Here at One Day we cover many momentous events in our shared history. As this year marks the centenary year of the beginning of World War I, there was no doubt we would be developing a brand new project to help children learn creatively about this historic event.
The Great War, as it is also known, lasted from 1914 to 1918 and involved many of the world’s great powers. It saw the forces of The British Empire, France, Russia, America and their allies pitted against the forces of the German, Austro-Hungarian and the Ottoman Empires. A massive 65 million troops were mobilised, around 6 million of which were British army men. In total, it is estimated that over 20 million military and civilian people lost their lives.
Although not the first ‘global war’, World War I was the first war to be fully industrialised and saw huge leaps in innovation and technologies. In just four years, the fighting went from generals with swords and rifles on horseback to mobile machine guns, flamethrowers, warplanes and the invention of the tank. Although these new technologies were slow and cumbersome (with tanks often overheating and enemies able to walk faster than them to escape) it was now possible to inflict heavy damage on the enemy from a far distance without engaging in close combat. War was changed forever.
To avoid the barrage of machine gun and artillery fire, soldiers dug trenches. Trenches were able to protect soldiers and allow them to hold onto captured territory, but trench conditions were extremely harsh. Being wet, muddy and crowded places, soldiers would often suffer from cold and diseases such as ‘trench rot’, where the damp conditions rotted men’s feet and toes. To keep soldiers healthy and morale high, they would spend no more than 10 days a month in the trenches before moving onto a rest break or another battle.
Back in Britain, civilians were also greatly affected by the war, especially children. For the war effort, children were expected to ‘do their bit’ and help where possible with a range of home and community work. Because fathers were away fighting, children took on more responsibilities around the house helping to cook, tidy, carry water, chop firewood and look after younger brothers and sisters. Boys would also collect sheets and clothing whilst girls would spend time knitting socks and scarfs for soldiers in the cold wet trenches.
Because food was rationed due to German boats stopping British food supplies, children would also work in the fields helping to dig, maintain, plant and collect crops. They would also help to defend Britain against potential enemy attack by learning to signal with flags, watching the skies for invading airships. The war finally ended in 1918, with the German surrender at the treaty of Versailles in France.
Every year on 11th November (Armistice Day) we remember the war and the sacrifices people made. Your pupils can find out all about WWI by joining us in one of our dedicated drama workshops: World War 1 for KS2 or World War 1: A-Z for KS1.