History GCSE: Horace Iles

In the early years of the World War One, it was not unusual for women to present young men with a white feather as a suggestion that they were too cowardly to volunteer for service.

Horace Iles was travelling on a tram in Leeds one day when a stranger presented him with a white feather, even though he was only fourteen years old. He subsequently gave up his apprenticeship with a blacksmith and enlisted in the army.

After eighteen months of training, he was posted to the Somme, a quiet region in France which was about to become the focus for the biggest offensive of the war.

Horace’s sister was desperately concerned for her brother and wrote a letter begging him to admit his age and return home. The letter was returned to her unopened, with a stamp indicating the recipient had been killed in action.

Horace had been one of the nineteen thousand fatalities on the first day of the Somme, the bloodiest day in the history of the British army.

Contains scenes that some viewers may find upsetting. Teacher review recommended before using in class.

This film is from the series Teenage Tommies.

Teacher Notes

This clip could be used along with examples of early propaganda posters as part of an inquiry into methods used to persuade young men to sign up to join the armed forces in the first months of the war.

As part of this task, pupils may wish to consider why someone would present Ernest with a white feather, even though he was so young.

Curriculum Notes

This clip will be relevant for teaching history. This topic appears in OCR, Edexcel, AQA, WJEC KS4/GCSE in England and Wales, CCEA GCSE in Northern Ireland and SQA National 4/5 in Scotland.

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