Contents gcse history Exemplars for Controlled Assessment Topic Area 2

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I was surprised by the unusually heavy explosion which took place, followed by a very strong explosion cloud. The explosion of the torpedo was followed by a second one (boiler or coal or gunpowder?) because the bridge and superstructure of the ship were soon apart and the ship began to capsize very quickly. The tilt of the ship meant that no lifeboats could be launched from the port side.

[An entry from the log of Commander Schwieger, who was in charge of U-boat 20 (May 10th 1915)]


In 1916, I interviewed the Kaiser and found that he believed that the Lusitania was going deliberately slowly in dangerous waters so that it could be easily destroyed and thus bring America into the war on the British side.

[From an official report written by the US ambassador to Germany in 1916]


What caused the violent explosion that undoubtedly led the ship to sink so quickly? Some

have argued that it was contraband munitions. There was no evidence of a second torpedo and there was no evidence of an explosion in the area of the ship’s magazine, which is presumably where contraband munitions, if any, would have been stowed. On the other hand, there was evidence of a boiler explosion.

[From the initial report of the diving team who investigated the wreck of the Lusitania in 2009]


[A photograph showing the wreck of the Lusitania as visited by divers in 2008.]

The torpedo ripped open the ship at one of the starboard coal bunkers, which had been deliberately left empty for the transatlantic crossing. The violent impact kicked up clouds of coal dust, which when mixed with oxygen and touched by fire becomes an explosive combination. The resulting blast, the reported second explosion, ripped open the starboard

side of the hull and doomed the ship.

Robert Ballard, one of the divers who investigated the wreck, giving his view on why the ship sank so quickly in his book, Lusitania: Probing the mysteries of the sinking that changed history (2009)]

Topic area 2
The effects of war on Wales and England in

the nineteenth and twentieth centuries
Task 3: World War 1: Conditions in the Trenches/

Conscientious Objectors

Controlled Assessment Task part (a)
The First World War is associated strongly with trench warfare.
Select any FIVE sources from your pack.
How useful and reliable are these sources in explaining what conditions in the trenches were like?

Controlled Assessment Task part (b)
Some people believe that Conscientious Objectors

were nothing but cowards.

How far do your selected sources support or contradict

this interpretation?

The First World War is associated strongly with trench warfare.
Select any FIVE sources from your pack.
How useful and reliable are these sources in explaining

what conditions in the trenches were like?

Notes for teachers/candidates about approaching this task
How can part (a) be tackled?
Underneath is a suggested structure to approaching part (a) which should be accessible to most candidates following a GCSE History course. It is offered as guidance and should not be seen as a writing frame or the only or best way to tackle this exercise.

This needs to have a clear focus on the set question.

It needs to briefly set the issue in its historical context.

A short paragraph is sufficient here.

  • An evaluation of the selected evidence connected with the issue in the question set.

Here candidates can examine developments and issues, while making analysis and evaluation of the evidence selected. It is recommended that the sources be integrated into a narrative of trench warfare. Candidates should evaluate up to five sources only, aiming to link the evidence to its use in the enquiry. Avoid a robotic trawl through the sources.
When looking at the evidence you should consider points such as:
What information does the source provide about …?

Does the source back up your knowledge about …?

Who was the author/maker?

When was the source written?

Why was it written?

Is there any doubt over the author/is she trustworthy?

It is recommended that the answer to part (a) should be about 800 words in total.
Source A1

Men in the trenches had to stand the strain of many problems. Beyond

illnesses like trench fever, trench foot, dysentery, diarrhoea, pneumonia and food poisoning, there was ‘shell shock’ in which men lost their wits or their minds, or suffered from severe depression. Many men with shell shock were taken from the hospitals and returned to active duty because physically there was nothing wrong with them. Some men who had had enough would hurt themselves on purpose with a self-inflicted wound. Common self-inflicted wounds involved a bullet through the foot, the calf or the fleshy part of the thigh, or blowing off a thumb or forefinger. Generally there was an attempt to pretend the wound had been caused by an enemy bullet during action or an accident during training.

[From an historian writing for a website aimed at students studying the First World War (2008)]

Source A2

We slept in our clothes and cut our hair short so that it would tuck inside our caps. Dressing simply meant putting on our boots. Various ways were used to remove lice. A lighted candle was fairly effective but the skill of burning lice without burning your clothes was only learnt with practice. However, there were times when we had to resort to scraping the lice off with the blunt edge of a knife and our underclothes stuck to us. 

