Ghosts of War – Armistice Day Poetry 2

After lunch, Ken and Lorna introduced two collections for the second part of our poems: things sent back from soldiers at the front or sent to soldiers at front.

The items returned from the front included items made by soldiers in the spare time, sometimes sent as presents, as well as items returned to the family after a soldier’s death. Pupils could choose to investigate:

  1. ID tags. 
  2. a spoon with a secret
  3. biplane model
  4. brooch
  5. lucky charm of baby
  6. photo of soldier, in a frame
  7. silk postcard
  8. souvenir salt cellar
  9. cuddly toy from Arthur to Millie
  10. death plaque

Meanwhile at the other end of the room, pupils could explore

  1. a brass Mary tin
  2. a carved bullet
  3. a brass button stick
  4. a gaming piece
  5. ID disc
  6. French phrase book
  7. a harmonica
  8. postcards
  9. hard tack
  10. Lord’s prayer token

Pupils were asked to consider their chosen objects, answer questions about them and use their thoughts for their second verses.

Finally, we all moved round to the Scottish National War Museum where Ken and Lorna showed us some items dating from the First World War, and explained some more details about them. Pupils were asked to identify the person connected with the artifacts, how they had been used and what happened to the person afterwards.

Lorna showed us a nurse’s uniform and pointed out that the red cross had turned pink. This was probably because the uniform had been washed and rewashed until the colour had faded, but there was another possibility. Some new nurses, with bright red crosses on their tunics would deliberately bleach the colour from the red crosses so that they looked older. This may have been to fit in, but perhaps also to calm the injured: an experienced nurse may have been more comforting to a wounded soldier as she would have known what she was doing.

Returning to the dungeon, sorry, Education Room, pupils wrote their third and final verses based on the objects in the museum. Ken read our original first verse, and pupils read their own second and third verses.

Finally we had to head home, clutching the beginnings of our poems and promising to share the final versions with the lovely Ken and Lorna.

Our thanks to the National Museums of Scotland, to the staff of Edinburgh Castle and especially to Ken and Lorna for a fascinating, creative, moving and extremely enjoyable day.

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