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#1 Dan Moorhouse

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Posted 03 May 2005 - 10:40 AM

This seminar is intended to be one that we return to several times over the course of the year. Its function is simply to act as a place where we can share ideeas about how history departments can / do commenorate the anniversaries of significant local, national and international events.

In the first instance, lets consider VE Day. The 60th anniversary of the end of the war in Europe will result in lots of extra commentary in the media about the events of the secnd world war, the rise and fall of national socialism and of memories of VE Day. What can schools and history departments in particular do to commemorate these events?

There have been several suggestions on the forum in recent weeks that act as a useful starting point. The Rationing Challenge would be a good way of getting across some of the social consequences of the conflict, for example.

Other thoughts posted in a thread specifically about VE Day include:


I think it would great have a whole school WW2 day involving historical re-enactors and local people who survived the Blitz. (I live in a London suburb). We could even have a victory party WW2 style - using rationed food. (I think rabbit pie would go down well.) WW2 music and games could be played, 1940s clothes could be worn.

I think this is probably a bit idealistic but I would like to mark the occassion somehow.

Lou Phillips:

I want to do a street party type thing- put up bunting, and perhaps invite grandparents (or more likely great-grandparents) in to talk about their experiences. Not sure how I'm going to manage it though in a school of this size. any other ideas would be v. much appreciated- I have volunteered to do something and don't want to look silly!

Dan Lyndon

I have decided to do a few small but (hopefully) high impact things: Tomorrow I am taking two year 9 pupils to a local OAP home to interview a veteran from the war, and I have also arranged for students to interview veterans from the West Indies ex-servicemens association. However the real coup is that the mayor of Hammersmith, whose grandson I teach in year 7, has agreed to be interviewed by me for a school assembly. All of these interviews will be typed up by the pupils to go onto the BBC website http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/ww2/ as well as on the display that I am doing. The other thing that I am doing is creating a display of memorabilia to go into a display cabinet and I have been asking staff to dig out anything that they have that can be used. I have also been scouring ebay and for a reasonably small budget (less than 20 so far) I have bought a letter from a soldier from 1944, a general service medal, a box of matches, a civil corps armband and a buying permit. I am currently bidding on things like commemorative tea towels and mugs as well as postcards and maps. I will be able to use these artefacts in my lessons afterwards. The key is to do something manageable and try to get as many other people to help you out.

I have started to put together a few webpages about the plans that I have for VE Day plus 60 and the first interviews have been posted. You probably aren't that interested in reading my grandma's experiences but shoud you fancy you can find it here: http://www.comptonhi...VEDay/title.htm

The things that seem to crop up over and again with commemorations of this kind of events are Using testimony of people who lived at the time along with some form of re-enactment.

The Royal British legion has prepared a number of packs that would be helpful if planning anything to commemorate the end of the war: http://www.britishle...3214&tabid=2619

A large collection of memories of VE Day and the war is avaiable via the BBC website - http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/ww2/

Pathe newsreels of the VE Day celebrations can be downloaded, free of charge (do this at school to get the best quality and to help ensure that teachers' usage is noted) http://www.britishpa...archword=VE Day

Examples of local reactions to the end of the war in Europe are likely to enage pupils a little more, especially if they're families were involved. Online examples include:
East Midlands

West Yorkshire


#2 Dan Lyndon

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Posted 09 May 2005 - 06:41 PM

I have been working on a section of my website for VE Day and you can see it here:
I have had a fantastic response from people at school about the VE Day commemorations that I have organised. I have been able to fill an entire glass cabinet display with memorabilia including a gas mask, medal, photos, call up papers, meical papers, a note from the officer's mess allowing a soldier to buy a bottle of whisky, a menu from an RAF dinner in Italy in 1945, a set of postcards from a soldier in France to his future wife and loads of amazing bits and pieces. Tomorrow I am interviewing the Mayor of Hammersmith about his experiences in the Royal Navy during WW2. The whole thing has been really special.
Until the lion has a historian of his own, the tale of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.

#3 Tracy Ede

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Posted 09 May 2005 - 06:52 PM

:D I have had a similar positive reception at school. Our department has led a cross-curicular themed week with each department contributing the the overall theme of VE Day. For example in RE there is a focus on prayer and rememberance; in Food tech they are cooking under rationing conditions for the week; in maths they are using the CWGC site to analyse war casualty statistics; in English they are studying WW2 poetry; in art they are sketching artefacts with history of course taking the leading role!

