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World War 1 Propaganda

A lesson plan inspired by the Northern Stage production of Joan Littlewood's OH WHAT A LOVELY WAR by Theatre Workshop, Charles Chilton, Gerry Raffles and Members of the Original Cast
Title suggested by Ted Allan

KS2 History
This lesson plan supports the Year 6 requirement: Study of an aspect or theme in British history that extends pupils’ chronological knowledge beyond 1066 (this may be 20th or 21st century).

Learning Objectives
 "Pupils will gain a coherent knowledge and understanding of Britain’s past and that of the wider world."


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Suggested Classroom Activity

Show the pupils the four videos featuring songs from the Northern Stage production of Oh What a Lovely War.

Show the pupils the selection of WW1 posters.

Ask the class:

• What is propaganda?

Propaganda is information used to promote a political cause or point of view.

After a short discusssion, divide the class into four groups; give each group lyrics of one song to study along with the sheet of poster images.

Ask the groups to analyse their song and match it to a poster which shares a similar sentiment or theme.

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Suggested Classroom Activity cont.....

Pupils can be prompted with the following questions:

• Which of the posters illustrated were used to recruit men to join the army?

• Which of the posters illustrated were used to recruit women to help with the war effort at home?

• Which of the posters illustrated were used to keep morale high at home?

• Which of the posters illustrated were used to encourage people to save food?




We Don't Want To Lose You (King and Country).

We've watched you playing cricket and every kind of game,
At football, golf and polo you men have made your name.
But now your country calls you to play your part in war.
And no matter what befalls you
We shall love you all the more.
Oh, we don't want to lose you but we think you ought to go.
It makes you almost proud to be a woman.
When you make a strapping soldier of a kid.
And he says, 'You put me through it and I didn't want to do it
But you went and made me love you so I did.
' On Saturday I'm willing, if you'll only take the shilling, to make a man of any one of you.


Goodbye-ee

Brother Bertie went away
To do his bit the other day
With a smile on his lips
and his Lieutenant's pips
upon his shoulder bright and gay
As the train moved out he said,
'Remember me to all the birds.'
And he wagg'd his paw
and went away to war
Shouting out these pathetic words:
Goodbye-ee, goodbye-ee,
Wipe the tear, baby dear, from your eye-ee,
Tho' it's hard to part I know,
I'll be tickled to death to go.
Don't cry-ee, dont sigh-ee,
there's a silver lining in the sky-ee,
Bonsoir, old thing, cheer-i-o, chin, chin,
Nap-poo, toodle-oo, Goodbye-ee.


Keep the Home Fires Burning.

They were summoned from the hillside
They were called in from the glen,
And the country found them ready
At the stirring call for men.
Let no tears add to their hardships
As the soldiers pass along,
And although your heart is breaking
Make it sing this cheery song:
Keep the Home Fires Burning,
While your hearts are yearning,
Though your lads are far away
They dream of home.
There's a silver lining
Through the dark clouds shining,
Turn the dark cloud inside out
'Til the boys come home.


Bombed Last Night (Gassed Last Night)

Gassed last night and gassed the night before,
Going to get gassed tonight if we never get gassed any more.
When we're gassed we're sick as we can be,
'Cos phosgene and mustard gas is much too much for me.
They're warning us, they're warning us,
One respirator for the four of us.
Thank your lucky stars that three of us can run,
So one of us can use it all alone.
Bombed last night and bombed the night before,
Going to get bombed tonight if we never get bombed any more.
When we're bombed we're scared as we can be.
God strafe the bombing planes from High Germany.
They're over us, they're over us,
One shell hole for just the four of us.
Thank your lucky stars there are no more of us,
'Cos one of us could fill it all alone.
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Suggested Classroom Activity cont.....

Further group discussion around the following questions can develop the themes introduced in the activity.

1. Why did the government need more troops? Why wasn't the army big enough?

Possible answers include:

• At the outbreak of war the army was geared up for a different type of warfare - the British Expeditionary Force was relatively small.

• The emergence of trench warfare over a huge distance needed a lot of men to man the trench system

• The war was being fought on many fronts
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2. Why did the government need women to work? Where did they find employment and what organisations were set up to help?

Possible answers include:

• The country’s workforce was being depleted as men joined up. Over 600,000 women took on previously male-dominated roles in industry during the war, working alongside men who were in reserved occupations.

• Women made an increasingly varied contribution, working in labs, mills and factories, sometimes in hazardous circumstances.

• the First World War was fought on a huge industrial scale. Vast quantities of munitions were needed to feed the guns and a variety of products were required to supply both military and civilian needs.
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3. Why did the government feel it necessary to use propaganda to keep morale high at home

Possible answers include:

• The war continued for a lot longer than expected. Most people - on both sides - believed that the war would be relatively short, and troops marched off in August 1914 with shouts of “we’ll be home by Christmas!”

Casualties were huge - the Central Statistical Office stated that the total number of soldiers killed in action from the UK was 704,803

• At various points it seemed as though Germany might have the advantage, particularly when the Russian Tsar was overthrown by the Bolsheviks in 1917

• The government needed the civilian population on side - unrest at home would seriously impair the war effort
Development Activity

Ask the groups to analyse the song ‘Bombed Last Night’ (sometimes called Gassed Last Night which is the second verse).

Ask the groups:

• In what ways does this song differ from the other three featured? You can support this learning by looking at other songs from the film on Youtube including "Hanging on the old barbed wire" and "When they ask us how dangerous it was" (Official OWALW film clips have comments disabled)

• Why doesn't it fit the propaganda aims? This could lead you to look in more detail at the play Oh! What a Lovely War and the clips of songs from the film on Youtube (these clips have no comments).
Resources, Notes and Links


The other resources on the OWALW page on Culture Street.

Download the words of the four songs featured above here

Download the posters here

Download this lesson plan here

Download a synopsis of the play here