Second World War family history – Ellie

Please reply to this post with any family history linked to World War II.  

The children have begun presenting family stories and artifacts in class and this is helping to bring the history and reality of the second world war to life.  

It helps to have exact detail written down so that we can find out about and discuss the actual battles, experiences and memories.  Or perhaps you could help your son or daughter put together a presentation that they could show to the class.

As a start, here is Ellie’s incredibly poignant story of her great uncle Frank.

He grew up in West London, passed the exam to get into grammar school, and studied medicine at university, planning to become a doctor.  He signed up for the war and fought alongside his friends, many of whom he saw die.  He ran up the Normandy beaches on D-day carrying a radio and heard a scream next to him as his friend was shot.  He knelt down to help him but he died in his arms.  When he returned home, he decided he no longer wanted to be a doctor because he didn’t want anyone else to die in his arms; so he became a bus driver and the conductress of the bus became his wife.  He never spoke about the horrors he had seen at war.

Cabinet War Rooms

 6CM enjoyed a walking tour today of some of the UK’s most historic buildings.  We started on the south bank of the Thames, looking across the river at the magnificent view of the Houses of Parliament.  Then we stopped outside Westminster Abbey, walked down Whitehall to the Cenotaph and Downing Street, and then back past the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to Horseguards Parade and had lunch in St James’s Park (with large numbers of pigeons, sea gulls, ducks and geese!)  We circled the park and saw a troop of the Queen’s guard leaving Buckingham Palace and made our way to the Cabinet War Rooms.  

Before leaving we had talked about, and tried to imagine, what it must have been like to have been living in London in 1940, with the country under attack and fearful of invasion.  The painstakingly reconstructed, cramped underground war rooms helped to give a sense of this history and of the leadership and inspiration that Churchill offered the country in this critical period.

With thanks to Claire Hitchcock for the photography, here are some pictures from the day.

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World War II

We’ve begun by discussing the lead up to the Second World War.  We used this video as a prompt: Lead up to World War II  (a little wordy, and might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but worth a look).  We also watched  footage of Neville Chamberlain’s ‘peace in our time’ speech and listened to his subsequent Declaration of war


Then we asked the children to write a little about what they already know about World War II and, more importantly, what they want to know.  They came up with extraordinarily deep questions, some of which we will try to explore in subsequent weeks.

On understanding war and the morality of war

  • Why did a species turn on itself? (Daisy) 
  • I want to know why people wanted to kill each other when they could have a world of peace.    Why were people OK to “accidentally” bomb houses of innocent people? (Olivia)
  • Why do we have to be so cruel to our own kind?  How could we be so stupid to kill countries for six years? (Sarafina)
  • What was the point of fighting.  Do we get anything out of it?  (Nathan)
  • Why was it so inhuman? (Wayne)
  • Why we couldn’t sort things out another way? (Nina)
  • How did the war spread around the world? Why? (Myah)
  • Will there be a World War III (Emily)

On Hitler, the Nazi Party and Germany

  • What triggered [some] Germans to be extremely cruel, killing machines?  (Archie)
  • Why did so many die just because of one person? (Sylvie)
  • And some very black humour from Sylvie: how many trees were used as death certificates?
  • If Hitler hadn’t died [and had won the war] what would he have done next?   (Tanya and Caspar)
  • We are all human.  Why did Hitler think Jews were so bad?  (Emily)
  • Which country killed more people: England or Germany?  (Archie)

On what life was like during the war, how the war affected the local area, and the role of women in wartime

  • How did families cope during the world war?  Where did families live and what did they eat?  (Nathan)
  • Why couldn’t women fight in war? (Olivia)   
  • What kinds of things did the women do? (Sylvie)
  • Was the local area bombed?  
  • What was our primary school doing in WW2.  (Sylvie)  
  • When did Rosendale Road get hit by a V2 rocket? (Faith)