All work produced over the week along with stories and memorabelia collected from parents/grandparents via a request home, will be dispalyed and recorded. We also have a local theatre group coming in to perform their 'Evacuees' education in theatre performance which is amazing!

I hope that our week will really focus the students attention on the anniversary, and why it is unlikely to be remembered on such a scale again. I was really keen that the kids should communicate and learn from veterans so homework this week is the unusual task of simply talking to their families!

I think it really important that history departments take a central role on such anniversaries - to raise the profile of history with the students as well as tapping into a valuable teaching resource.

Having said that I am very dissappointed with the BBC's efforts on Sunday night! Sir Cliff and Will Young!! Thank God for Vera Lynn and some rather riske veterans whose comments made Eamon Holmes blush! He He!

#4 Dan Moorhouse

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Posted 09 May 2005 - 09:27 PM

Excellent, thanks for these contributions.

VE Day remebrance has actually been extremely low key in my school. As a head of dept I have decided that it is not as important as the 20th anniversary of the fire at Valley parade. Thereofre I have done very very little myself to recognise the 60th anniversary of the end of the war - my logic is simple, the pupils learn about this anyway, they know little if anything of the local disaster 20 years ago.

Commemorating the 20th anniverary of the disaster at Valley Parade is particularly difficult. We will not show ANY footage whatsoever. It has long been agreed by Bradford City supporters that the footage shouls only ever be used by the Fire Brigade as a training tool. I'm not willing to insult my friends familes by breaking this agreement. So, how do we commemorate something without using any footage? Simple:

We're using photographs of the disaster that do not show people. Simple shots of the ground before, during and after, all from a distance. This will be used to show the enormity of the fire.

I've devised a powerpoint that uses the slide transition timing to show how quickly the fire spread. It lasts almost eactly as long as 'You'll Never Walk Alone' which was re-released as a charity single to raise funds for the Burns Unit in the aftermath of the fire. Given a bit of tinkering at the start and end of the presentation and it fits exactly.

Personal accounts. I've found this extremely difficult to do as I know several people who have had their own family accounts published. However, I've got a selection of 'as it happened' accounts from books, the T&A (local evening paepr) and the BCFC supporters journal. These are being used to show how it has impacted on individuals in the city.

Local heroes. The fire created several legends in the city. The best known nationally is probably Stuart McCall. I have clips of him scoring in the FA Cup final for Everton which are merged itno a sequence of appearances for City, Everton, Rangers and Scotland. Then they simply fade and have grayscaled images of the fire with a narrative of his own account of the tragedy in the foreground. His father was badly burnt that day and he ended up visiting several hospitals frantically searching for him - he found him 15 miles away in Wakefield, badly burnt but alive, unlike the loved ones of other city players.

I'm also intending to look at the consequences of the Fire with older and more mature pupils. As with many awful events something is learnt that benefits fture generations. In this case there are medical advances and a move towards improved safety at all sporting fixtures.

We are hoping to also have a 'footie kit day' where the school shirt can be replaced by a football strip of choice. The usual none uniform fee will be donated with all funds going to the Burns Unit.

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Rest in Peace.

#5 Dan Lyndon

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Posted 11 May 2005 - 04:14 PM

This very moving story was published in today's Guardian:

Twenty years ago Martin Fletcher travelled to watch Bradford City with four members of his family. He would be the only one to return home alive. On the anniversary of the Valley Parade fire, he recalls the horror of that day and the lessons that were ignored - so that, four years later, he found himself witnessing another disaster, at Hillsborough

Wednesday May 11, 2005
The Guardian

On my 20th annual pilgrimage to Bradford today it's impossible to recall the excitement with which I woke as a 12 year old in 1985 to head north from Nottingham with my father, John, 34, and brother Andrew, 11, to watch Bradford City's unlikely coronation as Third Division champions, after 48 years in the Football League's lower reaches. We went with my uncle, Peter, 32, and grandfather, Eddie, 63. I would be the only one to return home. As the crowd gathered at Valley Parade that May 11, the cloudy weather couldn't dampen a sunny atmosphere. The players received their trophy before the match and we cheered them on a lap of honour. They returned the favour at kick-off, each player holding up a board with the message "THANK YOU FANS". On this day of great expectation supporters spoke of the challenges promotion would bring. It would be a future 56 would not see.

It was 40 minutes into the game that smoke first began to rise from one end of the all-wooden main stand where my family and I were sitting. Uncertain whether it was a fire, but convinced that the fire brigade would control it if it were, junior police officers ordered the section cleared into the stand's rear corridor, the only empty area in the stand. The 80 spectators in our section began to empty back as quickly as a stairwell just one man wide would allow.

