Millthorpe Remembers the First World War

Millthorpe Remembers the First World War

It was during the summer holiday of 2014 that I began to think of ways Millthorpe could remember the centenary of the First World War. I wanted a project that connected students to the stories of real individuals and that was ongoing throughout the duration of the four year centenary. After much thought, I decided to create three fictional characters, based on real life stories from the oral testimonies of those who lived through this period. Each Millthorpe house had a character to follow and would receive termly updates on the character’s experiences. Each year I also gave the whole school assemblies updating them on where the major fighting was taken place 100 years ago.

Here are the characters I created. Remember, there are strands of truth in all their stories, but they are fictional creations.

Saxons: Tommy

The first character I created was 15 year old Tommy. Like many boys he was signed up, despite being underage. Tommy immediately went to training camps, after spending a few weeks camping on the Knavesmire. Here is an extract from his account:

We went to Castlegate, the Headquarters of the Yorkshire Hassars to join up. They asked me my date of birth and like an idiot I told them the truth. The recruiting officer frowned and told me “You’re 15 and a half today but you will need to be 18 tomorrow. Walk around and have a few more birthdays son.” I didn’t know what he meant at first but I came back the next day. The same recruiting officer asked me my age and I replied 18. He looked at me sharply with the ghost of a smile and I was in.

In September 1915 Tommy saw the first (unsuccessful) use of gas by the British.

The officer commanding the gas company kept testing the wind direction and shaking his head. The order to release the gas on the German trench was given.  The officer at first refused but the order came again. As he predicted the gas rolled back onto our own infantry troops. I cannot tell you what the gas was like.  It smelt sweet at first and then we realised. We only had the most basic helmets, great white canvas things that were soaked in chemicals. Men who had breathed in gas would claw to try to take them off. Some who had been in the lower parts of the trench got it really bad and they became senseless. I was told that in the Southern sector it worked well and the German lines were in confusion.

Tommy survived the Battle of the Somme and Ypres. In 1918 he sustained a small cut to his hand.

I am in a field hospital waiting to be moved back to Blighty. After all these years dodging bullets and shrapnel and it is a small scratch that finishes me! I have blood poisoning from a cut in my hand. They are giving me tetanus injections every few hours but the doctor thinks I will lose my arm. Still despite how hot and ill I feel I am still glad to be in a clean bed. I crawled in without even taking my boots off. The nurse was furious!

This was Tommy’s last report. The infection that resulted caused blood poisoning and Tommy died on the ambulance train on the way home. I felt very conflicted about ‘killing Tommy’. More men survived the war than died and yet I wanted to make the point that it might not be an enormous explosion that killed soldiers – it could be something as simple as some muddy barbed wire.

Vikings: Ada

It was very important to me to have a woman represented in the project and I based my story on the Leeds munition workers. My character was named Ada and she lived in Burton Stone Lane. She was married with children. Her first entry reported the requisitioning of horses that took place in York at the start of the war.

There is panic buying and the food prices have already shot up. They are desperate for horses and are using the Barbican as a big stabling area. They were stopping all the farmers on Blossom Street this morning and buying the horses from them then and there! Well the farmers were none too pleased – they didn’t get a good price and were stuck in York with a cart and no horse.

Ada quickly becomes involved in the war effort:

They are setting up a new munitions factory in Leeds and I am minded to go and register. Since the boys have gone I feel I would rather work than sit around the house and IMAGINE! My sister has agreed to keep an eye on the two girls for me.

Ada was quickly trained. Here is her report from Sept 1915:

You are speaking to a fully trained member of the Munitions Factory team of the Barnbow Munitions factory, Leeds. About a third of us are not Leeds locals. We had a month’s training and then we get on with it! There are three shifts: 6am-2pm, 2pm-10pm and 10pm-6am. The factory is never silent, churning out shells to kill the enemy. There are no easy jobs here but some are more dangerous than others, such as mixing up the TNT and ammonium nitrate to make a mixture that will explode. The rules are ever so strict. One girl was fined a week’s wages for forgetting to take a match from behind her ear. You would laugh if you could see me in my overalls. But I feel proud to be working for my country. I am also being paid more than I ever have (£3 a week). My boys are outraged that I earn more than them!

