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Cockshutt C of E Primary School, Ellesmere

Year 5 and 6 pupils from Cockshutt CofE Primary School looking at Cockshutt war memorial with WMT Learning Officer © Martin Phillips, 2019
Year 5/6 pupil from Cockshutt CofE Primary School carrying out condition survey for Cockshutt war memorial © War Memorials Trust, 2019
Year 5 and 6 pupils from Cockshutt CofE Primary School researching the fallen named on Cockshutt war memorial © Martin Phillips, 2019
  • County name: West Midlands
  • Group/School name: Cockshutt C of E Primary
  • Age group: 5 - 11
  • Group type: Year 5 and 6

On a cold and crisp morning in January War Memorials Trust’s Learning Officer visited Cockshutt C of E Primary School near Shrewsbury alongside the Heritage School’s Programme Local Heritage Education Manager (LHEM) for the West Midlands region.  The year 5/6 teacher had attended training delivered by the LHEM.  From this the pupils in his class had used historical maps to assist with their studies of the local area.  To follow on, the class teacher was keen for the pupils to learn more about their local war memorial and the people named on it.

The visit began with a session on What are war memorials to ensure the pupils had a sound understanding of the topic.  During initial discussions where pupils looked at photographs of war memorials they were able to identify that war memorials are places that exist to remember local people who fought in wars.  This collective definition shows that the pupils had understood that war memorials come in a range of sizes and designs.  This was further highlighted when pupils were shown a selection of local war memorials including a road side shrine to remember the men of Ruyton of the Eleven Towns,

Pupils then discovered how many war memorials there are in the UK, when many were created and why.   The CWGC cemeteries where two local men, named on the war memorial, were buried were shown to reinforce the fact that the government had made the decision not to repatriate the fallen during World War I.  This resulted in communities wanting somewhere within the town or village to remember their loved ones as it may not have been possible to visit their graves abroad, especially on a regular basis.  Throughout this session pupils asked thoughtful and relevant questions which demonstrated a real interest in the topic.

A visit to the war memorial located in the churchyard of St Simon and St Jude Church, next door to the school formed the second part of the morning.  Pupils were asked to describe the war memorial and identified it commemorated those from World War I and II.  The next task was to carry out a condition survey which would be uploaded to War Memorials Online when back in the classroom.  Following this, pupils were asked to select some names from the memorial which they wanted to research in the afternoon.  While doing this some pupils noticed that there were two people with the surname Hanmer who died during World War I.  They suggested they may be related in some way, possibly brothers.  Another two pupils notice that there was an Ellis Humprehys among the World War I names and a George Ellis Humphreys among the World War II names.  Based on the fact that one of these pupils had her mother’s name as her middle name, they suggested they could be father and son.

Whilst at the church, pupils took the opportunity to find the graves of two of the fallen which are located in the churchyard.  Private Thomas Edward Townsend, who died on 4th December 1917 of wounds received in action in France, was buried in the same plot as his older brother who had died in 1911.  Sergeant Eric Herbert Parker, who died on 26th March 1942 of wounds received while flying over enemy territory, is also buried in the cemetery.  The pupils also noticed that there were some surnames on the war memorial which also appeared on a number of gravestones within the churchyard, including ones which had been added in recent years, suggesting that relatives of those on the war memorial still live in the village today.

Before heading back to school, the pupils looked inside the church which has 4 additional war memorials.  Three of these are marble tablets to commemorate individuals who died during World War I.  The fourth is a Second World War memorial organ.  Earlier, pupils had been told that the church organ is a war memorial as it is listed on IWM’s War Memorial Register, however it did not have a record on War Memorials Online.  Two pupils took photographs and later in the day created a record for the organ on War Memorials Online,  The organ has a metal plaque on the side which has the same names as the tablet which was added to the war memorial cross in the churchyard.

In the afternoon, pupils shared their findings from the condition survey which were then added to the record on War Memorials Online.  The overall condition of the war memorial was considered ‘Fair’,   Pupils were delighted to be able to contribute War Memorials Online, especially when they realised this was the first condition survey which had been carried out for Cockshutt war memorial.

The remainder of the afternoon was spent researching those named on Cockshutt war memorial.  Pupils found this to be a very interesting task and it generated a lot of discussion.  One person who created particular interest was William Stanley Marsh whose parents lived at Crosemere Farm which is just over the road from the school.  A member of staff explained that the Marshes still live on the farm today which reaffirmed the suggestion earlier that many of the relatives of those named on the war memorials still live in the village today.

The day ended with pupils sharing some of the interesting facts that they had found out.  Our Learning Officer then shared some additional information and photographs of Frank Harold Elwin.  It transpired that he had been born in India as his father was the manager of a tea plantation there.  They returned to England and took up residence in Tunbridge Wells.  Frank went to Shrewsbury School and while studying stayed with family friends who lived in the vicarage in Cockshutt.  He was due to take up at a place at Cambridge in 1914 but enlisted shortly after the outbreak of World War I which meant he never took up this place.

It was an absolute pleasure to work with the year 5 and 6 pupils who demonstrated such a keen interest in their war memorial and local heritage.  Their insightful questions throughout the day and careful observations when carrying out the condition survey were a delight to witness.

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