The Gift of the Colonies

Teachers' notes, activities and linked resources

Curriculum links:

KS3 Citizenship – Multiculturalism
KS4 Citizenship – The Commonwealth – What is the Commonwealth?
KS3-4 Geography - Extend locational knowledge; global exports
KS3-4 History – WW1

Aims of resource: 

To reveal the contribution made by former British colonies during the First World War and the global scope of the conflict.

Learning objectives:

Knowledge of the aid and troops provided by British colonies in WW1
Understanding of the role of British colonies and the different contributions they made
Skills to relate artefacts to their historical context and analyse their significance

How this resource could be used:

'This is a perfect resource for providing opportunities for older students to do some research into the topic of colonial soldiers and it all stems from one small and seemingly innocuous-looking tin. It screams for a whole-class project, debates and group-work looking into the contribution of and issues surrounding the “often overlooked” aspects of WW1,'  Michelle Ross, Special Needs Co- Ordinator and Year 5 teacher at St. Matthew's C of E (A) Primary School, Leeds.

Discussion ideas:

  • How do you think people from the former British colonies and dominions felt about being involved in WW1?
  • Despite the fact that they faced the same dangers, how might Colonial soldiers' experience of the war have been different to that of British troops?
  • Why do you think Trinidad and Tobago chose to send chocolate as part of their contribution to the Allied War Effort?
  • For what reasons might contributions from overseas have been important in WW1?
  • Why do you think the chocolate tin from Trinidad, Grenada and St Lucia was so decorative?
  • Why might men from the former British colonies have volunteered to fight in WW1?
  • With the Republican movement in Australia seeking to remove the Queen as Sovereign, how do you think the response from Australia might be different to that in WW1 if Britain was involved in another world war today?
  • Did any colony countries not contribute and why do you think this was?

Activity ideas:

  • Design your own WW1 ‘gift tin’:
    Using the photographs of the chocolate tin as inspiration, design your own tin or decorative box to contain a gift for the troops in WW1. Think about:
    - The symbols, colours and decoration you might use.
    - What do you want the design of the tin to say about your gift?
    - What wording will you include on the tin? 

  • Research the role played by one of the former British colonies in the First World War:
    Choose between one of the following: Canada, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Hong Kong, Gibraltar or find one of the West Indian islands then controlled by Britain. Can you find any colonies that did not contribute?

    First make sure you can find the country on a world map, then write up your research into a fact-file, making sure you include the following information:
    - Was the country a British dominion or colony in 1914?
    - How many men volunteered from this country?
    - Were women involved in the war? If so, what sort of roles did they take on?
    - Did the government make a financial contribution to the Allied War Effort or supply any goods?
    - Try to find any oral history accounts from people living in this country at the time, speaking or writing about how they felt about the war
    - How did the war affect the country?
    - How many servicemen from this country were killed in WW1?
    - Did contributing to the War Effort cause any financial hardship for this country, and if so, how?

  • Students could also research the current economies of the three colonies involved in producing the chocolate tin.
    - How different are the products they export from those of the 1910s?
    - Is cocoa production still important to them?

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

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