washers and clay to get their round helmets right,” said Alex.

The battlefield itself was made with layers of polystyrene, papier-mâché and plaster of Paris topped off with artificial grass.

The model took two months to build and proved to be the top marked project. The five then decided to donate it to a museum. “We didn’t want to leave it lying around and get broken,” said Matthew. And so they approached the Moths.

The Moths were so impressed each of the pupils were each presented with a Friends of Warrior Gate certificate and their model is now on display at the museum.


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