Pupils delve into the wartime past

Pupils from St Andrew's School who are involved in the war-time project in Woodhall Spa
Pupils from St Andrew's School who are involved in the war-time project in Woodhall Spa
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Pupils from a village primary school are playing a leading role in helping unearth the fascinating war-time history of Woodhall Spa.

The pupils from St Andrew’s School are interviewing Second World War veterans who live in Woodhall Spa.

Their work will form part of two special exhibitions planned for later this year, focusing on Woodhall’s prominent role in both World Wars.

This year, of course, marks the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War.

The project involves children from the school’s young journalists club. Teacher Tom Wilkinson said talking to the veterans - and listening to their experiences - was inspiring.

He said: “The children are really getting into it and they are fascinated by many of the stories they have heard.

“Their own writing really has improved and the idea of seeing their work in an exhibition is very exciting.”

The exhibitions are planned for the Cottage Museum and the Petwood Hotel with the museum focussing mainly on the First World War and the hotel in World War Two.

Already, two local amateur historians - John Ginty and Alwyn Killingsworth - have unearthed some amazing stories of 22 soldiers from Woodhall who are named in a memorial in the village after being killed in World War One.

Mr Ginty said: “There are some incredible stories about these men which have come to light because of the research.

“One man fought with the Imperial Camel corps alongside “Lawrence of Arabia” while another, Captain Hewson Street, was awarded the Military Cross, plus bar, for heroism in the battlefields of France on the Western front.”

During their research, Mr Ginty and Mr Killingsworth agreed nationally and locally, the failure to interview First World War survivors while they were still alive was a missed opportunity.

Mr Ginty added: “It occurred to us there are still a few people living locally who fought in the Second World War.

“Their numbers, it must be said, are dwindling, but we realised there was an opportunity to do something to record their stories for posterity.

“It was suggested that St. Andrews might wish to become involved and I’ve got to say their response has been tremendous.

“The school was already involved in video and tape recording projects which has earned them national recognition.

“Now, they have started to interview the World War Two veterans from Woodhall and they really are finding it interesting.”

The first interview took place with Guy Newton, a 92-year-old veteran who fought in the Burma campaign and was awarded the coveted Burma Star Medal.

Mr Newton showed pupils a Japanese flag which he brought back from the conflict. The flag belonged to an enemy soldier.

They have also interviewed another local resident, Betty Zawada, whose husband served in the Polish Resistance Movement.

According to Mr Ginty, pupils were shocked to learn Mrs Zawada was singled out for criticism after the war, because she had married someone from Poland.

Mr Ginty added: “We’ve lots more interviews planned, including a member of a family who lost five sons in the First World War.

“We’ve also got a Lancaster bomber veteran lined up and an interview with Richard Massey, a retired policeman whose grandfather was a machine gunner who fought in most of the major battles in World War One.

“He kept a daily diary and that is a fascinating historical document.”

Mr Ginty is keen to hear from anyone who is a veteran of World War Two, or who lived through the war years and is happy to be interviewed.

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