Upper School Trench Project Recreates WWI Experience

Monday, March 19, 2018

The trenches dug by soldiers along the Western Front in World War I stretched some 600 miles across France, from the North Sea to Switzerland. The trenches dug by Heathwood Upper School students in the woods near the Middle School are not nearly that extensive, but they do in many ways accurately replicate the originals. And they were on display to the larger Heathwood community on March 17, when seven students and two faculty members staged the 2018 trench program, “Quiet on the Western Front.”

Visitors to the trench program were cast in the role of Canadian refugees being escorted out of German territory into a British encampment during a brief and tense truce between the two sides. Students played the roles of German and British soldiers, and German and British Red Cross nurses.

Once safely on the British side, visitors could tour the trenches, which include many of the same features as the originals, from cramped bunkers to storage sheds for food and munitions, to a crude outhouse. The attention to historical detail extends to period dry goods, rats (rubber, not real), and, after even a bit of rain, liberal amounts of mud.

The trenches have been constructed over the past three years by Upper School students under the guidance of history teacher John Adams. New construction occurs on a regular basis—the outhouse is the latest new building, and plans are in the works for a larger bunker that can sleep 6-8 people—but most of the work, says Mr. Adams, involves simply maintaining the trenches, just as soldiers had to do some 100 years ago.

The students who participated in this year’s trench project were Jackson Avery, Lexie Colwell, Alex Cox, Julia Lauterbach, William Scouten, Wallace Stuckey, Grayson Tanner. Faculty participants were John Adams and Nadege Keller.

Donations of approximately $100 from trench project visitors will be used to purchase additional historically accurate costumes and artifacts.

Students interested in participating in the trench project and anyone interested in donating should contact Mr. Adams at jadams@heathwood.org.