Why did 15 year-old boys want to join up in 1914?

At the heart of this lesson lies a history mystery. Many of you will have seen something similar in Peter Fisher’s book on thinking skills in history. Whilst the core activity remains the same, the refinements added here make so much difference. For here we have a real example of a 15 year-old boy who joined up, along with a photograph and war memorial. We even have his diary and the letter he wrote to his parents explaining why he joined up. But can the pupils work out what would have been in the letter? That’s the mystery to solve. I am very grateful to Mark Walker, Head of History at Crestwood Community College, Chandler’s Ford, whose painstaking research has done so much to transform this lesson into one that so many of his colleagues have taught with success. Mike Herrity, Assistant Headteacher at Twynhams School in Dorset has also added valuable refinements.

Learning objectives

  • pupils can explain the range of reasons why people joined up in 1914
  • they can grasp the different motivations of people in the early 20th Century and yet can also appreciate the similarities in human nature that stretch across 100 years
  • they can prioritise the

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