|Example of pupils’ displays
Their Past, Your Future
Windsor Park (CE) Middle School, Uttoxeter
Contact: Mrs Liz George
Details of those involved
32 year 7 pupils were directly involved in this project, however the whole school (approx. 500 pupils) were able to participate during our ‘Veteran’s Day’, when 5 veteran’s (Mr Frank Parker, Mrs Val Palmer, Mr Reg Goodwin and Mr & Mrs Kenneth Fielding) were invited in to school for the day to talk to pupils about their experiences. The year 7 pupils also prepared and led a whole-school assembly, which the veteran’s also attended and a drama re-enactment group (Day Star Theatre) performed to each year group.
Local press covered the event: Uttoxeter Advertiser, Staffordshire Newsletter, Uttoxeter Echo.
The overall aim was for pupils to interact with veterans from World War II in order to find out and understand more about the war and its consequences, with a view to recording and preserving their testimonies for future generations. In doing so, pupils also would consider how those people and events have affected young people today and what young people can do to contribute to a safer world for future generations.
More specific objectives were for pupils to learn about:
- The causes of World War II
- The effects of war on civilians, evacuees and those on active service
- The diversity of the people who served in World War II and, in particular, the role of women
- How life changed in the aftermath of war
A ‘Veterans’ Day’ was planned for 5th May 2005, however two Veterans, Mr (William) Kenneth Fielding (ex-Navy landing craft) and his wife, Mrs Freda Fielding, who was a child during the war were not available, so they came in to speak to a class of year 7 pupils for an afternoon on the 4th May 2005.
The pupils enjoyed talking to Mr and Mrs Fielding. Mr Fielding recalled how he was a 13 year old boy scout when war began and he joined the Home Guard at the age of 15 and then the navy when he was just 17 years of age. He trained on landing craft, but missed the D-Day landings because he was ill in hospital.
Mrs Fielding was only a young girl of ten when war began and remembers being very frightened in the bombing, wondering if she would still be alive in the morning.
|Mr and Mrs Fielding and pupils from Y7 Windsor Park School
The ‘Veterans’ Day’ on 5th May 2005 saw three veterans spend an afternoon talking to Y7 pupils in groups in the hall as part of a round-robin activity. The pupils took notes and recorded testimonies on oral CD and video. At lunchtime and break, pupils from the whole-school were able to visit the hall to look at displays created by Y7 pupils and to talk to veterans about their experiences as well as viewing their personal wartime memorabilia.
Mr Reg Goodwin (ex- army) thrilled pupils with his recollections of war combat, especially when describing how in 1940 that “…things really took off” as Germany launched its Blitzkrieg, or lightening war, and heavy bombing of British cities began. Mr Goodwin joined the army in late 1940 and took part in the D-Day landings on 6th June 1944, fighting his way through France and Belgium.
Mrs Val Palmer was a young girl of ten when she was evacuated from a little village, just south of London because German V1 rockets were crashing into the South Downs. She was lucky not to be separated from her six year old brother and were well looked after by a “lovely old couple”.
Mr Frank Parker (ex-RAF) was a member of the Trentham (Staffs) Volunteer Reserve before war broke out and joined the RAF proper before war was declared. His job was to load Lancaster bombers.
|Mrs Palmer (wartime evacuee) talking to Windsor Park pupils about the ‘Home Front’ display
Following these activities, the pupils did a lot of creative writing (poetry, letters and plays) and also undertook detailed research into aspects of life in Britain during the war. They presented their findings along with a drama about evacuees at a whole school assembly, which was also attended by three of the five war veterans.
A re-enactment theatre group (Day Star Theatre) also came into school and presented an interactive drama for the whole school called ‘Put That Light Out’, which gave more insight into life during World War II.
Before commencing this project, the majority of pupils only had a very basic knowledge of World War II and did not really know how difficult life had been for both those in the armed forces and those working on the Home Front, as well as for the ordinary citizens. One pupil, (Hayley Murphy) wrote in her evaluation of the project that: “Before the project I knew that the war began in 1939 and at the time the Prime Minister was Winston Churchill.”
She then went on to type up three pages of information that she had found out from talking to the veterans in school.
Some pupils had a bit more understanding, because they had relatives who were involved in some way in the war and the project gave these children the opportunity to talk to elderly relatives about their experiences and helped the younger generation forge an even closer bond with their grandparents, for example.
All pupils now have a greater understanding of the role of women during the war and the way that this gave women the chance to get out of the home more, to be more independent and to work, which acted as a catalyst for our family life today; with men and women being in more equal partnerships.
Pupils were also given overall responsibility for the project, with guidance from the teacher, and had to create and organise displays in class and around the school. During our ‘Veterans’ Day’, pupils were responsible for recording testimonies orally and visually, which has helped develop their skills in using digital recording devices.
This project gave local veterans the chance to talk about their war-time experiences and their hopes for future peace. They all felt that the war should now be ‘put in the past’, however they also expressed the desire that young people should be made aware of the need for nations to talk and respect each others’ cultures and ways, in the hope that wars could become a thing of the past.
This aspect of peace was reflected upon in the whole-school assembly, which was attended by the veterans and which the pupils wrote and led – performing their own evacuation drama as well as reading items of creative writing. The assembly concluded with the pupils reading a selection of their ‘prayers for peace’.
The school now has contacts at the local (Uttoxeter) branch of the British legion and the local veterans have all said that they are willing to come into school again to talk to groups of children, which is something we hope to follow up. Overall, it was a brilliant learning experience for all concerned.
Additional information – Anything you wish to add that could be hyperlinked in the final site.
Voice testimonies as WAV files and a DVD of our ‘Veterans’ Day’ will be sent separately as ‘hard copies’.