Free learning resources from arts, cultural and heritage organisations.

Teachers' notes

Resource created by Leeds Museums and Galleries: Discovery Centre.

The story of the bombproof mummy and the dinosaur bones under the bank - what was the impact of World War 2 in Leeds?


A Global View:

WW2: As the name suggests, the Second World War (1939 - 1945) involved people from across the globe. The Allied Powers on one side included Britain, France, Russia and (from 1941) America, while the Axis Powers on the other included Germany, Italy and Japan. The imperial status and ambitions of some of these countries brought others into the conflict. Australia, Canada and India all fought for Britain, for example, while Japan gained control of large parts of East Asia and Germany made conquests in North Africa and Eastern Europe.

Millions of civilians from around the world found their lives affected in devastating ways: Jews and other minorities across Europe faced brutal persecution from the German Nazi regime, bombs caused the utter destruction of huge numbers of cities, sieges and blockades caused severe food shortages, millions of people became displaced from their home countries and societies were torn apart by the high death toll of people in combat. Around 60 million died world-wide and recovery was a slow and difficult process. Almost nobody alive anywhere during this time could have escaped the effects of war.


Curriculum Links

  • KS2 History: A study of an aspect or theme in British history after 1066
  • KS3 History: Challenges for Britain, Europe and the wider world 1901 to the present day
  • PSHE:  Relationships, Community and Global Citizenship
  • SMSC: British Values


Aim of Resource

To provide a local history study on life in Leeds during WW2 and give children an insight into life on the Home Front. 

Learning Objectives

  • Knowledge of the impact of WW2 on the lives of ordinary people
  • Understanding of how a locality changed over time, in response to the war
  • Skills to discuss and question critically visual and written information to develop ideas for independent work 

Discussion Ideas

  • If you were a child in WW2, what things do you think you would find scary?
  • In what sort of ways do you think the war would change your life?
  • What foods would you miss most if rationing was introduced today?
  • Why do you think rationing was needed?
  • Why was Britain bombed in WW2?
  • How do you think it felt to live in Britain during WW2?
  • What five things would you take with you to your family's Anderson Shelter (bear in mind that they were very small and had no electricity)?
  • Why do you think it was important to the people of Leeds that Winston Churchill visited the city?
  • Why did the city of Leeds give a party for returning prisoners of war?
  • When WW2 ended people celebrated with bonfires and street parties. How would you celebrate?
  • What symbols did people use in celebrating the end of the war?
  • What do Museums do and are they important? – Discuss the multiple roles of museums in society i.e. to conserve and care for objects, to preserve the past, to tell the story of communities past and present, to help people understand the past and how the places they live in now were shaped. These discussions will include coverage of the educational, social and economic value of museums etc.
  • Ask pupils to list all of the roles that they think museums should play and then ask them to think about how important they are to society. Many local museums are currently under threat of closure because of cuts in their funding. Ask your pupils to come up with their top ten reasons for supporting and visiting museums.
  • Pupils could visit their local museum to stimulate ideas and ask staff for help and then share their top ten lists with a local MP.
  • Listen to Bert Sampson’s story about taking in a German child after the war. Why do you think Bert and his friends did this? Why is it important to forgive and move on?


Activity Ideas

  • Research what it was like to spend time in a bomb shelter (there's a link at the bottom of the page to help) and write a letter or diary entry imagining a night spent in a shelter as a bombing raid took place in the skies above.
  • Create your own newspaper article telling the story of someone who witnessed the aftermath of the museum bomb.
  • What makes something valuable? - Talk to pupils about the concept of ‘value’. Ask them what is valuable to them and why. Discuss monetary, cultural, personal value.
  • Ask pupils to bring in an object in that is valuable to them other than in monetary terms. Ask them to describe why this object is important to them and note all the different aspects of value that emerge. Alternatively you could give them the challenge of finding the least valuable or most useless object they can find and bring it in to school. Ask pupils to debate the uselessness or value of each object. Of course no object is completely useless or invaluable and this activity can elicit some really good discussion and debating amongst children.
  • Watch the Yorkshire Film Archive clip about different jobs the people of Leeds did as part of the Home Front in WW2 (see 'Supporting Links' in 'Resources').  List all the jobs that the film shows men and women doing. 
  • Research to find out what jobs children did in WW2