Work in the factory resulted in many physical side effects. Ada commented in Dec 1915:

The chemicals in the air turn your skin a bright yellow and dyes the front of our hair, the bit that sticks out of our caps, a vivid ginger. The doctors tell us to drink lots of milk to try to clear it from our systems but I am not convinced it works.

In March 1916 Ada’s story came to an abrupt end. 35 workers were killed in an explosion at the Barnbow Munitions factory on the 5th February. Ada was one of the workers killed.

The Barnbow munitions explosion was a real event that I wove into the semi-fictional narrative; the casualties bodies were returned to York and buried in York Cemetery. A memorial to the women was built after the war at Leeman Road.


Romans : William

Our final character was William. He was 17 when war broke out and already a member of the Officer Cadet Force. Prevented from joining up by his teacher, he was forced to wait until September 1915 to serve. William immediately became a Second Lieutenant but his experience in the trenches was not quite as he had imagined :

The 50 men in my command seem like a good bunch although some are not as respectful as I’d like. I had to discipline a soldier who was helping himself to a tin of bully beef. I got the sergeant to take his name then had him confined to camp.

In June 1916 William was part of the attack on the Somme.

As soon as I got out of the trench I saw a scene of carnage. My men were scattered everywhere, the metal triangles on their backs glinting in the sunlight. I stood up to lob a Mills bomb at a machine gun post and felt a terrific punch across my nose and saw an explosion of bright light then nothing. My wounds were so serious that I have been sent back to England. The shrapnel has left a huge wound across my nose and forehead and it looks as if my face is split into two. I can see how the nurses look at me, with a mixture of pity and disgust.  When Mother saw me I could see her struggle not to look away.

William spent the rest of the war recovering from his injuries. He was lucky enough to be sent to a specialist unit at Sidcup where he was given pioneering plastic surgery to try to restore his face.

They will stretch some of the skin from my chest and roll it into a tube and join it to my face. It will mean staying in that position for several months but hopefully the skin will knit with my face and then can be cut free from my chest. I have seen the pictures and I am hopeful that this might be worth the pain and effort. The visit was helpful, it was good to see lots of chaps with faces as terrible as mine.

William’s operation was operation was successful, and he lived into his seventies, but he had to live with his scars for the rest of his life.


The assemblies of 2014-18 mirrored the events of 1914-18. It has been a rollercoaster of emotions! In 2016 I had to report the death of Ada. It felt the mood had changed and we removed the house branding from the characters – we were now all in it together. Mr. Baybutt (Head of Saxons) kept checking in: How’s Tommy doing? I didn’t have the heart to tell him that I had already written Tommy’s fate in 1918. I remember Mr. Baybutt’s relief as Tommy made it through the Somme! William’s story was even harder to tell. I had to share the traumatic surgery he had to undergo and it was extremely hard-hitting at times. There were, however, also moments of relief. William’s face at 70 was restored, his features blurred by the softening effect of time.

Over the four years these characters have become very real to me. Our current Year 11 were in year 7 when the project started.  I hope, like me they now have a very real sense of how long the war took to finish and the impact it had on the lives of York’s citizens.


