YOUNGSTERS were taken back in time to learn what life was like for Swindon people during the First World War.

A special workshop saw dozens of pupils from Ridgeway, Commonweal, St Joseph’s, Nova Hreod, Crowdys Hill and Kingsdown invade Lydiard Park Academy.

Run by Swindon in the Great War, a community group set up to mark the centenary of the 1914 to 1918 conflict, students got to try on uniforms and research personal histories of townsfolk from the period.

The students had to produce a leaflet and film based on their research, make dishes from rationing recipes and present displays to children at Oliver Tomkins Junior School.

Dr Mike Pringle, who heads up Swindon in the Great War along with Mark Sutton, said the day was a huge success and had inspired the teens to look into their own family histories.

“It’s been absolutely brilliant and the kids really got into it,” he said. “They did their own research and you could see when things piqued their interest, they would go off on tangents. It even made us think ‘wow maybe we should find more about that’. That’s what the day was about, really.”

Mark added that he wanted the children to go away with a true picture of war and that enabling them to get hands on with equipment such as rifles and uniforms made it feel real.

“It’s getting the message over to them that war was not nice at all,” he said.

“The veterans I spoke to, and there are none left in Swindon now, hated war and said they did not want it forgotten or for it to be glorified. That is why we bring the artefacts in for them to touch – they can feel how heavy they are and it brings it to life for them. We don’t hide the details.

“They were very receptive to it and I think they are more anti-war than my generation.”

Kingsdown School pupil Oliver March, 14, of Lower Stratton, said the day had inspired him to find out more about his own family’s part in the war.

“We were researching and finding out about different elements of World War One, including rationing, what other countries did and we got to do some cooking,” he said.

“It was really interesting and interactive and I definitely want to know more.”

His classmate Matilda Wale was equally impressed.

“We looked at newspaper articles and tried on costumes so it was really hands on and it brought it to life for me,” the 13-year-old, of Dorcan, said.

Swindon Advertiser:

The cap fits for Wilson at the schools’ Great War workshop

Commonweal teacher David Kerslake said: “The children learn about the war from a larger perspective in school but the workshop gives them a sense of what was happening in their town during the Great War – it is important for them to think about that.”

For more details on the Swindon in the Great War campaign, visit

If you have any personal stories about ancestors from the period or any commemoration events, please email or visit the Adver’s dedicated webpage at swindon_great_war.