In 2013/2014 Legion Scotland ran a Primary Schools War Memorial Competition which was organised as part of our Voices of Veterans Campaign.
Legion Scotland was so impressed with the entries we received from schools across Scotland, the level of all entries was exceptional and we had a hard time even trying to arrive at 4 regional finalists which were announced the week beginning the 17th March 2014.
The prize was a tour and overnight stay for pupils from both schools on board original Royal Navy War Ship and floating war museum, HMS Belfast, in London.
As the standard of the entries was so high we decided to pick joint winners, so a huge congratulations to:
Kevin Gray, CEO of Legion Scotland said:
“The films made by Fair Isle Primary and St Andrews Primary showed how much they had engaged with their history and war memorial heritage through the stories of real people. Well done to both for their achievements.”
Minister for Transport and Veterans, Keith Brown who helped judge the competition said:
“The quality of the entries is very strong and shows the great creativity and imagination of the children. With more than 70 entries to choose from it was clear to see that young people have a thirst for knowledge about our history. Innovative competitions like this are an excellent way of teaching children about World War One. The competition made such an impression that the Scottish Government is meeting the costs of providing a second top prize to the winners.”
As part of the competition all the research from every entered school was submitted to a national online archive of war memorials to help the War Memorials Trust find out about the condition of memorials and help preserve and protect them. Each entry also helped the Imperial War Museum to catalogue war memorials across Scotland.
You can watch the 2 winning films below and read more about the great work that went into the making of them.
Fair Isle Primary pupils produced a film ‘Our boys’ that tells tragic stories of soldiers from World War One and shows how the loss of life devastated the local community.
One of the stories uncovered by pupils at Fair Isle, where 26 went to war from a population of 139, features the story of the McLean brothers who served in the same division. The two brothers died 3 days apart in the trenches in France. The body of the older brother Kenneth was never found.
Head teacher at Fair Isle Primary Nicholas Lucas said, “Of the 139 residents on Fair Isle at the time 26 went off to World War One and eight never returned. That’s a big part of a small community. People didn’t talk about it. It was so devastating and felt so strongly here. It changed everything on the Island. Speaking to people whose families were affected helped the pupils make a real connection to the War. It really brought it home to them.
He added, "The pupils are delighted that they have won the competition! World War One can be complicated to understand but going out into the community and talking to people really made it hit home to the children. The research has also helped them learn more about wider local history. Half of the Fair Isle men who died in World War One never made it to battle because they died of diseases. So the research helped the pupils understand about what health was like at the time.”
St Andrews Primary pupils produced a film featuring pupils in character as local soldiers whose stories they uncovered during their research. One local story uncovered was that of Norman MacWhinney from Caerlaverock, a Sergeant Major who was decorated with the Military Medal for his bravery. His platoon was near the river Aisne in France when he was hit by a German shell. He died in battle.
As well as online research and the roll calls on the walls of the memorial inside the chapel itself the pupils from St Andrews also got information from the ‘blue books’ records of service stored in the Chapel.
St Andrews Primary School teacher Joanne Aitken said, “The children have been so enthused by this project. It’s the first time they have learned about World War One. It was their idea at first to shoot the film as if they were in the trenches. Then the pupils decided they wanted to act in the film and get into the character of soldiers they learned about.”
She added, "I think all the pupils now have a global understanding what happened during World War One. The competition really brought it home to them. I think it gave them a chance to get a real breadth of learning, from how the War started to the experiences of life in the trenches.”
Thank you again to all schools who entered and for the effort put into the competition.
The 2014/2015 Legion Scotland Schools Competition will launch on 26th September, for more information please see our Schools and Learning page.