Victoria’s war study is a real class above

FASCINATING RESEARCH: Heather Bellwood, left, with Victoria Mallam
FASCINATING RESEARCH: Heather Bellwood, left, with Victoria Mallam

IT was the biggest event in Hartlepool’s history - but it happened 100 years ago.

So how do you bring a century-old event to life in the eyes of modern day children of the town?

Victoria Mallam had the answer and she developed it during a 12-week internship at the Central Library in York Road, Hartlepool.

Victoria, a graduate from Teesside University, came up with an easy-to-read pack which simplifies the First World War for children in Key Stages 1 to 3. It is filled with shapes, colours, and games.

It has a description of why the war happened, who was on each side, and how Hartlepool’s history was changed forever on December 16, 1914.

She designed and created characters and drawings to accompany it all, and included some little known facts to make it real. To put it all together, Victoria spent countless hours pouring through books, census papers and other memorabilia.

She tells the story of the Bombardment through different families - the Cornforths, Hodgsons or Weelwrights - each suffering a different fate.

And when she tested it out in a pilot lesson at St Helen’s Primary School, it worked a treat. Children were enthralled.

Heather Bellwood, the children and young persons manager for the Central Library, said: “She has done a marvellous job.”

Victoria arrived in town 12 weeks ago, having completed numerous community projects and doing work for the Childrens Society in Billingham. She came to town, tasked with making the First World War more understandable for the children of Hartlepool.

She simplified some of it with yucky facts, such as people in the 1900s urinating on their boots to make them more durable. “Children love that sort of history. They love gross information,” said Victoria.

She told how life was so different in 1900s Hartlepool. For instance, 97 children died in the town from diarrhoea in 1911 and there was a real problem with dirty houses.

She came up with characters to portray each side, as well as lots of detail on ships - the Moltke, Blucher and Seydlitz - which made up the German flotilla off the coast of Hartlepool.

“Before I started this, I knew nothing about the bombardment or the First World War,” said Victoria.

By the end of her research, she admitted: “I have loved it and I don’t want it to end.”

The next step for Victoria is to go to Durham University in September for a postgraduate certificate in education (PGCE).

The next step for the work she created is it will be printed and distributed to primary schools. It is part of a major campaign to raise awareness of the First World War.

“I found that children knew lots about the Second World War but not the first,” said Victoria. “It is an achievement for me to know that I have changed that.”