Teachers' notes, discussion and activity ideas

Read about Alfie Knight's letter to Lord Kitchener on the next page, then try some of these ideas for discussion and activities (the Related Links at the bottom of the page might help you):

Curriculum links:

KS2 History  
  • Study of an aspect or theme in British history that extends pupils' chronological knowledge beyond 1066
KS3 History
  • Challenges for Britain, Europe and the wider world 1901 to the present day
KS4 History 

KS2/3 Language and Literacy
  • Students should write with accurate spelling and punctuation, and be taught the correct use of grammar

Discussion ideas

  • Why did Alfie want to enlist?
  • What are dispatch riders - what did they do and why might Alfie want to be a dispatch rider?
  • Half a million men volunteered to join Kitchener's Army within a few weeks - why did so many want to enlist? why were a lot of them underage?
  • How else did children support the war effort?
  • Why is it important that children do not fight in wars?
  • Why do people now do voluntary work - what motivates them to give up their time and services for nothing?
  • Discuss whether or not you think the reasons people give for volunteering today are the same or different from the reasons why so many men volunteered to fight in WW1.

Activity ideas

  • Look at what life was like for nine year olds in Ireland during the First World War - what do other sources tell us about life in Ireland during this period?
  • Find out from other sources about the reasons people enlisted generally  (see Related Links below - you may find IWM's recruitment and conscription resource helpful)
  • Look again at Alfie Knight's letter - is it properly written with good spelling, punctuation and grammar?
    Rewrite Alfie's letter in your best handwriting, correcting any mistakes that you found.
  • Make a list of 10 words to describe Alfie's character then draw a picture of him that shows these qualities
  • Imagine you want to join one of today's armed forces. Write another letter similar to Alfie's, explaining why you want to join and including all the qualities and skills you have that would make you a good candidate.
  • Using the propoganda posters on this site and researching your own, identify what makes these posters work and how they get their message across clearly.  Can the posters be categorised by the way they try to persuade people, for example using shaming, chivvying, patriotism, boasting or ideas of revenge?
  • Explore the difference between idealised images of joining the armed forces and the reality. This could be done for both now and in the past.  For example, how does the picture painted by the Telegraph article and Wilfred Owen's poem 'Dulce et Decorum Est' compare with the images used on propoganda posters from WW1?
  • Hold a class debate 'Joining up is a gread idea!' and present, argue and defend different sides of the argument.
Recruitment poster showing a map of Ireland and sections of
Poster showing a woman in traditional Irish dress accompanied by a man. She is gesturing to Belgium burning and fleeing refugees.
Photograph of workers in a shell factory during the First World War
Wooden 'cut-out' in the shape of a rifle