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The Second World War in Burton and surrounding areas

Artwork created as part of the projectSchool Details: Abbot Beyne School, Burton upon Trent Staffordshire

The project was led by the History Department with 170 Year 9 pupils.
All year 9 pupils were involved in workshops with veterans from the Second World War. Approximately 50 pupils took part in a visit to Manchester Imperial War Museum and completed independent research on different aspects of war. All pupils from Y7 – 10 contributed to the memorial.


  • To understand the different experiences people had during the Second World War through interviewing local members of the community who were involved in the war
  • To research the role of Empires of the empire through evidence gained at the Imperial War Museum, Manchester and from our Asian community
  • To present the information learned through ICT, pictorial and written evidence
  • To encourage pupils to develop their investigation skills through the impact of the Second World War
  • On local people, local areas and the involvement of the British Empire
  • To enhance and enrich pupils understanding of the Second World War

Project Activities

Pupil examining a gas mask
Pupil examining a gas mask

Pupils in Year 9 History lessons had been studying World War II. In July eight Second World War veterans came to school. The veterans had a variety of different experiences including their experiences of life at home, life in the wrens, life at sea and life in the empire. All Year 9 pupils were taken off timetable for the morning and were able to meet the survivors. Pupils listened to their experiences, studying primary sources such as maps, letters, photographs and postcards. Pupils were able to ask questions and all of their understandings of the Second World War were improved. The interviews were recorded on Dictaphone and are now stored as a future reference.

Fifty pupils took part in a visit to Manchester Imperial War Museum. The aims of this were to develop research skills and identify different aspects of war. These included life at war, technology and the war, refugees and children, rationing, the role of the empire and the legacy of war. Pupils had to choose one aspect of war and design a fitting memorial. Part of the memorials contained poems, statements and images.

All pupils from Y7-10 completed a fixed memorial made up of poppies, poems and words of reflection based upon their understanding of World War II.


All pupils from Year 9 valued the experience they gained from veterans and were able to ask varied questions. Due to the range of experiences and ages of the visiting veterans all pupils were able to gain an understanding of the diversities of the experiences of war.

Pupils engaged in project
Abbot Beyne Pupils engaged in project

Pupils concluded that depending on who you were, where you lived and how old you were dramatically affected the experience one had. One of the veterans who was a wren during the war spent the whole time she was in Sri Lanka in a hospital bed, yet her sister who was also a wren in Sri Lanka had a more frightening experience.

The pupils follow up work highlighted how much the presentations by the veterans had affected them and they were then keen to ask more questions. Fortunately the talks were recorded on Dictaphone so pupils were able to refer back to what had been said. This information has now been included on to the school system and will be use in future History lessons as oral evidence.

The visit to the Imperial War Museum affected pupils in a different way. They were able to research individuals using primary sources an exercise which is not always available to schools. Pupils then completed follow up work in lessons and presented their chosen research project to the rest of their class. All pupils who took part in this visit took part in a master class History workshop after school and were able to decide on what would be a fitting memorial for the school to do as a memorial to the 60th Anniversay of the end of the second world war.

Pupils work has been presented in the whole school assembly which involves the old boys from the school, some of whom are veterans of the Second World War. Ex pupils who fought in the War were researched and their names used as part of the remembrance service. The final piece of work is currently being displayed in the Schools Art Gallery (Nov and Dec 2005). It will then be moved to an exhibition in the town centre (January 2006). It will also be displayed at the Kingston Centre in Staffordshire. After which the memorial will be moved to its permanent display area in the History Department.