First World War Centenary projects involving young people

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Hi everyone,

My role at HLF focuses on the First World War Centenary and I’m particularly keen to see young people taking part in Centenary projects. It’s been great to see so many Young Roots projects exploring the First World War - it seems to be a topic that’s capturing young people’s imaginations.

I’d love  to hear from you if you’ve been involved in a First World War project involving young people. How has it been? What are the challenges? What sorts of themes have particularly inspired them?

Or if you haven’t been involved in a project, are there any that have really inspired you? What did you like about them?

Here are a few from me:

  • Stockton Warfare WW1 – where one young participant’s school attendance went up by 55% as a result of taking part in the project.
  • Dartmoor in WW1 – which used theatre to explore Dartmoor’s First World War history, from the internment of conscientious objectors in Dartmoor Prison, to the halting of the building of Castle Drogo.
  • Havant’s Wartime Heroes – where young people were surprised to learn about non-military roles in the war, especially the role of women.
  • Empire, Faith & War – which looks at the role of Sikhs in the First World War, and is guided by a youth panel made up of extremely committed young people.

Look forward to hearing from you!



View Anna Jarvis's profile Anna Jarvis Apr 20 2015 - 10:02am
  1. Hi Anna, I am John Beeley and was the Heritage Officer at Stockton Council. With the Our colleagues in Youth Direction and young people we worked on Stockton Warfare WW1. It was a great project and really exciting to engage with young people and see their views and share their journey of discovery as we investigated their local WW1 heritage and the wider themes of the war. Many of the stories were local and were used in the film Poppies. In the film First World War characters respond to questions posed by the young people. One part is filmed in a dugout that the young people helped design and build. I attach a link to the film .


  2. View Community User's profile Community User
    Offline | Last seen: 3 months 1 week ago
  3. I think the key is finding a good partner who can help the young people learn about the topic in depth and see the relevance to us today. Two great projects that I can think of are:

    Your Country Needs You(th)- in Yorkshire & Humber

    Thirty-nine young people from the YMCA investigated the stories of the Grimsby Chums to create a film. By working in partnership with the Civic Society and the local library the young people visited local memorials, watched films and researched archival information about the Chums.

    Tracing your roots back to Gallipoli- in the North West

    Twenty young people researched the lives of Bolton soldiers who had died during the 1915 Gallipoli campaign. Visiting Bury and Fulwood museums, the young people delved into census records to uncover 90 names and find out where the men lived, what they did and who their families were.



    • Young people researching local soldiers at an archive
  4. View Elise Turner's profile Elise Turner
    Offline | Last seen: 3 weeks 1 day ago
  5. Thanks for sharing the film, John - a great achievement for all involved.

    Here's an article about the Gallipoli Centenary Education project, which si helping young people explore this aspect of the First World War.

    People in this community might be interested in these poignant quotes form the young people involved:

    Jake, 16, said: “Before, I didn’t see the war as such a big event. I thought it only involved Europe and it didn’t really have any effect on my current life, but that was so wrong. I didn’t think about the piles of dead or the fact that other countries were affected. I’m glad I now know.”

    Adam, 17, said: “What struck me was the idea of something that looks so beautiful completely juxtaposed with the idea that something so sad and brutal happened there.”

  6. View Anna Jarvis's profile Anna Jarvis
    Offline | Last seen: 3 years 2 months ago
  7. Thanks for this Anna!

    I thought I would add in my two-pence worth, especially since over the past year, meeting young people who have been involved in First World War projects has been afforded me some of my most memorable moments here at HLF.

    Watching young people from Kingston’s Anstee Bridge deliver their music hall-inspired performance to an audience of family and friends was genuinely humbling. There were brave, poignant solo performances alongside lighter moments that were laugh-out-loud funny (and I ended up with some slightly rude First World War era songs stuck in my head the next day). At the end, seeing the young people and their teachers crying and hugging made me realise what a powerful experience it had been for all of them.

