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Pioneers - learning about people with learning disabilities in WW1
Our Power Up research team went to Lancaster to research the First World War, here is what they got up to...
26 November 2019
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My name is Ruby and I like history. I really enjoy learning about the Victorians and Tudors.
I am part of the team working on a project called Pioneers.
The Pioneers project is about researching people with learning disabilities who fought in the First World War.
I am a part of the Power team which means I help with training, research and talking with people.
I work with Lisa, Power Up Officer and Youth & Parliament Coordinator. She really likes history and studied a degree in it!
She really likes learning about minorities and punks.
I work with Josh, he absolutely loves history: political history, train history, any and all history is his thing!
And I work with Minty. Minty goes to the Oxford Young People group. She is really good at speaking her mind and standing up for others.
We’ve been working with Lee, a learning disability historian on this project. He knows everything there is to do with history!
This week we visited Lancaster to meet with some local historians and to visit the Royal Albert Hospital.
We met Nigel. Nigel is a local historian and a friend of Lee.
He is really knowledgeable about the buildings around Lancaster. He worked at Royal Albert Hospital in the 80s.
We met Steve, he used to work at the Royal Albert Hospital in the 80s and 90s as a nurse.
He’s now a lecturer and has written books about people with learning disabilities that help train future nurses, doctors, health and social care students.
We met Peter. Peter is the curator for the King’s Own Royal Regiment Museum in Lancaster. That means he’s created exhibitions and knows about all the artefacts in the museum.
We visited the King’s Own Royal Regiment Museum. This was where we met Peter.
He told us why people joined the army in WWI.
Some people wanted to stand up for the country so they joined the war effort. Others went because of the adventure of going to war.
But these weren’t the only reasons.
Back then people didn’t have a lot of money and couldn’t afford food, the only way they could get this was if they joined the army.
Lots of people joined because of this.
He also told us how the regiments were like communities.
Students went to war with their teachers, friends went to war with friends and fathers went to war with their sons. Everyone was involved in the war.
Unfortunately, because every man in a village went to war it meant when regiments were wiped out the whole villages in England would mourn for those who died.
People made memorial statues and other things for those who died. Memorials help us remember the person and what they did for us.
The First World War caused many men to die which means there were lots of memorials for this war.
The Royal Albert Hospital did a memorial for their staff members and patients that you can see here.
We visited the Royal Albert Hospital that is now Jamae Al Kauthar, Islamic College.
The Royal Albert Hospital used to be an institution for people with learning disabilities.
We went around the main building to see what it is like now.
We thought the building looked scary and big.
We think people coming to the hospital must have been very scared and anxious.
Look at how big it is compared to me and Lisa in the photo!
Parts of the building were really old and haven’t been used for a long time. We saw signs were falling off walls and overgrowing plants covering floors and walls.
It was really interesting to see the main building be given a new lease of life by the college.
It reminded us a lot of Hogwarts!
We talked about what life was like in the institution.
We found out that babies and young children could be admitted to the institution.
Sometimes they would spend their whole life in the institution. We thought that was really sad.
Life at the institution was very squished. In one ward 50 people slept in the same room together.
In these wards the patients had to share things with each other. They shared clothes, beds and even bathwater!
A lot of the patients didn’t have many personal possessions.
Men and women lived separately at the institution.
Even when they had their monthly dance they were still kept a part. Men danced with men and women danced with women.
There was a lot of abuse at the Royal Albert Hospital and only a few residents got to experience life outside of them.
We think it is really important for people not to be kept in institutions anymore.
We also think it’s important to keep talking about what happened in the past so we can stop it happening in the future.
You can find out more about the Royal Albert Hospital and its patients
This research was funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.
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