Just as we were about to move I looked down and saw large tips of flame dance beneath a crack in the stand. As a child might, I swore and Dad clipped my ear. I felt indignant, and when my uncle suggested the kids went ahead together, I agreed immediately it was a good idea.

I expected to return to my seat a few minutes later. Nobody anticipated having to escape a fire that was still to emerge from beneath the stand. Fans, expecting to be told to come back, massed in the area nearest their seats. When I arrived in the corridor to find a wall of people I was not concerned. I assumed that it would clear. Only it did not.

At this point, the teams were still playing and it was only the attentions of a linesman that brought the game to a halt. By now, flames had cut off the stairwell I had walked up, making it impassable. The nearest accessible stairwells, 9 and 13 metres away, were full of people. More spectators entered the corridor trying to make their way out and we became trapped at the end nearest the fire. Any attempts to have cleared the gridlock would have resulted in a deadly stampede.

Unable to move and unaware of what was happening, I eventually cried for dad. The corridor was so calm, he not only heard me, but I could turn to speak with him and he calmed my fears. Embarrassed by my behaviour, I apologised to the man beside me. He smiled back, pensively. At ease, I stood, having turned my back on my family, with no idea I had seen them alive for the last time.

Suddenly the gridlock cleared. But at the same time both stairwells became cut off by fire and we headed towards the exit. Brisk walking turned to running as people tried to reach the nearest exit still some 25 metres away. I was at the front of the group heading for the turnstiles. Now, 75 seconds after the evacuation began, the fire erupted. In an instant, clear air was replaced by an impenetrable wall of black smoke, laced with carbon monoxide. It brought with it instant death, killing 19 by the turnstiles before they reached an exit, 18 by the nearest exit and six more beyond it.

An eerie silence accompanied the blinding smoke, I could only sniff at my surroundings. My consciousness was painlessly crushed and I accepted death. It is almost impossible to explain what happened next, but there was a flash of light, a sudden illuminated outline of an individual appeared before me. Just as quickly, it disappeared, but I chose to carry on, feeling my way along the wall of the block. I made my way alone and, with the exception of a brief solitary cry, the silence was unbroken. There were no flames in the corridor, but when I reached the stairwell I was met by an advancing wall of fire that had enveloped the seating. I ran straight through the burning stand and reached the perimeter wall. I was dragged over it by fellow fans. Sprawled on the pitch, I got up and dashed for the safety of the terrace opposite. Within a minute the entire stand was ablaze.

In escaping one hell I entered another. Initially I was told what everybody believed, that everyone had escaped the fire. It was not until my family were identified two days later that anyone dared correct this impression. They had all perished in the corridor. Five years of sporadic, invasive press attention followed ("the bravest boy in Britain" the tabloids called me), robbing me of my adolescent years.

By the time I left for Warwick University it seemed I had become defined by this single May day. There I began to move beyond that day and developed skills that eventually led me to study the legislation, transcripts and statements at the heart of the Bradford fire.

It was the deaths of 66 supporters at Ibrox in 1971 that led to the introduction of the first piece of legislation that offered protection to sports fans, the 1975 Safety of Sports Grounds Act. Government staggered the legislation's introduction; international and First Division grounds were designated first, with lower division grounds to follow later. Only they did not. After lobbying, the Thatcher government indefinitely postponed further designation on the basis that lower division grounds were not attended in sufficient numbers even though any proposal that public safety legislation be abandoned at other public buildings that held thousands less would have brought uproar.

The unimplemented regulations anticipated stand fires. They stated that wooden stands should be capable of evacuation in 2 minutes, that all combustible material be removed from beneath them, any voids that caused such an accumulation be sealed, and that no one should be more than 30 metres from the nearest manned exit. None of these conditions were met at Bradford.

On June 5 1985, three days after we held a memorial service service for Dad and Andrew, the public inquiry opened into the disaster. It was so soon after the tragedy that most of the victims' relatives felt unable to attend. The inquiry's conclusions, based on just five days' hearings, provided the superficial flawed answers that all craved.

West Yorkshire's chief fire officer, Graham Karran, told the inquiry it was simply "inexplicable" that his team of fire prevention officers had never inspected the stand. Only they had inspected the clubhouse beside the stand in licensing it, while the brigade regularly visited the ground to water the pitch, undertake exercises and were even due to play a club's former XI there.

