High school student Dylan Ferris pictured in the trench he built in his backyard, in Edmonton Alta, on Thursday March 29, 2018. Ferris is spending 24 hours in a muddy trench in his parent’s yard, all for a social studies project. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

Teen sleeps in WW1 trench for social studies project

The idea is to recognize the ordeal soldiers faced and understand the sacrifices they made

Dylan Ferris decided to dig a little deeper for his high school social studies project, which he’s dedicated to the lives of soldiers in the First World War.

Ferris isn’t just writing a report. The 15-year-old has built a trench in his backyard complete with sandbags, has borrowed a replica uniform and is even sleeping below ground in freezing temperatures.

The idea is to recognize the ordeal soldiers faced and understand the sacrifices they made.

“My mum wasn’t too keen on it because it’s her vegetable garden, or it was her vegetable garden. Now it’s a hole,” explained Ferris, who said his mother insisted he come inside Wednesday night when the mercury dipped below -10C.

As an air cadet, Ferris visited the Canadian National Vimy Memorial in France last year for a ceremony to mark the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge.

But getting his mother to agree to a trench in the yard wasn’t easy. His chief tactic, he explained, was to propose even more outlandish and dangerous projects so the trench would seem tame by comparison.

Among them was a home-built airplane. A flame-thrower was another idea he pitched.

Next, he had to excavate the dirt. The ground was frozen solid, so help was required from a family friend with a propane heater. Together, they used tarps and pallets to construct a covering to make the ground soft enough to dig.

For the clothes, the Loyal Edmonton Regiment Museum loaned Ferris a uniform from the First World War that they allow museum visitors to try on.

Even with the cold temperatures there’s mud everywhere — on the steps to his house, on the landing and in the garage. Ferris cleans it up, but everything quickly gets dirty again.

It’s spring break from school right now and Ferris said his plan is to attempt 24 continuous hours in his trench.

He spent six hours in it Sunday night, bundled in a vintage sleeping bag and using a sandbag as a pillow. His friend slept nearby in a camper van, and for added authenticity, lobbed mudballs at Ferris to encourage him to keep his head down.

Ferris said he enjoys reading in the trench during the day. But he said it’s eerie at night, giving him a glimpse of what soldiers endured a century ago.

“I don’t think it can be truly representative, but when I was in there, there’s a lot of truth to the war songs, ’Oh, I want to go home,’ and ‘Long Way to Tipperary,’” he said.

“It’s cold, it’s wet, it’s miserable and, you know, the house is right there. It’s just a longing for home, I guess. Even when it’s right there.”

Ferris said he hopes to get a good mark on his project. He may even still build an airplane this summer.

“I think the trench will stay there until my mum says I want my vegetable garden back and I have to fill it in.”

Rob Drinkwater, The Canadian Press

Just Posted

Police seek potential victims of bad ‘nanny’

Saanich Police seek potential victims of Johnathon Lee Robichaud from Central Saanich

Seeing double, the trials and tribulations of twins

BIG READ: Three Vancouver Island mothers share their experiences with multiple births

First day of fall: what you can look forward to in Greater Victoria this season

Food, festivals, pumpkins and more are coming your way

Needles found at Goldstream campground in Langford

West Shore RCMP respond to several calls for service associated with homeless campers

Oak Bay firefighters help fund new Monterey playground

Sausage Fest cash handed over to Monterey PAC

Neighbours fear impact of tent city residents on Goldstream Provincial Park

Langford residents opposed to campers voice concerns at campground gate

B.C. premier apologizes for removal of 1950s totem pole at Canada-U.S. border

First Nations say pole was raised at Peace Arch but removed to make way for tourism centre

5 things to do this weekend in and around Greater Victoria

Sooke Apple Fest returns, Saanich lights up with lantern festival and anarchists unite for downtown book fair

Tornado touches down in Ottawa and Gatineau, Que.

Environment Canada says cars and homes have been damaged by severe thunderstorms and high wind gusts

An unexpected sight: Bear spotted eating another bear in central B.C.

Cheslatta Carrier Nation Chief finds bear eating another bear’s carcass

RCMP confirm death of missing BC teen Jessica Patrick

No details on cause were given. Case is under criminal investigation and police are asking for tips.

CUTENESS OVERLOAD: 2 sea otters hold hands at the Vancouver Aquarium

Holding hands is a common – and adorable – way for otters to stay safe in the water

B.C. teen with autism a talented guitarist

Farley Mifsud is gaining fans with every performance

Most Read