Elisabethville – The Battle of Passchendaele 1917
Birtley –  The Belgian Connection
At St Joseph’s we have always valued our local heritage as a teaching resource, so we are delighted to announce that we have been awarded a First World War: then and now grant to look at the impact of the conflict on Birtley and the wider area. We are calling our project Birtley: The Belgian Connection.

This summer Miss Cameron and the Year 5 children will be investigating three powerful links between Birtley and Belgium.

  • The Elisabethville story continues to fascinate, especially at a time when stories of refugees dominate the headlines. The factory was built by Armstrong Whitworth but by 1916 was under Belgian management. The munitions works and township were staffed by a colony of some 6000 Belgian refugees, including many injured soldiers. The township built to accommodate them was laid out like a prefabricated ‘garden city’ with wide streets, school, hospital, church and own Belgian police force.


  • The German invasion of ‘Gallant Little Belgium’ was the trigger that finally committed Britain to war in August 1914. The bulk of the British army fought most of the war in Belgium, notably in the grim Ypres salient.


  • Since we are researching our topic in 2017 we will focus on the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Passchendaele, also known as the 3rd battle of Ypres. Following the Somme, this was the next major attempt by the British to break through German lines and end the war. This campaign too ground on for months with appalling casualties and no clear result. Our local Passchendaele casualties are commemorated on the Cenotaph at Constables Garth.
Birtley Belgian Blog

Our Memorial Art!

On Tuesday 27th June we worked with artists Claire and Mark from Flow(NE)CIC. They like to use recycled materials in their projects. We had a busy day, working hard on five different ideas. We all made our own A3 canvas. We painted a background watercolour pigment...

Joining Up!

Inspired by Sgt Chapman’s call to arms we all joined up – the St Joseph’s Pals Platoon. Take a look at our Attestation Forms by clicking the link below. http://birtleystjosephsjuniors.org/project/joining-up/

Bashing The Square!

On Wednesday 21st of June Ms Cameron and Y5 were visited by Sergeant Chapman of the DLI. As the army prepares for a new Big Push in Belgium our children are keen to join up and do their bit. Sgt Chapman didn’t pull his punches with some graphic slides on his magic...

Heugh Battery Museum

On Tuesday 20th June we went to Heugh Battery Museum, Hartlepool. We had a brilliant day and took part in four activities: We had weapons and kit handling, including a British Lee Enfield (the best) the German Mauser and Russian Mosin-Nagant rifles used in the First...

Elisabethville Visit

On Monday 19th June Miss Cameron and Year 5 visited the site of Elisabethville with Barry and Joan from Birtley Heritage group to guide them. Here are some highlights of the morning. And phew – was it hot! [gallery link="file" columns="2" size="medium"...

German Spies? 26 Arrested!

Today a vigilant Belgian guard, Soldat Cools, arrested 26 suspected German spies attempting to sneak into Elisabethville. The gallery of rogues is shown via the link below. Members of the public who can identify these dreadful fellows are asked to contact the nearest...

Rough Times, Ernie!

Our project historians Neil and Peter have been searching for first hands accounts of fighting during the battle of Passchendaele by men from Birtley. They’ve been looking for letters, diaries or journals, but so far no luck. However they did find this astonishing...

Your School Needs You!

We have sent this letter home to the families of our Y5 children, but can you help? We are interested in any First World War family memories or memorabilia from our local community. How You Can Help - The Belgian Connection (doc)   poster image: Eybl,...

How Children Helped Win WW1

Children helped the war efforts during World War One in lots of different ways. They helped the soldiers in strange ways, which you wouldn’t expect. Our Year 5 have spent some time researching this. Read on to find out the interesting ways in which children helped win...

A Shell Scandal – Birtley to the Rescue!

An addition to our Birtley - The Belgian Connection project. A shortage of ammunition for the British army led to the ‘shell scandal’ that shook the country in 1915. Generals claimed they lost the battle of Neuve Chapelle because of ‘the want of an unlimited supply of...

Project Portfolio

Our Project Work

Well done Year 5!  You created some fantastic work. Thank you all for contributing. We hope you enjoyed the project!

The project was designed and led by local historians/authors – Peter Hepplewhite and Neil Tonge.


main image detail: By Frank Hurley [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Soldiers of an Australian 4th Division field artillery brigade on a duckboard track passing through Chateau Wood, near Hooge in the Ypres salient, 29 October 1917.
Date: 29 October 1917
My favourite part of the First World War project was:…. going to Heugh Battery Museum in Hartlepool because it was a really fun learning experience .

Year 5

My favourite part of the First World War project was:….when we did the gun workshop in Hartlepool. I liked holding the guns.

Year 5

My favourite part of the First World War project was:….we got to hold an AK 47.

Year 5

heritage lottery funded
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