The fire authority knew of the stand's dangers. It held meetings about the ground with the Health and Safety Executive , which twice rated "fire" as a "substantial" risk . Fire prevention officer, Neville Byrom, received a detailed letter from a council engineer that warned, "The timber construction is a fire hazard". Yet the fire authority did nothing.

As it wrote to the club, the Executive had "Emergency powers in relation to any sports ground", under the Safety at Sports Grounds and Fire Precautions Act. Claims that conditions were not serious enough to warrant their exercise were rejected at civil trial. Had the fire authority discharged its statutory duty the disaster would never have happened. Instead, in a gross dereliction of duty, it turned a blind eye to its now realised potential as a death trap.

What Bradford did prove was that the pitch provided the only emergency escape route. Had the 2,000 terrace spaces that flanked the stand's 2,000 seats been fenced, a death toll of 9/11 proportion would have resulted. As it was, only a gap in the Kop terrace fence adjacent to the stand allowed hundreds to escape. Both the FA chairman and Football League secretary immediately suggested a review of fencing policy. Home secretary Leon Britton promised parliament, "There is no question of simply putting up a fence which would create a trap".

Only, on April 15 1989, as a Nottingham Forest fan I was at Hillsborough. From the Kop terrace, opposite the Leppings Lane end, I watched 96 die within such a trap, because the local authority had not held inspections, allowing unauthorised crush barrier modifications to go overlooked. I heard the sirens again and I clutched the fence beside me as fans tended and carried the dead. On returning home I became so distraught that nothing had clearly been learned that I hyper-ventilated. That weekend, the press began to doorstep my house again.

Unlike in Belgium where the government fell after the Heysel stadium disaster, there would be no ministerial fall-out after England's twin disasters. Although both had clear grounds for gross negligence the authorities never considered manslaughter charges. If such failures carry no penalties how can we expect their lessons to be learned?

I fear complacency has returned. This year, I visited the ground at London Wasps rugby club where a locked gate meant my nearest available exit was a congested 50 metres away. I worry how effective current evacuation policies are in an age of global terrorism, how limited access points around new stadiums would cope if the unforeseeable happened and how clubs will cope when today's stadiums eventually crumble at end of their natural life. Would our public authorities again gamble on forcing yet more innocents on the pilgrimage I make today?
Until the lion has a historian of his own, the tale of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.

#6 Dan Moorhouse

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Posted 11 May 2005 - 06:52 PM

Thanks for that Dan.

There are hundreds of personal accounts on the supporters club e-mail lists which are all heartwrenching reads.

Teaching citizenship today, used this quote:

"The people of Bradford buried their dead, succoured the injured,
nurtured the bereaved and fairly compensated those in need. Not for them
the endless desire for litigation, the constant demand for inquiries,
the unceasing desire for revenge or the clamour for prosecution that
have been such a feature of other disasters.

"Nor did they feel the need for frequent expressions of public grief.
For them grief is, and was, a very private affair. They behaved with
much dignity and very great courage."

Which is taken from the Popplewell report. Had a photograph of the ground set as the background and played the Fire disaster fund version of 'You'll Never Walk Alone' quietly in the background.

#7 Dan Moorhouse

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Posted 28 October 2008 - 09:05 PM

Help wanted!

I'm doing an 'extra special' additional assembly on remembrance for the House that my form are in. Focus is ENTIRELEY on local history and the local impact of the Royal British Legion.

Content is an absolute doddle. We're 400 metres away from the site of one of the biggest home front disasters of WW1 (Low Moor Explosion) and the West Yorls Regiment have one of the highest % casualty ratings of any battalion, in any war, ever.... I've even got the family example to use - my mum was born on christmas day 1944 - her dad was, at that time, laid up in a South African Hospital - and it was the RBL who sorted my grandma out with support etc....

Simple question: How the hell do I do I cover this in a way thats accessible and interesting to kids in every year group? I've done hundreds of assemblies before but never for a house group.... and I teach the Yr11 kids straight after the asembly and know they hate most assemblies they endure (as do I....)

Multi age remebrance ideas on a postcard please....

Current plan is:

- Video (in production) using 'cry myself blind' by Primal Scream to provide overview of the impact of war on the area.
- use of family uniforms and medals to make it personal
- kids doing a few readings, particularly related to the aftermath of the Low Moor explosion
- 'design a memorial' competition, as there is no memorial whatsoever for the locals who died as a result of the Low Moor explosion (34 known deaths, all within spitting distance of school)

Other than that and me talking at 'em.... not much!

Ideas please folks. I KNOW this will work with some year groups but think yr7 will be sat there baffled......

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