Burying the First World War Dead

Teachers' notes, activities and linked resources

Curriculum links:

KS3 English – Creative Writing
KS3 History – WW1
KS4 History – WW1 

Aims of resource: 

To give an insight into the burial process for soldiers on the front line and the participation of multi-faith and colonial soldiers. Also provides background information for students preparing for a trip to a First World War cemetery.

Learning objectives:

Knowledge of the historical background behind WW1 cemeteries 
Understanding of the realities of wartime life, the high casualty figures in WW1 and the participation of soldiers from different faiths
Skills to interpret historical events from multiple perspectives 

Discussion ideas:

  • Why do you think it was important to soldiers to give their dead comrades a proper burial?
  • How might soldiers from non-Christian faiths have found it difficult to maintain their religious practices in the trenches (for example, Muslim soldiers needed to pray five times a day, facing the direction of Mecca)?
  • How might soldiers on burial duties have felt about their work?
  • Why do you think religious symbols were used on soldiers’ gravestones?
  • Do you know of anyone (either a famous person or someone from your local area) who is buried in a First or Second World War cemeteries?
  • What other methods can we use to remember someone who has died?

Activity ideas:

  • Creative writing activity: Read through all the pages and images in this resource. Think about how it makes you feel and the sort of images that come into your head. Write a poem or short descriptive piece about the First World War dead and cemeteries.

  • Create an itinerary or plan for a visit to a First World War military cemetery. Ask pupils to consider what sort of issues they may need to discuss, eg. suitable acts of memorial and how they would want to record the visit.
  • Interpret symbolism used in monument designs:
    Choose one of the major monuments created to honour the war dead after the First World War (see links below). Examine the features of the monument and any inscriptions on it:

    - Do you recognise any images?
    - How are these images significant?
    - How does the monument reflect the nation the dead came from?
    - What does the wording used within the inscriptions tell us?
    - How do you feel when you look at the monument?
    - Do you think it is effective?

  • Research a soldier using the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website (see links below) and other online resources. Write up your conclusion as a fact-file.
    Try to find out:

    - Their birth and death dates
    - Where they were from
    - What they did before the war
    - The date when they joined up
    - The regiment they fought in
    - What their role would have been
    - The battles they fought in
    - Were they injured?
    - Did they receive any medals?
    - What happened to them after the war?

  • Research soldiers from non-Christian faiths who fought in the First World War.
    - What can you find out about these groups?
    - Where did they come from?
    - What roles did they play?

View other relevant My Learning WW1 resources or scroll down for a list of links and resources on this topic.




 
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