Remembering the Leeds Pals - Project Overview
In autumn 2014, Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Leeds Museums and Galleries and partners brought together 120 children from four primary schools in Nidderdale AONB and Leeds to remember the Leeds Pals. The schools worked in pairs, and visited Masham and Leeds, to find out how the Leeds Pals were recruited and trained, what happened to them after the First World War and how they are remembered now.
To start the project, each of the four schools had an outreach workshop from Leeds Museums and Galleries. The session explored how the First World War started, then focussed on the local history aspects of the curriculum by introducing individual stories of the Leeds Pals. The children handled real letters, photographs, and objects to bring the stories to life. One student said it was “magical seeing all the WWI objects”. The teachers said that working closely with the objects stimulated discussions, sparked questions and developed thinking skills.
The Leeds schools visited Masham, and together the children explored how the Pals had trained. In mixed teams they visited the windswept hills of the training camp in Colsterdale to discover the First World War landscape and memorial cairn to those who never came home. Back in Masham, the children handled recent finds discovered as part of the University of York’s archaeological dig in Colsterdale, making history practical and meaningful. They attempted to do some of the Swedish Drill training and created empathetic journeys of the Pals leaving Leeds and arriving in Masham.
Between the visits, the schools worked with a writer to weave their own creative responses to the First World War.
The Masham schools visited Leeds, and again the children worked alongside each other, this time to explore the concept of coming home and public and private remembrance. Working together encouraged the students to gain a wide cultural experience and develop self-confidence, peer mentoring and teamwork skills. At the Leeds Discovery Museum, the children found out what happened to individual Pals and their families after the war through further object handling. They also enjoyed seeing the million objects in the museum store!
At Leeds Minster, the children experienced the church filled with organ music from the War period and looked at some of the personal brass plaques , there both for remembrance and as thanksgiving for the living. One of the students discovered a Great Grandfather on a memorial that they didn’t realise was there!
The day ended at Holbeck cemetery where the children met a Barnbow Munitions lass, ‘in role’ from Leeds City Council Parks and Countryside team. She talked about the effects of the war on the women and children at home, bringing an enormous world stage to a local level. The children looked at public remembrance, explored some of the stories behind the Commonwealth War Graves, and did some rubbings to record their findings.
Following their experiences, the schools have used the project as a springboard for further cross-curricular work in the classroom. They have held entirely child-led and interpreted exhibitions, assemblies for parents, written newspaper reports, created stories and drama, drawn comics, made Design Technology projects and used the history as inspiration for numeracy, geography and languages.