World War One: Learning through Objects

As part of their learning about World War One, Year Eight History students at Cheney had a very special opportunity to engage with the real lives of soldiers in the British Army through original and replica artefacts in their lesson this week.

Mr Gimson brought in copies of very moving letters, written by his great grandfather, Alexander Ogilvie, to his very young daughter, Peggy, between 1915 and 1918. The letters reveal many details about daily life in the War, ranging from the noise of the guns and the cold which soldiers had to endure, to how evenings might be spent, and even including sketches of the officers’ huts and their surroundings.

The students had spent the previous lesson thinking of questions they would like to ask a soldier from World War One, and with Mr Gimson acting in character, they were able to receive answers to questions on aspects of daily life such as “how bad were the trenches?” and “what was the food like?” to “how did it feel to see your friends killed?” and “did you want to sign up to be in the War?”.

The Rumble Museum is privileged to possess a selection of original artefacts, including the base of a shell, a water bottle, and a Princess Mary Christmas Box. It also possesses an exact replica of a soldier’s uniform, including coat, trousers, cap and belt. These were used as part of the presentation, and students enjoyed being able to hold the artefacts and put on the soldier’s uniform.

The students wrote down their responses to the material. Here are some of their comments:

“I learned that it was hard to stay alive and you would lose friends”.
“I found out that the ground was wet, muddy and slippery.”
“I learned that people in the army had to put their full trust in people with them or else it wouldn’t work”.
“I learned that the war was very hard. It was also hard to think about what your family was doing or if you would see them again”.

The original and replica World War One artefacts, as well as copies of some of Alexander Ogilvie’s letters, will soon appear in a permanent display in the Library.