History Department Third Year “Families at War” Project
The Third Year History syllabus after the Christmas break is dominated by the study of the causes and events of World War One; pupils study why this terrible conflict broke out in August 1914 and examine at length and in detail the experience of fighting in the trenches. Within this context, one of the great challenges is guiding pupils to see the war at the level of the individual soldier rather than just dealing with the appalling, but ultimately faceless, statistics of the dead and wounded. We have found that one way of helping with this situation is to consider the experiences of Old Edwardians in an effort to create a link between the current generation and that of those who fought, but I would like, if possible, to enlist your help in an ambitious project that should allow our pupils to see the First World War on a more personal and, hopefully, immediate level by setting out the experiences of war for ordinary people that have a clear link with current Edwardians.
In essence, I would like to produce a booklet that details the experiences in World War One of the relatives of pupils at present in the Third Year. My intention would be that each pupil involved would have a dedicated space in the booklet containing as much detail as possible concerning their relative’s war service. Last year’s Third Year also participated in the project and my hope is to join the information of the two year groups together into a single booklet.
The process of collecting such information would undoubtedly be of interest to those pupils with such relatives but even for those without such links it should serve to bring home the very personal impact of the war. I would thus like to ask you, if convenient, to discuss with and pass on to your son/daughter any biographical information (the more the better) that you may have at your disposal concerning any relatives you may be aware of who were affected by the war. This information should then be emailed to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and will be edited so as to allow the booklet to have a single style and a coherent layout. Ideally, any information emailed to me would be no longer than a single sheet of A4, but within this suggested limit please feel free to include as much detail as you can, including scans of any documents or photographs
Such information might include:
- The fundamental personal details of name, date of birth, education and profession before the war
- Enlistment details. Any family tales of lies being told about age would be of huge interest
- Details of service: navy/army etc, regimental affiliation, rank, theatres of operation served in, battles fought in, personal stories about being in action, wounds received, medals won, and, where unfortunately relevant, details of death and burial. Fundamentally, I would be looking to gather together as many “war stories” as possible.
- I would also be very keen to include any information you may have of relatives who took part in the war effort in non-fighting capacities such as work in munitions factories. This would be particularly relevant for female relatives.
- Material concerning relatives who perhaps fought in places other than the Western Front would be very welcome as would information about any relatives who served in the armed forces of countries other than Britain.
I hope that this exercise might prove to be an interesting and engaging exercise in family history; I am sure that the finished booklet will be of enormous interest and value to our pupils.
On another matter, you may be aware of the fact that the Public Records Office has recently released 1.5 million pages of First World War unit war diaries. A project has been set up, christened “Operation War Diary”, to enlist the help of “Citizen Historians” in tagging the key details contained in this hugely important and absolutely fascinating repository of information. It is our intention that all members of the Third Year will spend some time using their iPADS on this towards the end of this academic year and I thought that you might be interested to see some of the details for yourselves, or perhaps even become involved. The website address is: http://www.operationwardiary.org
Thank you for your help in what I hope will be two very worthwhile ventures.
With all best wishes,
Head of History