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St Petroc's Youth (SPY) and Bodmin Way Youth Club Experience Splanna!

Bodmin Keep invited Bodmin Way youth club and SPY to interactive events as part of the Splanna project. Splanna inspires creativity, problem solving and promotes connection and wellbeing through the development of digital and heritage skills. Its aim is to help young people to live up to its name ‘Splanna’ in Cornish meaning ‘Shine’ in English.

On a tour of the grounds we heard about the Keep’s history and discovered a lot about the life of men who trained there. We saw the parade ground and a hatch to an upper floor where all the soldiers’ equipment was stored. Standing in a prison cell, we heard about soldiers being incarcerated for months at a time for stealing, getting drunk or going AWL. Reveille, played on a bugle, acted as the 6am alarm clock for the trainee soldiers and a bugle is part of a crest above the archway leading towards the mock-up trenches. Rats and lice were constant companions of the soldiers in the muddy hideouts. 10,000 lice were counted on just on one soldier! A whistle was blown, something the soldiers dreaded to hear, as it was the command to climb up the landers, over the top and into no man’s land.

Many soldiers turned to art to look after their mental health during the conflict. Amazingly the Keep has examples of soldiers’ art, as diverse as a little pocket teddy bear to a vase made out of ammunition shells. Other items include sketches, paintings, illustrated accurate maps, tapestry, sewing, metalwork such as ornaments, swords, pistols.

In this first session we met Jo Keenan the Learning and Participation Manager at Bodmin Keep and Sue Robinson, a local expert on the history of military medicine and a retired nurse. Their stories and experiences fascinated us and as the session came to an end we could have happily spent another hour listening to tales of the first world war as well as modern day warfare. Out of special effects make-up Sue expertly created wounds on us, making it look as if we’d taken a bullet to our hand. Medical treatment has improved, meaning soldiers don’t die from a bullet to their hand anymore, whereas in WW1 the patient would probably have died from blood loss or poisoning from the metal bullet.

We had great fun but quite rightly our guides reminded us of the trauma the soldiers went through. One 14-year-old lied about his age (as did other boys in WW1) and ended up going to war with adult men. One of our young people, who is 14, is pictured here with a photograph of the 14-year-old boy. His sister wrote to him to find out how he was only to receive her own letter back with the news that he had died in battle.

The Splanna project funding not only provided the two-hour event it also covered the cost of delicious, healthy food and other drinks and snacks that made us feel very welcome and special.

We are looking forward to four more Splanna sessions at the Keep in June and July, with one at Nantillio Woods, Newquay.

To join Bodmin Way Youth Club / SPY and get involved in the sessions at Bodmin Keep contact Barbara at

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1 Comment

Ryan Dawes
Ryan Dawes
Aug 26, 2022

loved this day

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