    Anna has already mentioned Havant's Heroes. Visiting Havant Sixth Form College really brought home to me the unexpected things that young people have been discovering through centenary projects. In this case, the initial focus of the project was the town war memorial and the names listed upon it – everyone assumed these would be the ‘heroes’. While finding out more about these men remained important, it quickly became clear that a significant part of Havant’s contribution to the war came through another channel – the local auxiliary hospital – and that many of the ‘heroes’ were the women who ran it. I thoroughly recommend a look at the project website or a browse thought the beautiful book they produced.

    On 4 August itself, it was great to see young people involved in In Their Footsteps leading London Borough of Richmond’s commemorations with their exhibition opening and performance. I was intrigued by the stories the young people had uncovered and the creative ways they found to share them; despite being a lifelong local resident I had no idea that part of the borough had transformed into a ‘little Belgium’ during the war years. I was also struck by a conversation I had with a parent who told me how the project had unsettled her by bringing home, for the first time, that many of the young men who fought and died were really very little older than her son, one of the project participants.

    In all these cases, what made the projects powerful to visit (and even more powerful to participate in) was evident depth of connection the young people had made with the First World War stories they had explored. I look forward to hearing about many more.

  8. View Miranda Stearn's profile Miranda Stearn
    Offline | Last seen: 3 years 7 months ago
  9. Wartime Medicine and Innovation

    Have a look at the WW1 Whitechapel Medical Marvels Trail. Young people from East London working with the Centre of the Cell have been investigating the WW1 medical history of the East End. The trail is just one part of their project, which includes a family workshop and animations too.

  10. View Melissa Strauss's profile Melissa Strauss
    Offline | Last seen: 2 months 3 weeks ago
  11. in reply to

    Wartime Medicine and Innovation

    Have a look at the WW1 Whitechapel Medical Marvels Trail. Young people from East London working with the Centre of the Cell have been investigating the WW1 medical history of the East End. The trail is just one part of their project, which includes a family workshop and animations too.

    Melissa Strauss


    Wartime Medicine and Innovation is now one of our new case studies, and more can be found here.

    I've been lucky enough to go to a few of Centre of the Cell's project celebration events, and i'm always really impressed with the enthusiasm from participants.

    Another project worth looking at is Narrative Eye's The Empire Needs Men (also in the London region might I add!) This project engaged young people and focused on the contribution of black people during the First World War.

  12. View Laura Butcher's profile Laura Butcher
    Offline | Last seen: 1 year 10 months ago
  13. Thanks Anna.

    I thought I’d mention a few interesting projects we’ve had in Wales which have been led by the young people involved.

    A school-wide project at Ysgol Maes Garmon in Flintshire in North Wales saw pupils of all ages undertaking their own research to commemorate and mark the First World War and its far-reaching effect on the residents of the area. The year-long project was led by a committee of Year 12 pupils who used their £10,000 grant to launch a local and national appeal for personal stories of those who lived in Flintshire during the war. Visits to the National Museum in Cardiff, the Imperial War Museum and the National Library of Wales also helped them in their research. One teenager found out that she had a war hero ancestor that she had never even heard about. Following the collection of research, their work was displayed as part of an exhibition in Mold in June 2014 and it has now been made available on the Flintshire Memorial website.

    Another schools-based project saw pupils from Rhymney Comprehensive School in South Wales exploring and learning about their local First World War heritage by researching the history of servicemen listed on an existing memorial plaque at the school. The school received £3,500 which helped them to run an out-of-hours group for people of all ages from the local community where they researched this local history. As part of the group’s work, they also created a website to mark the lives of soldiers named on the memorial which is really worth a look.


    Diolch Anna.

    Nes i feddwl sôn am ychydig o brosiectau diddorol a gawsom yng Nghymru sydd wedi cael eu harwain gan y bobl ifanc dan sylw.