Millthorpe School passes Ofsted Inspection with Flying Colours

Government inspectors have awarded a “Good” rating to Millthorpe School, commenting that “leaders have an accurate view of pupils’ progress” and praising the improvement in results this year, the improvement in teaching and “the quality of pastoral support and care for pupils.”
This short Ofsted inspection, which took place at the end of November, was the first since the school became an academy within the South Bank Trust in April 2016. It was aimed at confirming the school’s “Good” status awarded at Millthorpe’s last inspection in 2014.
The report compliments Head of School, Gemma Greenhalgh’s “clear focus on the necessary improvement priorities” and noted her experience and strong leadership. They said “The recent focus on pupils’ learning conduct has already resulted in an environment across the school where further improvements, with strong and focused leadership, can be made rapidly.”
Ms Greenhalgh joined Millthorpe as Head of School in September 2017.
Inspectors also commented that “Without exception, pupils were found to have positive attitudes to their learning in lessons.” Governors were also praised and found to be “committed to supporting the school and bringing about any necessary improvements.”
Both parents and pupils had good things to say to inspectors. A large number of parents responded to Ofsted’s survey and “their responses were overwhelmingly positive.” Pupils “spoke positively about their experience at the school and reported that pupils show respect and tolerance towards each other.”
Ms Greenhalgh, said “I’m very pleased that the report acknowledges many of the improvements we have already made. We are always looking for ways to improve and have ambitious plans for the future. We’re delighted that the inspectors agreed with the priorities we are currently working on. This report helps us with that ongoing process, but for today, it feels good to take a moment to be proud of what governors, staff and students are achieving.”
Chair of Governors, Bill Schofield, commented that “We are glad that inspectors recognised the significant improvement in our 2018 results and the impact our focus on learning conduct has had.  We are proud that inspectors noticed that not once was there disruption in lessons during their visit and that pupils’ attitude to learning was so positive.”
Executive Headteacher Trevor Burton said “I’m very pleased with the report. Millthorpe is continuing to show improvements in its results and in its students’ attitudes, whilst also working as a support school within the South Bank Multi Academy Trust.  Staff and students have every right to feel proud of this report.”
Ofsted will publish the report on their website at on Thursday 20 December and a copy is available on the Millthorpe School website at

Waterloo 200

Commemorating the Battle of Waterloo 1815 – 2015

As part of the 200 year commemoration of the Battle of Waterloo on June 18 2015, Millthorpe School was invited to take part in an international service and research project.

Rachel Walmsley and Maia Rollinson from Year 9 volunteered to research into the life of a local soldier who had fought at the battle of Waterloo. This information was then saved into to an on-line book which the Waterloo 200 committee have organised.

We were given the task of finding out about James Asquith who we were told was probably from Tadcaster. It was a slow process finding out more information about him as we didn’t have his exact date of birth and the only information we had was that he was probably born within Tadcaster. It turned out that he was born in the Parish of Tadcaster. This area covered many small towns and villages at the end of the 1700’s, making his exact birth place hard to pinpoint.

We signed up to the ‘Find my past’ and the ‘’ websites and began to uncover information about James Asquith. The most useful document that we found was his army discharge papers. This gave us lots of information about his approximate age, where he served, which battalion and regiment he served in and even how much he got paid. As he would have to use this document to get his pension it also contained a very useful written description of James so that he could be identified by officials as being the right man. We also looked at census materials and found him on both the 1851 and 1861 census as well as a death certificate from 1861. To improve our knowledge of the Battle of Waterloo we used history books, search engines and attended a talk on the battle by a local historian.

Paul Brunyee was the local historian who visited Millthorpe just before half term. He gave a presentation to a group of Year 9 students about the Battle of Waterloo and then spoke to us in more detail at lunchtime. He brought with him muskets, French cavalry swords, medals and letters, all from the Battle of Waterloo. He was even able to show us exactly where James Asquith would have been positioned at the start of the battle; it was a very interesting account.

We used all of the information from our research to put together a picture about the life of James Asquith and then we included the information in the commemorative e-book.

I was lucky enough to be chosen to represent Millthorpe School at the commemoration service that was held at 11am on the 18 June, exactly 200 years to the day since the battle took place. The ceremony took place in St Paul’s Cathedral and was a really prestigious event. Poor Maia had to stay in school.

The service was very interesting. A particularly moving part of the service was when accounts were read by descendants of soldiers or by present day soldiers from the same companies as those who had written the original accounts and letters from Waterloo. It presented the Battle from the soldiers’ perspective, including contributions from the English, Scottish, German and French. Count Blucher and the Duke of Wellington were there (the latest in the line of descendants as opposed to the originals!) to contribute. The part I was most impressed with was when two Privates from the army read accounts. These were just young men, not much older than me, from normal back-grounds reading to an audience of over a 1000 people, including Prince Charles and Camilla Duchess of Cornwall, Prince Edward, David Cameron and Nigel Portillo. Plus the service was broadcast on the TV to millions more.

