Free learning resources from arts, cultural and heritage organisations.

Teachers' Notes

Resource created by Leeds Museums and Galleries and Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.


Aim of Resource

To explore the contribution made by the Pals Battalions in the First World War, using a variety of historical sources.

A Global View:

WW1: As the name suggests, the First World War (1914-1918) involved many countries across the globe. Initially, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia in Eastern Europe for resisting its imperial control. The declaration prompted a domino effect as countries stepped in one after another to support their allies on each side. Eventually, this meant that countries such as Austria-Hungary, Germany and Italy were at war with countries including Britain, France and Russia. As some of these had their own empires, the countries within the empires were made to fight too, supporting their rulers, or were attacked by their rulers’ enemies. For example, troops from India, Australia and New Zealand fought for Britain and the Indian army attacked German colonies in Africa. In 1917, the USA joined the war on Britain’s side. Consequently, huge portions of the world ended up entangled in the conflict.


Curriculum Links

  • KS2-3 English/Literacy: Reading a range of increasingly challenging material; persuasive writing
  • KS2 GeographyHuman geography
  • KS3 GeographyGeographical skills and fieldwork
  • KS2 History: Chronology; sources; local history; study beyond 1066
  • KS3 History: WW1


Learning Objectives

Knowledge of the First World War and the involvement of the Leeds Pals
Understanding the background of the Pals Battalions and the importance of the First World War in general in their own local history and the history of Britain
Skills to interpret and engage with historical sources

How this resource could be used

'I would use the resource to support a history enquiry. The resource provides good information for teacher research and I would also encourage KS2 children to use it independently.' 
- Allison Robinson, KS2 teacher.

Discussion Ideas

  • Why were Pals Battalions created?
  • Why do you think men wanted to join a Pals Battalion?
  • How might their families have felt about them joining up?
  • What sort of jobs did women do in the First World War?
  • How would life in a Pals Battalion have been different from other regiments?
  • Why do you think the army stopped recruiting Pals Battalions?
  • If you were looking to build a training camp for 1,000 soldiers, what facilities would you need?
  • If you had to draw up a set of rules for 1,000 people to live together, what sort of thing would you include?
  • What objects or images from the First World War have you seen?
  • What sort of memorials from any period have you come across in your local area?
  • What would you want a memorial to include for a relative who died in the First World War?

Activity Ideas

  • Historical enquiry: ' What contribution did the Leeds/ (or a local) Pals Battalion make in WW1?'
    A series of lessons could be planned around this question, involving research and then using it in activities such as: 
    - Creating a memorial book to the Battalion
    - Visit sites such as local war memorials or use census records to locate the streets in which members of the Battalion lived
    - Make a class exhibition about the Pals Battalion 

    (See the link below to the Schools History Project site for more information on creating a historical enquiry)
  • Historical research/Local study:
    Use the Commonwealth War Graves Commission or Imperial War Museum 'Lives of the First World War' websites (links below) to research members of your local Pals Battalion.

    Local war memorials (or websites like the Leeds Pals website, see link below) will provide you with names and basic details of local soldiers, which you can use as a starting point for further research. This worksheet provides a template, with information on deceased members of the Leeds Pals and starting points for discussion.

    You can also use this downloadable PDF plan of the location of the Leeds Pals graves in Holbeck Cemetery to conduct a field trip, or as the basis for a similar activity in another location.
  • Geography:
    Research details of the journeys made by the Leeds Pals, or your own local Pals Battalion. For example you could use information about the Pals’ postings to plot the journeys they made from Leeds to their training camp, and then to Egypt and France.
  • PHSE: 
    Informed by the story of the Leeds Pals, carry out a class debate on whether or not it was a good idea for the army to recruit men from the same local communities. 
  • Drama:
    Use the photographs from this resource and personal stories within the resource as stimulus for short drama sessions: eg. recruiting day; arrival at training camp; writing a card from the Front Line; soldiers returning home.
  • Drama - 'Mantle of the Expert':
    Ask the pupils to plan and research a documentary on the Leeds Pals/a local Pals Battalion. Use an example of a historical documentary for inspiration, eg. Tony Robinson's 'Walking Through History', in which he tours a location to discover historical events that took place nearby.
  • English - Persuasive writing
    What sort of arguments might the armed forces have used to persuade men to join up? Ask pupils to imagine they are a recruiting sergeant trying to get men to join their local Pals Battalion and write down the points they would use in a speech to convince them.
  • English - Letter-writing
    Pupils can read about the experiences of the Leeds Pals, then choose a point in the story (eg. the training camp or after the Battle of the Somme) to write a letter home from the point of view of one of the soldiers.
  • Make a connection with class in another school, become digital (or real) pen pals, maybe do a ‘day in the life of’ swap or learn about a shared history. 


Visit the site of the Leeds Pals training camp, Colsterdale, near Masham

Information boards are available at the Memorial Cairn to the Leeds Pals and one of the farms offers educational access to the area of the camp.