    Roedd prosiect ysgol gyfan yn Ysgol Maes Garmon yn Sir y Fflint yng Ngogledd Cymru lee roedd disgyblion o bob oed yn gwneud eu hymchwil eu hunain i goffáu a marcio y Rhyfel Byd Cyntaf a'i effaith bellgyrhaeddol ar drigolion yr ardal. Cafodd y prosiect o flwyddyn ei arwain gan bwyllgor o ddisgyblion Blwyddyn 12 a ddefnyddiodd eu grant o £10,000 i lansio apêl leol a chenedlaethol ar gyfer straeon personol y rhai oedd yn byw yn Sir y Fflint yn ystod y rhyfel. Roedd ymweliadau i Amgueddfa Genedlaethol Cymru, Amgueddfa Rhyfel Ymerodrol a Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru hefyd yn eu helpu yn eu hymchwil. Canfu un plentyn yn ei harddegau fod ganddi arwr rhyfel yn ei teulu nad oedd hi erioed wedi clywed am. Cafodd eu gwaith ymchwil ei arddangos fel rhan o arddangosfa yn Yr Wyddgrug ym mis Mehefin 2014, a mae bellach ar gael ar wefan Coffáu Sir y Fflint.

    Gwelodd prosiect arall o Ysgol Gyfun Rhymni yn Ne Cymru disgyblion yn archwilio a dysgu am eu treftadaeth Rhyfel Byd Cyntaf lleol drwy ymchwilio i hanes filwyr a restrir ar blac coffa a oedd eisoes yn bodoli yn yr ysgol. Derbyniodd yr ysgol £3,500 oedd yn eu helpu i redeg grŵp ar gyfer pobl o bob oedran o'r gymuned leol i ymchwilio'r hanes lleol hwn. Fel rhan o waith y grŵp, maent hefyd wedi creu gwefan i nodi fywydau'r milwyr a enwir ar y gofeb ac mae wir werth cael golwg.

  14. View Sally Roberts's profile Sally Roberts
    Offline | Last seen: 1 year 9 months ago
  15. Thanks Sally - great to see pupils getting involved in their local commuities and leading the projects themselves.

    This seems a good time to plug our guidance for schools on First World War Centenary projects, which includes tips on how you can involve people from outside the school in a project:

  16. View Anna Jarvis's profile Anna Jarvis
    Offline | Last seen: 3 years 2 months ago
  17. YMCA North Tyneside – Wor War

    One of my favourites was the project run by the YMCA in North Tyneside, which explored the stories and experiences of young people during the First World War with a grant of £9,600.  They worked with the Tynemouth World War One Commemoration project and Age UK, a partnership so successful that the project was a finalist for the national Children and Young People Now Awards (in the partnership working category) and an award winner at the North East Regional Youth Work Awards.

    Young people interviewed older people involved with Age UK about their family history and visited five local war memorials, recording their responses. They also investigated role of the YMCA during the War, finding that around 10,000 YMCA volunteers photographed loved ones in the UK and sent images to soldiers abroad.

    The interviews and creative responses, together with historic photographs, formed an exhibition at Tynemouth Metro Station and were shared on the project Facebook page.

    The group reported they learnt a lot about planning – the need to plan workshops so they are accessible to all, and to build in plenty of time for people to communicate and get to know one another – and also that everyone involved enjoyed the intergenerational aspects of the project.

    During their research the young people uncovered the story of Sir James Knott, a local philanthropist during the War and decided they wanted to know more. Stretching their learning and skills even further, they have successfully applied for a bigger grant through our Young Roots programme.  Watch this space!

  18. View Jo Reilly's profile Jo Reilly
    Offline | Last seen: 1 month 1 week ago
  19. A great way for young people to share what they have learned is through creating a film. They can be involved at every point, from scriptwriters to actors, and can develop useful practical skills.

    Films can convey the horros and passions of some aspects of the war that are often hidden. Have a look at 'After Dawn' exploring the fate of young soldiers shot for desertion.


  20. View Elise Turner's profile Elise Turner
    Offline | Last seen: 3 weeks 1 day ago


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