Overall it was a really interesting service and a nice day out in London. We didn’t get to meet Dan Snow who had helped with the research but Mrs Bowland and I did get to have our photo taken outside St Paul’s Cathedral with all the other school students who had taken part in the research. It has been a real honour to be part of such an important event.

Rachel Walmsley 9HPA

Who was James Asquith

James Asquith was a drummer in the 2nd battalion, 30th Foot. He was born in the Parish of Tadcaster, possibly in 1799 but maybe a little later in June 1800. If he was indeed born in June 1800 then his parents were probably called Ann Powell and Benjamin Asquith. However this is not conclusive. The only James Asquith that we have found who was born in 1799 was registered as being born in Bradford to a father with the fine name of Septimus.

James Asquith’s army records describe him as five foot six and a half inches tall, brown hair, grey eyes and a fair complexion. Waterloo was the last major battle fought before the arrival of the photograph and so this is the only image we have of him.

James enlisted in the British Army in Wakefield on the 24 June 1811 in the East Lancashire Regiment 39th and 59th foot. He was only 12. There is no explanation as to why he enlisted in the army so young. The early 1800’s saw the glamorisation of the role of the drummer boy and paintings depicted them as young boys, although in reality their average age was 26. Perhaps James was enticed by the thought of foreign travel and heroic deeds. Some of the drummer boys had fathers who were already serving in a regiment and the boys were taken on in order to get more pay for the family. There was an age limit but this was often ignored meaning some could have been as young as 10. The younger boys tended to be used as a sort of mascot for the army; the role of the drummer boys was also a very important method of communication.

The boys would drum various drum rolls which were recognised by the soldiers as different commands that then instructed the troops. At Quatre Bras and Waterloo there were 304 drummer boys in the British front line. Between 1814 and 1817 James was stationed in Paris and earned £2 19 s & 5d. At Waterloo, he was part of the 2/30th in Halkett’s British Brigade in Alten’s division which placed them in the middle of the allied line, to the right of La Haye Sainte. They were one of Halkett’s four battalions which had fought under Wellington in the Peninsula and during the day they faced heavy fighting and suffered high losses, including Alten.

James survived Waterloo and was awarded the Waterloo Medal. In 1818 he went to serve in India. Due to a thigh injury he was discharged in 1828 with a pension, having been described as a good soldier.

He settled back in Tadcaster and at some point married Mary Ann. He lived there as a Chelsea Pensioner. He appears in the 1851 census as living with his wife Mary Ann on Vicarage Lane and again in 1861 at the age of 60, living in Backleft Yard. His army records show him as a millwright and he probably learnt this trade in the army as they were specialised carpenters who had a working knowledge of driveshafts, bearings, gearing and mechanical belts. He died on 20 September in 1861 at the age of 61.

The Romans are coming!

History Clubbers were very excited to be visited by John Conyard (father of Thomas) for a talk on life in York during the late Roman period. John is a reconstruction archaeologist and was able to bring in a range of exhibits based on archaeological finds. These included the outfit he wore on the day and an impressive array of weaponry. We are very grateful that John was prepared to give up his time to talk to us.

Mrs Lingard
Head of History

Talk Less Teaching in the History Classroom

Sara Bowland and Ruth Lingard, joint Heads of History at Millthorpe, meets the Northern History Forum in ‘Ringing the Changes’ to present ideas for best classroom practice on Wednesday 29 April at Leeds Trinity University.

Ruth and I have been lucky enough to take part in a comprehensive series of Continual Professional Development opportunities at Millthorpe during the school year. Led by a team of Lead Teachers (including Ruth), a variety of workshops have been developed that aimed to invigorate and improve our classroom practice. Having taken part in various workshops, staff were given the time to try the new ideas in their classroom, modify them to suit particular subjects and then share these with other staff at a Teaching and Learning Training Day. It was great to see teachers from all department areas, with a varied amount of classroom experience under their belt, sharing great ideas and good practice.

The History Department spent time developing these ideas to suit their subject and as a result have developed lots of resources to focus on the various areas developed in the workshops. The History Department have been looking at using ‘Flip Learning’ with Years 9, 10 and 11, developing our use of questioning in the classroom and really taking the time to embed the idea of ‘Talk Less Teaching’.

