History GCSE: St John Battersby

St John Battersby, the son of a vicar from Blakeley in north Manchester, joined the army against his father's wishes when he was only fourteen.

Appalled that his son would serve only as a private, his father allied with the boy's headmaster to get St John promoted to the rank of second lieutenant.

St John was posted to the Somme in 1916 where he was responsible for leading men more than twice his age into the biggest offensive of the war: an offensive which saw him injured on the first day and put out of action for two months.

Shortly after returning to action, he was the victim of a shell attack and had to have a leg amputated. Although this injury forced him to relinquish his commission, he offered to remain in the army and help with the war effort in whatever way he could.

The film also includes a short section which explores St John's life after the war, when he left the army to became a vicar but found it hard to separate himself from the memories of life on the front line.

Contains images which some viewers may find upsetting. Teacher review recommended before using in class.

This film is part of the series Teenage Tommies.

Teacher Notes

Pupils could consider the reasons why a boy as young as St John was so keen to join the army, reflecting on how this differs from their own experiences as teenagers.

The clip refers to the dangers officers faced when serving close to the front line. Pupils could be asked to consider why this might have been the case.

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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