Free learning resources from arts, cultural and heritage organisations.

Teachers' Notes

Resource created by M&S Archive.

This resource uses images and documents from the M&S Company Archive relating to the Company's contribution to the war effort and the experiences of staff members during the War. 

You can also download an M&S Second World War timeline, which sets significant M&S events against key dates in history.

Curriculum Links

  • KS3 History: WW2
  • KS3 Citizenship: Ways in which citizens work together to improve their communities.
  • KS4 Citizenship:  Human rights (equality)

Learning Objectives

  • Knowledge of what everyday workers did to contribute to the war effort
  • Understanding of how the War affected the lives of M&S employees
  • Improving the skills of source analysis and artifact interpretation.

Discussion Ideas


KS3 History:

  1. A large number of M&S stores were hit by enemy bombs during the War - discuss whether this was 'accidental' or whether the stores were actually being targeted. Was the location of each store an important factor?
  2. With so many of the M&S male employees being called away to serve in the Armed Forces, how do you think the stores managed to keep going without them? Do you think the stores would have been more or less busy than before the War?
  3. As well as firefighters, what other jobs can you think of that were normally done by men, which were carried out by women during the War? Which one would you have liked to do most if you could choose?
  4. Why do you think the melted cash float was mounted on a special display block, and is now part of the M&S Company Archive?
  5. Before computers and the internet were around, it must have been a massive job for M&S to write letters toall their employees serving in the Armed Forces - why do you think they decided to do this?
  6. What do you think it would have meant to those M&S employees serving in the Armed Forces to receive the Christmas bulletin? What things would they have missed from home?
  7. The Christmas message on page one of the 1944 Forces Bulletin includes the sentence: 'life is reduced to a mere primitive existence full of hazards and uncertainties'. Discuss what you think was meant by this phrase. Do you think today's Armed Forces on active service share any of the same experiences?
  8. In how many different ways do today's Armed Forces personnel receive news from their friends and relatives back home? Which do you think is the most popular and why?
  9. In the 1944 Forces Bulletin the Store Superintendent's report says:
    'Where you once saw a price limit of 5/-(25p), with occasionally 6/11d(34p), prices now run up to 67/6d(£3.37p)'.
    Why do you think prices had risen so dramatically during the War? Would higher prices have meant bigger profits for the shops or not? Give reasons for your answers.

KS3/4 Citizenship:

  1. After the War, women were expected to return to their home or office jobs, but some of them protested and started campaigning for equal employment rights and equal pay. Are there any jobs today that can ONLY be done by men? or ONLY by women?
  2. How far have we come on the journey for equality between men and women in the workplace?  Research the gender pay gap in different industries.  What action can be taken to ensure that men and women are treated equally at work?  What are your employment rights under British law?

Activity Ideas

You can also download an M&S Second World War timeline (see Resources), which sets significant M&S evens against key dates in history.

KS3 History:

  1. Look at the photo of the Staff Firefighting Team from 1944, and make up a list of challenges that they would have to complete in order to win the competition(the Related Links at the bottom of the page might help you!)
  2. Look at the image galleries in some of the other My Learning resources relating to WW2 and choose one photo that interests you the most (use the search function). Imagine that the people in the photo are M&S employees or their relatives, and make up your own caption for the image, describing what's happening.
  3. Download the Christmas Edition of the M&S Forces Bulletin No.8, 1944 and try some of the activities below:
  • Read the article on'Escapes'. Imagine you are either Pte Gardiner or Guardsman Eddy and you've justreached safety inSwitzerland. Write a letter to one of your relatives back home describing how you got there.
  • Imagine you are one of thewomen in the M&S Personnel Dept and write a letter to either Pte Gardiner or Guardsman Eddy in their Prisoner of War camp, including some news from home to keep their spirits up.
  • Read the Christmas message on page one then make up your own 'message of hope' directed towards the men and women on active service in the Armed Forces today.