We had so much success with this approach in our classrooms that we took the opportunity to present the ideas to over 50 other History teachers at the Northern History Forum. This event, organised by the Historical Association, attracts hundreds of enthusiastic History teachers. This term the forum was called ‘Ringing the Changes’ and Ruth and I were pleased to be on the programme alongside the likes of Ben Walsh, History GCSE textbook author and adviser to Channel 4 Schools on the History in Action series.

Talk Less Teaching Presentation

The focus of ‘Talk Less Teaching in the History Classroom’ developed generic ideas presented to us by Lyndsey Parr (RE department) and was designed to share with other history teachers, ways in which to encourage the holy grail of independent learning in the classroom.

As a department we knew that we all liked to talk too much whilst our students listened passively. The session explored the methods and techniques we have used to make our students do the talking rather than ourselves. The session was jam packed with practical ideas to use in the classroom and was met with positive feedback from the other teachers.

There are so many good ideas that different teachers and departments can share with each other, we’re lucky that we have been given the opportunity and time within school to develop our methods in this way and it was a real privilege to be able to then share what we had adapted with other schools at the Historical Association forum.

Sara Bowland and Ruth Lingard
Joint Heads of History

House of Lords Visit

To celebrate the launch of the Historical Association Quality Mark for schools we were very pleased to accept an invitation to the House of Lords on Monday 2 February. As you will remember, the History department was assessed as part of the pilot scheme in October and we are proud to be the first secondary state school in the country to qualify for the award. Mr Burton and I were accompanied by Holly Clarke and Freya Thomson from Year 10.


On arrival at the House of Lords, we had photos on the terrace and then an opportunity to mingle with a variety of influential guests. The girls were asked their opinion on the future of the new GCSE by the Head of the AQA History exam (who also apologised to them for the Controlled Assessment tasks!) They also chatted to Lord Guthrie about York. Douglas Hurd, Antonia Fraser, Al Murray and Baroness Shirley Williams were also among the guests.


We were then lucky enough to be invited for a whistle stop tour of the parliament buildings, ending with a chance to watch the final part of a Commons debate on lowering the voting age to 16 – very topical! At the end of the debate, we were bustled out the back entrance as the house was just about to divide and we made it back to Kings Cross, just in time to catch the last train home. What a busy Monday evening!

Mrs Lingard, Joint Head of History

Year 9 students meet a Holocaust survivor

As part of the Millthorpe Remembers Programme for Holocaust Memorial Day, the History department were invited to take a small number of Year 9 students to meet a Holocaust survivor and to watch the film ‘The Power of Good’.

Edith Jayne is a Holocaust survivor who spoke to our students about her family’s experience of fleeing from the persecution of the Jews by the Nazis. Her father was an Austrian Jewish doctor, working for the Austrian National Health Service and her mother was an Austrian Catholic.

One of the things that struck us is that initially, as the Nazi persecutions spread to Austria, her father was not worried. He believed that he was a ‘good Jew’ and that Hitler would not persecute them. Both of her parents saw their identity as Austrian first and religious persuasions came second. The family were surprised therefore, that the Nazis did not differentiate between ‘good or bad’ Jews and persecuted them all.

When Hitler annexed Austria on 11 March 1938, the family were able to secure a passage to Portugal. Luckily for her family, Edith’s father’s connections as a doctor meant that there were several Nazis that were prepared to help him and his family get out of the country. They had to pay a bribe for this. But it showed that some people in Germany were willing to help Jewish people to escape. Students were struck by how hard it was for people to escape and that if you didn’t have money you would be stuck under Nazi control and all that followed.

Edith Jayne showed lots of photos for her childhood. She recalled that she is wearing the same dress in most of them, which she came to hate. She explained that the reason for this is that when Jewish people left Germany and Austria, they were not allowed to take any money out of the country. So her mother had bought the same two dresses in every available size, so that they had clothes to wear as they grew up. Similarly in the film ‘the Power of Good’, children rescued by Nicholas Winter talked of how parents, who never saw their children again, had their children’s normal fillings replaced by gold fillings, so that they would have some wealth in their new country.


