Students get ready for big performance

Just Regional
Jul 11, 2014 3 mins read

Year 9 students at Hellesdon High School went to war on Wednesday, July 9, as the school turned over its timetable for the day to look back at what life was like during the First World War.

The activity day was part of the school’s involvement in the To End All Wars arts educational project, a centenary commemoration of the 1914-1918 war led by Norwich Theatre Royal with funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund and Norfolk County Council, culminating in a performance on the theatre’s stage on August 1.

Hellesdon High School has focussed its studies on soldier and airman Robert Millington Knowles, of Taverham Hall, near Norwich, who served on the Western Front in the heat of trench warfare, before transferring to the Royal Flying Corps as a navigator where he was awarded the Military Cross for bravery.

During the day, students learned wartime songs such as It’s A Long Way To Tipperary and Pack Up Your Troubles In Your Old Kitbag, studied maps of the time to see which countries were involved and where the frontline was, turned their maths skills to having a go at code-breaking, and handled real artefacts from the war which included army uniform and boots, medical equipment of the day and a gas mask.

The handling activities helped the students understand more about Robert who was quite a character and who, before the war, had raced his Austin at Brooklands.  The Norfolk Regimental Museum has a book of letters sent by him to his family in which his upbeat ‘Bertie Woosterish’ phrases and attitudes make entertaining reading.

In a modern-day twist, Robert’s grand-daughter has linked up with the school and the theatre to help reveal more about his story, and the family is planning to attend the show and meet some of the students.

During the day the school also held a joint assembly with pupils from Arden Grove Infant and Nursery School in which both schools shared the performances they have been working on for the show.

The production will include six 10-minute performance pieces, from four schools, linked to case studies of Norfolk citizens who played their part on the frontline or home front. They will be interspersed with song and poetry. Oscar-nominated actor John Hurt will narrate the production live on stage and other renowned speakers will appear on film reading selected First World War poetry, including Lowestoft-based Olympic boxer Anthony Ogogo and former Norwich City footballer Darren Eadie.

To End All Wars, Friday, August 1, at 7.30pm. Tickets £5.50-£15. Box office 01603 630000.  For more information or to book online visit


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