WWI Soldiers’ Lives, Thurnscoe, Rotherham
A recent HLF Sharing Heritage-funded project took me deep into the online archives tracking down Thurnscoe men who served in World War I. Jacqui Shaw of The Hill Primary Academy, Thurnscoe wanted to give her students a taste of historical research from primary source archive documents. With inHeritage’s support, Jacqui developed the project outline and secured HLF funding for the project for The Hill and local Gooseacre school.
The funding bought extensive research time that would have made this an impossible task for working school staff in amongst their huge workload. There were also poetry workshops with former Derbyshire Laureate Matt Black, a visit to the local records office, and meetings with the Local History Group.
Read students’ poetry here.
inHeritage created a set of 10 folders for each school, each containing archival documents relating to one local WWI soldier. From Census documents to Military Records, most folders contained print-outs of about 20-30 archive documents. The Y6 students used these to conduct their own historical research, piecing together narrative biographies from primary sources, and in the process experiencing the nitty gritty of real historical research and gaining many insights into their local history, World War I battles and recruitment, and some of the various impacts the War had on ordinary lives. Doing the research became a moving experience in itself – think Who Do You Think You Are? with few happy endings. Careful selection of subjects meant we could cover a wide range of experiences – younger and older soldiers; some involved in landmark engagements; some invalided out; a POW who returned safely in 1919, some disciplined, some promoted, many dead. The students also learned the importance of their local coal mining history, some local recruits were kept home as miners until late in the War.