Edith Jayne today and as a child in one of the two dresses bought by her mother.

Edith’s family lived in Portugal until 1941, when fearing that Hitler would overrun this country too, they emigrated to the USA. Listening to Edith talk about her experiences as an immigrant was enlightening. The difficulty of having to learn a new language twice in 5 years, to learn new customs and the desire to fit in and become ‘Americanised’ reflected some of the issues relevant to some of our students today.

As Edith’s family were Jewish on her father’s side and Catholic on her mother’s side, they experienced the full consequence of Nazi Policies. On the one hand 42 members of her father’s family died in concentration camps and yet on the other, she had cousins in Austria who were forced to become members of the Hitler Youth, whether they liked it or not.

Edith has returned to Austria in recent years and a memorial has been established by her home town to remember victims of the Holocaust. She said that most people who fled did not want to return to their home town, because they felt betrayed by friends and neighbours. In school we are taught to try to forgive and to reconcile and so found this a little difficult to understand, but on further reflection, I realised that part of the message is that we all have a duty to stop this type of event from happening again. Her message was clear -as individuals we should take a stand against oppression, annihilation and genocide in the same way that Nicholas Winter did when he helped rescue hundreds of children from Czechoslovakia. Both the Czechs and the Austrians who suffered at the hands of Nazi persecution thought that their country was civilized, that they had a good quality of life and that this could not happen to them. Edith Jayne points out that it could happen anywhere.

Mrs Bowland, Joint Head of History, with contributions from Alex Fearn, Ruth Wilson and Rachel Walmsley.

Keeping the memory alive – Millthorpe students remember the Holocaust

Normal lessons were put on hold on Tuesday this week as students in Year 9 undertook a whole day devoted to remembering the Holocaust. The rest of the school attended dedicated assemblies, as the school joined thousands of people across the country in marking Holocaust Memorial Day.

The students were given special lessons run by the History, RE and Modern Languages departments to help understand the Holocaust and its impact and to consider what they can do in their own lives to tackle racism and intolerance. At the end of the day, students wrote their reflections on luggage tags, which were hung on a memory tree in the school reception, part of the theme for this year, chosen by the event’s organisers, the Holocaust Memorial Trust, of ‘keeping the memory alive’.

Click the images below to view some of the messages written by the students.

The Languages department has run a scheme of work based around the non-violent German resistance movement within Nazi Germany to help students appreciate the complexity of such an event and underlining the importance of avoiding prejudice.

“As subsequent genocides have shown, persecution did not end with the overthrow of the Nazi regime” commented Mrs Lingard, Head of History, “so although it is 70 years since the end of World War II, it has never been more important for students to learn about and reflect upon these dark episodes in history.”


In RE students looked at what happened in the concentration camps of Auschwitz-Birkenau to help understand who was responsible for the Holocaust.

Pile of Victims' Shoes at Auschwitz

The History department looked at how images represent the Holocaust and how the Holocaust should be remembered.

Hans Scholl, Sophie Scholl und Christoph Probst, 1942

The MFL department showed a film depicting the work of the White Rose, a non-violent German resistance movement in Nazi Germany.

Holocaust Memorial Day is marked on 27 January, the anniversary of the Soviet liberation of Auschwitz concentration camp in 1945. It is a national commemoration day in the United Kingdom dedicated to the remembrance of those who suffered in the Holocaust, under Nazi Persecution, and in more recent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur.

This is the fifth year Millthorpe has delivered a day of special activities on the 27 January to help students learn more about the significance of these atrocities. The RE department also arranges an annual visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau and the History department has been running a series of activities linked to remembrance.

“This is another great example of our students learning something that will help them gain a better understanding of the world and their place in it; school is not just about passing exams, important as that is,” noted Mr Burton.

Millthorpe recently became the first maintained school in the country to be awarded the Historical Association’s Quality Mark. This accolade is given to schools that are judged to be outstanding in the quality of their history teaching, the breadth of their curriculum, the opportunities for enrichment and the leadership of the department.


