CHILDREN from Goddard Park Primary School donned historical hats to commemorate 100 years since the Great War started.

Six pupils from Year 1 gathered at Wharf Green yesterday around a giant class-made poppy to round off two weeks of learning about the First World War. The event was part of a host of activities in Swindon’s Great War Initiative, made possible by a £10,000 Heritage Lottery Fund grant. Rebecca Rowland, the BID manager for inSwindon, helped to secure the funding. “The HLF grant will help us to commemmorate an historical event that should never be forgotten,” she said.

The military gear was supplied by local historian Mark Sutton, who has collected First World War memorabilia from a young age. I've always had a natural interest in the military,” he said. “My granddad gave me medals from the Second World War when I was about six, as he looked after German prisoners of war.”

Mark's impressive collection, gathered from auctions and local families, links to Swindon soldiers who fought in the war. He estimates that he has 5,000 photos, as well as uniforms, diaries, letters, and medals. “The letters are the most poignant,” he said. “Especially from the ones who didn't make it home.”

Part of Mark’s passion involves going into schools in the area to teach children about the war, using his collection to get them involved.

“I'm not afraid to let the kids touch or wear the items. I don't want them to be hidden away,” he said. Goddard Park Primary School, in Park North has been particularly involved, with the war theme carried across all subjects and year groups. Teacher Jo Truscott said: “We dug a trench on the school field. We also made paper poppiesthe children could write messages on, and hung them in trees on either side of the trench. “There was a First World War-themed bake sale, and a choir singing war songs.The children have enjoyed it. It’s a part of their history, so it's important they get to know about it.”

Dr Mike Pringle, the organiser of Swindon In The Great War, which hosts commemoration events, said Swindon’s rail network played an important part in the 1914-18 war, as the majority of British troops passed through the town.

Tomorrow marks 100 years since the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand’s death, which triggered the war. The town centre will host a week of commemoration from August 4 to August 9, including a street party, films on the Big Screen and re-enactments and exhibitions. Goddard Park’s memorial poppy tree will be on display on the second floor of the Brunel Centre.