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Whitmore Park Primary School, Coventry

Year 5 pupils from Whitmore Park Primary School carrying out condition survey of St Thomas, Keresley war memorial © Whitmore Park Primary School
Photograph taken by year 5 pupils at Whitmore Park Primary School while carrying out condition survey of local war memorial (2) © Whitmore Park Primary School
Photograph taken by year 5 pupils at Whitmore Park Primary School while carrying out condition survey of local war memorial © Whitmore Park Primary School
  • County name: West Midlands
  • Group/School name: Whitmore Park Primary School
  • Age group: 5 - 11
  • Group type: Year 5

This learning visit was carried out as part of a set of visits in conjunction with Historic England’s Heritage Schools Programme.  The Local Heritage Education Manager for the West Midlands delivered a training session with the whole staff team at Whitmore Park Primary School about Coventry, Keresley and the First World War.   The year 5 team in particular were keen to use the war memorial at St Thomas Church in Keresley as a starting point for their research on how the First World War impacted the local area.  The Local Heritage Education Manager got in touch with WMT’s Learning Officer to ask if a visit to the school which incorporated a visit to the memorial was possible.

At the start of July our Learning Officer travelled to Coventry to work with one of the year 5 classes at Whitmore Park Primary School.  The day was split into three elements:

During the introduction to war memorials pupils were asked to consider what a war memorial is, how many war memorials there are in the UK and when and why war memorials were created.  Pupils were shown some war memorial inscriptions and asked to think what they helped us to learn about why war memorials were created.  When looking at the words ‘not here they lie’ pupils commented that perhaps the bodies of those who died may not have been found.  Our Learning Officer added that those who were found and identified were not repatriated which meant friends and family at home were unable to have a funeral for their loved one and did not have a grave to visit. 

Pupil were then asked to consider some of the problems facing war memorials.  Two local memorials provided helpful examples of these problems and also the work undertaken by War Memorials Trust to help protect and conserve these memorials.  Both had received grants to enable works to be carried out to ensure the war memorials continue to be part of the communities they stand in forever.

The second element of the day involved a visit to the school’s local war memorial at St Thomas Church , Keresley.  The pupils were aware of the memorial already and some had attended Remembrance Day services there with their cub group.  Upon arriving at the memorial pupils were asked to look and describe what they could see.  They identified that it is a wheel cross and that there was a sword carved into the stone cross.  Some pupils alerted others to the dates which read 1914-1919.  Pupils were initially concerned that a mistake had been made however through discussion began to consider that some people may not have arrived home until 1919 due to the war ending so close to the end of 1918.  Pupils counted the number of names listed on the memorial and  also studied what they described as a poem:

‘THESE DIED IN WAR THAT WE AT PEACE MIGHT LIVE,/ THESE GAVE THEIR BEST, SO WE OUR BEST SHOULD GIVE,/ NOT FOR THEMSELVES - FOR JUSTICE, FREEDOM, RIGHT,/ THEY FOUGHT, AND BID US FORWARD TO THE FIGHT.’

Pupils decided that the poem gave an important message encouraging those of us now to do our best whenever we encounter a problem just as those who had died in the war had done. After being organised into teams pupils carried out a condition survey, the results of which were uploaded to War Memorials Online [www.warmemorialsonline.org.uk/report/204828/view/condition/204117] when we returned to the classroom.  Photos taken by the pupils to highlight the areas of concern can be seen on this page.  The final task was to select some names from the memorial which they wanted to research later on.

In the afternoon pupils had the opportunity to find out more about the stories behind those who are named on the memorial.  They were shown how to use the Commonwealth War Graves Commission ‘Find War Dead’ database and then used this to find out more.  At the end of the session pupils were asked to share some important facts.  One fact that was shared was about O.R.O Jagger who was just 16 years old when he died.  Having done some earlier research our Learning Officer was able explain that Midshipman Jagger was onboard H.M.S Bulwark which had been moored in the River Medway to guard against a possible German invasion.  On 26th November 1914 the ship was blown apart by an explosion and sank.  Only 14 of the 750 men were rescued of whom 5 subsequently died in hospital.  It was great to be able to show pupils how you could take a single name from their local war memorial which then led to us finding out more about World War I in a wider context.

It was a pleasure to work with the year 5 pupils who fully engaged with the whole day.  They were enthusiastic, asked lots of interesting and thoughtful questions and demonstrated a really respectful attitude while at the war memorial.  It is hoped the pupils enjoyed the day and found it as interesting as our Learning Officer.

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