Holocaust Memorial Day 27/1

Tuesday 27 January is Holocaust Memorial DayThis is a national commemoration day in the United Kingdom dedicated to the remembrance of those who suffered in The Holocaust, under Nazi Persecution, and in more recent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur.

On Tuesday, Year 9 students will not do their usual lessons. Instead, they will have three lessons in the morning run by the History, RE and MFL departments, aimed at achieving a better understanding of the Holocaust that took place during the Second World War and what the Holocaust means today. In the afternoon, they will watch a film about a young woman who was part of the White Rose non-violent German resistance movement in Nazi Germany and then write their reflections on the day onto pieces of card to be hung on a memory tree in reception.


In RE students will look at what happened in the concentration camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau to help decide who was responsible for the Holocaust.

Pile of Victims' Shoes at Auschwitz

The History department will look at how images represent the Holocaust and how the Holocaust should be remembered.

Hans Scholl, Sophie Scholl und Christoph Probst, 1942In the afternoon students will watch a film depicting the work of the White Rose, a non-violent German resistance movement in Nazi Germany.

Mr Noble is interviewed on BBC Radio York about Holocaust Memorial Day and the importance of learning about the Holocaust in school. Go to 1hr 39mins for the interview:

Voices of the Great War

Our Grünheide-York partnership has been established since 2009 and we have met every year in York or Berlin. This year’s theme has been ‘Voices of the Great War’. 35 students from Phillip-Melanchthon Gymnasium, The Mount and Millthorpe School have researched the stories and beliefs of European men and women who lived in the 1914-1918 period. They have then brought these people back to life through staged monologues and duologues, performed on location in the City of York on Sunday 23 November. After working all term in our schools, we finally got together for our project weekend. Saturday was a busy day of connecting as a group, discussing ideas, doing last bits of research, getting costumes sorted and rehearsing the productions. What should Kaiser Wilhelm wear? Why haven’t any York shops got spiky helmets?

The leaflet Voices of the Great War was handed out to the audience as the students performed.

Peaceful Voices

The Quakers at Friargate Meeting House were warm in their greeting as the peaceful voices began their work on their front doorstep. Bertha von Suttner explained to a child why war was wrong and a tired, but still faithful, York MP Arnold Rowntree restated his Quaker Peace Testimony in 1918. Siegfried Sassoon’s Declaration was read out in the context of his life and socialist Arthur Gardiner’s Huddersfield tribunal was recreated from the transcripts that survive.


Arnold Rowntree restates the peace testimony of the Quakers

Silenced Voices

At the Railway Memorial Arthur Boldison, a Bishopthorpe Road man who died on the Somme, was brought to life briefly in the place where his name is carved in stone. He was joined by Edith Cavell, Karl Liebknecht, Rosa Luxembourg and Mary Carter, a York Munitions worker. As they fell silent, narrators stood forward to explain how their voices were silenced by war. The badly disfigured Norman Eric Wallace also spoke for those who survived with terrible wounds.


Arthur Boldison, a York railway worker is one of the “Silenced Voices” at The Railway Men’s Memorial


The “Silenced Voices” of Edith Cavell and York munitions worker Mary Carter


The “Silenced Voices” of Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxembourg

Fighting Voices

With the dramatic backdrop of York Castle, Bismarck warned Kaiser Wilhelm II of the dangers of his foreign policy, while Rudyard Kipling sent his son off to war to the poem ‘If’. Flora Sandes and Princess Eugenie told their tales of fighting as women, with the Princess speaking in her native Russian through a translator.


Princess Eugenie: one of the “Fighting Voices”


Rudyard Kipling reads the Poem If to his son Jack as one of the “Fighting Voices”


Bismark and Kaiser Wilhelm II argue over what it means to have a “fighting Voice”

Reflective Voices

Finally, outside York Minster, Vera Brittain, Erich Maria Remarque, Klara Zeltin and Wilfred Owen reflected on how the war changed their lives and changed their world forever. It was a powerful end and many tourists stopped to take photographs.


Klara Zeltin reflects on how the war should change the role of women


The poet Wilfred Owen is a “Reflective Voice”


Erich Maria Remarque explains why he has written the novel “All Quiet on the Western Front”