A day in the life of a D Day soldier in 1944

Year 11 boys spent a day at Bradford City working on a piece of their English coursework.  For their ‘Writing to Describe’ coursework the boys had to imagine that they were a soldier who took part in the D Day landings in Normandy, France on June 6th 1944. 

In order to inspire them and fuel their imaginations, the morning was spent listening to two speakers who came to tell them about life as a soldier.  Colour Sergeant Steven Lynch from the Army Training Centre in Bradford spoke about how training for the men in 1944 was very different to that of a modern day soldier.  He brought in his kit bag and webbing to demonstrate how physically demanding it would have been for the soldiers and he spoke about the difficult experiences the men would have had.  Darren Foster, a retired Coldstream Guard also came to talk to the boys and recounted his experiences serving in Iraq and Northern Ireland.  Both men provided the students with a wealth of insight and new vocabulary for their writing.  After they had watched the 20 minute long opening section of the film ‘Saving Private Ryan’, the boys spent the afternoon creating their descriptions. 

When asked about the day, two boys commented:

Today was a very good experience and I was very grateful to be here.  I enjoyed completing my coursework but also learning about the life of a soldier in the 1940’s.  I have achieved a lot today and am pleased I had this opportunity.”

“I thought today was a great experience as not only did we hear about soldiers’ real life experiences but we managed to do a piece of coursework in one day.  Listening to the soldiers really helped us as it gave us an inside picture about what it is like on a battlefield and what emotions are going through your body.”

The boys’ descriptions of D Day were vivid and emotional describing in some depth the horrors of D Day.  Here is a brief selection of their opening lines:

Proud and raring to go, I was so excited to be doing something that I had trained so hard for.  I was about to fight for my country and knew what an honour it was.  But then, it kicked in.  The anxiety, the nerves. I began thinking: what if I die?

Dread.  The only emotion showing on the faces of my comrades was fear.  All of us were paralysed with fear, as still as statues yet proud to serve our country.  I will never forget that perilous day, a day where so many fell and where we knew only terror and devastation. 

As I entered the graveyard for the first time in many years, I was met with the sight of the bright, white headstones of my comrades.  The headstones hadn’t aged, but I had.  As I thought back to that day in 1944, I could still not believe what we went through: what was lost but also what was achieved by so many.

All the boys produced work of a high standard during the day and they should all be very proud of their achievements. 

CSgt Lynch had this to say:

"I would first of all like to thank you for the invitation to your School event, I am so happy that the students found the presentation helpful. I was very impressed with the students, they behaved impeccable throughout the event. They interactive well and asked appropriate  questions. Over all I thought the hospitality  at the event was outstanding and I would be honoured if I was invited back to attend any future events".