Talking to Lucy about the First World War

Talking to Lucy about the First World War

Lucy Moore, First World War Projects Curator at Leeds Museums and Galleries, recently worked on a new online resource for young people about the city’s World War One (WW1) aviation heritage. In today’s blog post, we asked her to tell us more about a recent project to get young people more involved in their history…

It’s Lucy’s job to get young people engaged with history!

What is the interactive about?

The First World War Aviation in Leeds interactive ( is an online game where you can discover how aircraft were designed and then have a go at designing aircraft for three different missions. The interactive tests each design and then shows whether it can complete the mission or whether the design will wobble, crash or loop-the-loop! The resource is educational, linking to the local history and science curriculums, but children can discover aspects of aerodynamics and engineering in a fun way.

What does First World War aviation have to do with Leeds?

New aviation technology was developed here in Leeds during World War One. The story of Leeds’ industrial heritage has often been told in relation to the city’s mills and munitions factories, but many people who live in the city today have never heard of the Blackburn Aircraft Company, which played a key role in experimental aircraft design during the early twentieth century.

We wanted to bring to life items from Leeds Museums and Galleries collections linked to aviation, like an aircraft propeller, which is very static when displayed in a case and has none of the dynamism it possesses in flight. Through the interactive we can show how it works.

Why did you create it?

We wanted to emphasise that aviation was a new and exciting technology in WW1.  The war began just over a decade after the Wright brothers’ flight in 1903. At Roundhay Park in Leeds Blackburn Company test pilots flew aircraft in development. One of them, Rowland Ding, became a local celebrity and large crowds would come to the park to watch him.

At the beginning of the war, aviation was an expensive hobby for a few. Yet, by the end of the war, with the formation of the RAF, it was possible for a lad from Hunslet, Holbeck or Kirkstall to train as a pilot. The legacy of the Blackburn Aircraft company led directly to the Lancaster Bombers of the Second World War.

A screenshot from the aviation game

Why should young people be interested in WW1 and the history of Leeds?

The First World War did not just happen a century ago. We still feel its repercussions in our city and across the world. There are echoes in our daily life from street names to family stories.

It is important that young people should have an understanding of the industrial heritage within their city. Leeds has an enormous and diverse legacy of manufacturing and innovation. We should be proud of its inventiveness and be inspired in our own work.

During the First World War, Leeds was one of the cities with the highest numbers of people in reserved occupations. This meant that their jobs were considered so important to the war effort that they could not be conscripted into the armed forces. We know from their newspapers that the German authorities saw Leeds as the ‘engine’ of Britain’s war production, as factories in the city made uniforms, parts for submarines, munitions.

What else are Leeds Museums and Galleries doing to engage young people with the Centenary?

Young people can explore WW1 history through displays at the Leeds City Museum, including the propeller from Rowland Ding’s aircraft. Until November, they can visit the ‘Healing Home’ exhibition at Temple Newsam, which reveals the house’s wartime history as a hospital for troops (see Next year Armley Mills will be putting on an exhibition on women and war work.

They can even get directly involved in presenting the history of the conflict. The Preservative Party, a group run by LMG for young people aged 13-25, is working on an exhibition on the First World War, which will be on display in 2016 (see for more information).

A big thanks to Lucy for taking the time to talk to us about the project!

You can find out more about how the First World War affected Leeds on Facebook:, and young people can find out more by playing the new aviation app:

Have you been involved in a fab project getting young people involved in history? What did you think of the aviation app? Why not let us know by leaving a comment below…



One Response

  1. Hi Lucy – really like your learning game for aviation. We have similar activities with schools but we get the students to make the aircraft and test fly. We have a range of activities that explore heritage in order to raise aspirations and introduce young people to different industry sectors. We show working flying models of WW1 aircraft and post WW1 craft. A school in Leeds is interested in working with us and I am exploring ways of making anywork we do relevant to the young people’s region. We are based in Bristol which has a similar aviation history to Leeds.
    If your project is still running I would like to have a chat.
    Best wishes Hugh

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