Messages from World War One

What can museum objects tell us about a soldier's experience of World War One?

To mark the centenary of the end of WW1, Elmbridge Museum have been working on a project to give Year 5 & 6 students from St Charles Borromeo Catholic Primary School an insight into what life was like for soldiers fighting on the front line during the conflict.

Elmbridge Museum have a collection of embroidered silk postcards dating from the First World War and these formed the starting point for two workshops run by the museum at the school.

Embroidered silk postcards were a common souvenir of the First World War and soldiers often sent them home to loved ones as a keepsake to be treasured. A key outcome of the project was for the students to create postcards designed as WW1 silks with a message written in the role of a WW1 soldier.

9 January 2019
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Some examples of embroidered postcards from the museum collection

Embroidered postcard with a small white card inside the pocket inscribed in silver 'United for Ever'. Card printed in Boulevard de Sebastopol, Paris, and was sent home to England, Christmas 1915.

Embroidered postcard 'Stop, no going past' depicting British lion, key, soldier with rifle. Card forms an envelope with small card inside depicting a flag, girl in uniform and the message 'My Heart's Greeting'.

Embroidered postcard with small card in the pocket. Embroidered with a plane and 'Hands Across the Sea'. Card made in France and sent to England, Christmas 1917.

In the first workshop the children handled museum artefacts to investigate life in the trenches, trench food and the uniform and equipment used by soldiers. They also explored biographies, photos and memories of local men who fought in WW1 to understand the conditions on the Western Front. Using this research the children wrote postcard messages in the role of soldiers.

Within the second workshop the children looked closely at the embroidered postcards to understand the different types of designs which were included. They then created their own postcard inspired by the designs of WW1 silks. The children wrote their messages on the back of their postcard designs and their finished work was displayed in their classroom.

To conclude the project Elmbridge Museum displayed a small selection of the embroidered postcards at the school, so that all the students, teachers and visitors were able to see them and have an insight into the work Year 5 and 6 had been doing.

Find out more

In this short film you can learn more about the museum's World War One project with St Charles Borromeo primary school and hear from a student who took part in the workshops

Want to find out more about the Elmbridge Museum learning programme?

Explore our recent digital collaboration with St Charles Borromeo primary school to mark the 75th anniversary of VE Day

V.E Day with St Charles Borromeo Exhibition
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Visit the Royal Kent School community exhibition
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