Commemoration - Primary

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The following teachers' notes provide ways for pupils to reflect on the 2014 centenary of World War One.

Pupils will have the opportunity to use primary source material and to conduct their own research.

Video clips

war memorial In memory of all who have given their lives in the service of their country


Remembrance Day began in 1920 when people gathered at the new Cenotaph in London. Today it is a national day of commemoration, replicated at other memorials not just around the United Kingdom, but in many parts of the world.


The 'Remembrance' video helps children to reflect on the 2014 centenary of World War One and to explore why remembrance has become part of national life in Britain and other countries.


When did poppy-wearing begin? Why was the poppy chosen as the symbol of remembrance? Watch this clip to find out.

Audio clip

poppy field

In Flanders Fields

A Canadian army doctor called John McCrae wrote a poem called 'In Flanders Fields' after the funeral of a friend killed in battle in 1915.


Introduce the topic of World War One using BBC Schools resources. You could put the war in its historical context by making a timeline with the class that shows the two world wars and events that happened before and after them. You could take the line right up to the present day. Explain that World War One happened exactly 100 years ago. When we reach such an important anniversary, it is a time to look back and try to make sense of what happened.

The first Remembrance Sunday

Useful link

Remembrance and poppies

You might ask children if they know in which month we wear poppies. Explain that people began wearing the poppy in the years that followed World War One. The poppy is worn in many other countries too, as an act of remembrance. In Britain, poppies are distributed by the Royal British Legion, in return for donations.

On the first Remembrance Sunday people gathered to remember loved ones they had lost in the war.

Children could look at images of early Cenotaph remembrance services and discuss why so many people wore black. You might explain about mourning clothes if necessary.

There was a two-minute silence. Everyone stood still. Men took off their hats. Work stopped. Buses and trains stopped. Even ships at sea turned off their engines. Armistice Day may fall on any day of the week (whenever the 11th of November falls), but today Remembrance Sunday is always the Sunday nearest to 11th November.

War cemeteries and war memorials

Useful link

Menin Gate in Belgium

View the War cemeteries and memorials image gallery

You could look at images of war cemeteries and ask children what they think about them. What might people do as an act of commemoration? (Planting trees, for example.) What other kinds of commemoration can children suggest?

Children might research other World War One commemorative projects, including unusual ones such as the LMS Patriot Project (building a steam railway locomotive), or the Animals in War memorial in Hyde Park.

You could ask children if they know of a local war memorial. Who knows where it is? What form does the memorial take? Are there any other local memorials such as a brass plate in a local building or railway station, for example? You could discuss with children why they think people get upset if others mistreat or vandalise memorials.

The National Memorial Arboretum

Useful link

You could ask pupils to visit the National Memorial Arboretum's website. What can they discover?

The National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire, opened in 2001. There are more than 250 memorials there and it is a popular place for people wishing to commemorate World War One. Why do children think this special place was made? Why do so many people visit it?

Tomb of the Unknown Warrior

You might ask if anyone has heard of the Unknown Warrior in Westminster Abbey.

Useful link

Thousands of soldiers in World War One had no known graves. Can children think why this was so?

Further research

Pupils could find out more about commemorations of World War One (and World War Two) in other countries (e.g. France, Germany, India, Australia and Russia).

Useful links

woman worker

View Women on the home front and The Women's Land Army image galleries

They could discover more about the role of women at war, including the role of women as war nurses, farm labourers and munitions workers. Children could also find out how women's home lives were transformed by war.

Pupils could collect information about how the war affected children, especially those with fathers or brothers away fighting at the front.

Children could research their own family histories. Do any of the children have ancestors who fought in either of the world wars? Do their families have any old photos from the war years? Maybe the children have parents or grandparents in the armed services, currently or in the recent past?

Ask pupils to search for images that they can describe and discuss, such as: the Royal Albert Hall festival of remembrance; Armistice Day or the parade at the Cenotaph; war memorials and the wreath laying; wreath laying at sea; RAF flypasts; Royal British Legion members with their flags; poppy sellers; veterans from the USA, Australia and Canada.

More on This Story

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  • WW1C LogoWW1C

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