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15 October 2014
WW2 - People's War

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About This Site > Learning Zone > Families: Coming Home

Activities for Families: Coming Home

In learning about the past it is always best to start in an environment that is familiar. All children have some understanding of the world of today, which they can use as a point of reference to compare against historical events. It is important for children to view the world in which they live as a continuation of society in the 1940s, not as completely detached from it.

The activities below will help children consider the impact the end of World War Two had on the children of the time. These activities should supplement formal education by giving a sense of what life was like in the 1940s, rather than a detailed factual knowledge of it. They are meant to be engaging - both for children and for the adults helping them - but not to appear to be part of a structured curriculum. You can do one or all of the activities, depending upon the time available.

Evacuees coming home

Activity 1

Ask your child to list the things that they miss about Britain/home when they go on holiday. Then ask them to list the things they like about going on holiday. Discuss whether their lists would change if they stayed away for more than two months.

Explain that young evacuees were sent abroad during World War Two - for example to America, Canada, or South Africa - to escape the war. Discuss whether or not those evacuees would have been pleased to return home in 1945 at the end of the war, and whether they would have missed the things the children have put on their holiday lists.

Read out loud some of the following extracts:

  • York and Canada: Memories of an Evacuee
  • A Surrey Boy's War - Evacuation to South Africa
  • The Atlantic Divide: Evacuated to America

These extracts can be found on the Story Extracts page.

As you are reading, or after you have finished, discuss the questions below.

The returning soldier

Activity 2

Read out loud with your child/children the following:

  • What is a Daddy?
  • What Happened when Daddy Came Home

These extracts can be found on the Story Extracts page.

As you are reading the first extract, discuss how the child in the story found out about her father, and what she thought about him. Discuss how a child might feel when her father returns from war after several years. Think about how the war influenced children born during 1939-45.

When reading the second story, discuss how the father in the story might have felt about his son's resentful attitude towards him.

Explain that many fathers did not return from the war, and that many families did not speak about their lost loved ones. Describe how this had an impact on a whole generation of children, who grew up wondering about their fathers/parents, but not feeling able to ask questions about them.

Changing ideas

Activity 3

Read the following extracts.

  • A Holocaust Survivor's Search for the Truth
  • I've got a Million Things to Tell You
  • An Airman's Son

These extracts can be found on the Story Extracts page.

Think about the difficulties these people faced after the war was over, and how it influenced their ideas.

Make a list of the ways in which World War Two still influences today's society. Think about novels, films and images. Discuss whether the portrayal of World War Two is a negative or positive force in the world today.

Activity 4

Read the following extracts.

  • 'The Will to Live': Chapter 40 - Even Freedom Has its Troubles
  • The Sound of a Lancaster Engine
  • Remember to Never Forget - the Birth of a Monument
  • Cassino War Cemetery and Return to Normandy (Part 1)

These extracts can be found on the Story Extracts page.

Now ask your child (or children, in small groups) to consider the quotation below.

'The generation who lived through World War Two and those born in the aftermath can never forget it. The memories are only made bearable by the improved living conditions subsequent generations have experienced.'

Then discuss as a group.

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