Skylark Battlefield Tours


Learning though objects

Life in the trenches

Biographical Details - Andrew Spooner and Skylark Tours
Ofsted Reports on Skylark

A ‘hands on’ Great War history day with real artefacts.

A whole school day for a year group beginning their studies on the Great War

A museum visit will certainly enhance a student’s knowledge of a soldier’s life on the front line during the First World War and national and regional museums have a great deal to offer a school party. However, sometimes the logistics of undertaking such a visit far outweigh the benefits achieved within the restrictive time of a normal school day. The time spent preparing, organising cover and staff, travelling, availability of museum education officers, distractions of non-relevant exhibits, the race to the shop, etc. can limit the time spent with the subject material you wish to see and learn from.

Imagine having the museum visit you, and more than a museum, an educational experience. Several hundred original objects from the trenches of the Great War presented to a whole year group.

Each artefact demonstrated and explained in context to a soldier’s life on the front line in an exciting presentation to the whole year group.

‘An excellent spellbinding experience’

‘Pupils were in the palm of his hands’

‘A memorable learning experience’

Ofsted Inspectors

Single presentation to whole year group

with artefact ‘hands on’ sessions over one or two days.

Start 0850

2 periods of 60 minutes each for the presentation

Morning break 1050 - 1115

1 period of 60 minutes to continue presentation

1 period divided into two 30m handling sessions

Lunch 1315 - 1420

1 period divided into two 30m handling sessions

Day ends 1520

Typical presentation formats are:

2 presentations, each for half of a year group.

No artefact ‘hands on’.

Start 0850

2 periods of 60 minutes each as the first presentation

Morning break 1050 - 1115

2 periods of 60 minutes each as the second presentation

Lunch 1315 - 1420

One 60 minute period available if required

Day ends 1520

On display: right - Various artillery shells - Shrapnel and High Explosive, Mortars and Grenades

Below: A soldiers personal items - greatcoat, underclothing, holdall with razor, comb, knife, fork, spoon, etc.

On display: right - Vickers Machine Gun

Below - wire cutters, caltrops, steel pickets, barbed wire, trench periscopes, medical instruments

Original objects to support the main subject topics

The soldier, his uniform and kit

Full Service Dress on a manikin with puttees, boots, webbing and includes everything carried or worn from 120 rounds of ammunition to underwear.

Daily life and routines in the front line

Mess tins, dixies, rations and trench cookers.

Necessary kit of knife, fork, spoon, soap, toothbrush, spare socks, etc.

Construction and protection of trenches

Why and how were they built?

Trench stores—periscopes, steel pickets, barbed wire, caltrops, steel loopholes, sandbags, wire cutters, trench pumps, entrenching tools.

The power of artillery

Shrapnel, high explosive and gas shells from various field guns, howitzers and mortars.

Infantry weapons

Rifles, bayonets, machine guns and grenades

Lee Enfield, German Mauser, French Lebel, Vickers machine gun and/or German Maxim machine gun, Lewis light machine gun, Officers’ revolvers, hand and rifle grenades.

Care of the wounded

A complete surgeon’s field medical kit with hundreds of instruments, portable operating table, surgical dressings and stretcher

Use of Gas

Several styles of gas helmets and masks, British and German, gas shell and liquid container for gas in artillery shells.

The real life stories of Eustace Farr, Katie Payne-Hodge, Frederick Tatman, John Scotney and Heinrich Timmermann are interwoven during the presentation with letters, documentation and even an original wooden grave marker.

As the real objects are demonstrated and explained, a projected image accompanies the explanation.

If you need further information please email

Each ‘hands on’ session is limited to a maximum of 30 students

Approximately 120 students can see the presentation and attend the ‘hands on’ workshops in one day—

a cost of about £3 per person.

Up to 250 students can see a reduced presentation of 2 hours. Two sessions offered in one day—

a cost of about £1.50 per person.

Cost for the whole day or part of is £380

Many schools with a large year group use two days to give both the presentation and the ‘hands on’ experience.

Several schools successfully incorporate the two days into a collapsed timetable with other departments doing similar activities relevant to their subject.


The arc of tables displaying the artefacts

The morning session, which flows with the normal progress of the school day with start time and breaks, describes a typical period of duty on the front line, the real objects illustrating daily life in and out of the trenches.

Ideally this session requires three 60 minute lesson periods or a similar time depending on the lesson period structure of the school day. This time really does fly and comments such as, ‘how did you keep year 9 in the seats for so long’, is usually down to the artefacts and the interaction with those who volunteer to get involved in their use.

Several museum services, including the Imperial War Museum at Duxford, have used the package and variations of it to boost their educational content.

In the afternoon class/tutor groups return for a series of very informal and deliberately unstructured workshops to view the material close up. How close? Imagine feeling the texture of a soldier’s uniform, the weight of a Lee Enfield rifle, reading letters from the front, picking up an artillery shell, grenade, field telephone, looking through a periscope, feeling the sharp points of German barbed wire, wondering if I should touch those medical instruments, were they used?

German Maxim Gun

Ofsted Reports

“Whole year group seminar on the life and work of a 1st World War Infantryman. An excellent spellbinding experience that involves and challenges – developing a constant stream of reflective opportunities that links the key moral questions to social and cultural contacts.

Pupil response was tangible – fear and exhilaration are followed by knowledge and understanding developed in a real context. The numeracy and physics of the nature of war is linked with the deployment of logistics in an economic context that sets the issue as a real human experience.

Pupils were in the palm of his hand, they were treated to an excellent historical experience that improves significantly pupils knowledge, understanding and interest. Excellent teaching and learning is raising standards.”

“...In Key Stage 3, for example, all of Year 8 had the opportunity to involve themselves in a presentation on the Great War by a visiting speaker who spoke with expertise on the First World War and brought hundreds of artefacts for pupils to handle and discuss. This was a memorable learning experience which contributed to the standards of achievement of the Year 8 pupils.”