I was so excited when Bury Archives asked me to be a part of the ‘Bury Remembers the First World War’ Project as a Secondary School Facilitator. What a great opportunity to be more involved with the Archives, connect with schools and learn so much more about World War One in the Bury area.
My role was to look through articles which volunteers had picked out from five digitised newspapers from 1914-1916 and use these to create ‘Inspiration Boxes’ full of engaging items. I took the boxes to secondary schools in Bury to engage pupils with World War One in the local area.
I soon discovered there was so much information! There were many themes I could have picked to focus on but three things which took me by surprise were; the layout and materiality of the newspaper itself, the masses of adverts using the war to sell products and finally letters printed from the soldiers showing the conditions when fighting.
During the school sessions, I filled the walls with today’s newspapers to compare them with the ones from World War One. The children were brilliant at identifying the differences such as; no colour, no headlines and pages crammed full of tiny writing (hence why we added a magnifying glass to the ‘Inspiration Boxes!)
I prepared A2 size versions of different articles which each group used to highlight their immediate thoughts. We then looked more closely at them to see what daily life was like for people at home during the war. Many of the children were surprised to see that Bury football club carried on their matches, even during a time of conflict. We also noted that some businesses used the war as propaganda to sell more products- a great example was a large advert by a tea company using the newspaper to accuse their rival ‘Lipton Ice Tea’ of having German owners! Focusing on life in Bury was great for the children as they recognised certain elements that they could relate to, such as references to the streets they now live on.
Lastly, the children looked at the poems and letters written by soldiers to think about what a soldier fighting in a foreign country would have felt. They used these and their ‘Inspiration Boxes’ to create pieces of work of their choice; an artwork, poem, advert or letter. These were better than I could have hoped for and I was so impressed with the variety of responses and what the children achieved! These works will be around for primary school children to look at during the coming sessions this year. [See other blog post]
A poem by Charlie Prince, St Monica’s High School:
“As the Snow falls on my face
Making me numb with its frozen flakes
Day before Christmas, oh such fun!
Us in the trenches dying one by one
It should be one of the best days of our lives
Instead there is gun shots up in the sky.
People looking under their trees
Us wondering when we will be free
And when all hope seemed to be gone
A snowflake falls and makes us one.”
For further information about our Secondary School resources or to order your free ‘Inspiration Box’ with a suggested lesson plan, please contact Gina Warburton at firstname.lastname@example.org