[An extract from the diary of a nurse serving on the front line in the First World War (1915)]

Source A3

[A photograph taken in the trenches in 1918]

Source A4

[A photograph of the feet of a soldier who was suffering from trench foot (1917)]

Source A5

We were among the first to arrive, and went immediately into the front-line trenches for twenty-four hours’ instruction in trench fighting with a battalion of regulars. They welcomed us so kindly into all the mysteries of trench etiquette and trench tradition. In twenty-four hours they taught us more of the actual business of trench fighting than we had learned in nine months’ training in England. One of them probably saved the life of an infantryman friend of mine before he had been in the trenches five minutes. Naturally, our first question was ‘How far is it to the German lines?’ And in his eagerness and ignorance, my fellow Tommy stood upon the firing bench for a look, with a lighted cigarette in his mouth. He was pulled down into the trench just as a bullet went zing-g-g from the parapet precisely where he had been standing.

[A soldier remembering his time in the trenches in an interview for a newspaper (1966)]

Source A6

[A cartoon of a popular joke from the Wipers newspaper which was produced for soldiers in the First World War (1917)]

Source A7

Rats came up from the canal, fed on the plentiful corpses, and multiplied exceedingly. While I stayed here with the Royal Welch Fusiliers, a new officer joined the company and, in token of welcome, was given a dug-out containing a spring-bed. When he turned in that night he heard a scuffling, shone his torch on the bed, and found two rats on his blanket tussling for the possession of a severed hand.

[Robert Graves, an officer in the First World War, a poet and an author, writing in his book, Goodbye to All That (1929)]

Source A8

20 ounces of bread or 16 ounces of flour or 4 ounces of oatmeal instead of bread

3 ounces of cheese

5/8 ounces of tea

4 ounces of jam or 4 ounces of dried fruit

½ ounce of salt

1/36 ounce of pepper

1/20 ounce of mustard

8 ounces of fresh vegetables or 1/10 gill lime if vegetables not issued

½ gill of rum or 1 pint of porter

20 ounces of tobacco

1/3 ounces of chocolate - optional

4 ounces of butter/margarine

2 ounces of dried vegetables

There was meat available in the trenches, but only when a lull in the battle allowed it to be delivered from the field kitchens

[Taken from official British government information showing a typical day’s rations in the trenches in 1916. For many soldiers it was the first time in their lives they were able to have three meals a day.]

Source A9
Troops spent relatively little time in the deadly front line trenches. One example showed that an officer and his men spent a total of 65 days in front line trenches and 36 in nearby support trenches during 1916. They also moved to 80 different locations that year.

Daily chores included the refilling of sandbags, the repair of the duckboards on the floor of the trench and the draining of trenches, repairing the trenches and preparing the latrines. During the rest of the day movement was restricted in the trenches, snipers and lookout posts from either side constantly watched the front lines and shots would be fired at the first sign of movement. Soldiers used this time to catch up on some much needed sleep write letters to their sweethearts and home and some soldiers spent the time producing ornaments and useful items from used shell and bullet casings.

There were also long periods when the men were safely (if not all that comfortably) behind the lines, working, training, resting, and playing games to keep fit and busy. Tennis, soccer games, dances and entertainments were all part of the military experience in France.

[From an historical website for schools describing daily routine in the trenches (2010)]

Source A10
The first thing that struck you when you got near to the front line was the smell. The stench was awful and came from the rotting carcasses of men and horses which lay around in their thousands. Then there were the latrines which were often overflowing. Then there was the smell of dried sweat from men who had not had a bath in weeks combined with the smell of sweaty feet which gave off the worst odour. Trenches would also smell of creosote or chloride of lime, which was used to stave off the constant threat of disease and infection. Add to this the smell of cordite, the lingering reek of poison gas, rotting sandbags, stagnant mud, cigarette smoke and cooking.

[A soldier remembering his first experience of the trenches in an interview for a newspaper (1960)]

Controlled Assessment Task part (b)
Some people believe that conscientious objectors were

nothing but cowards

How far do your selected sources support or contradict

this interpretation?

Notes for teachers/candidates about approaching this task
Underneath is a suggested structure to approaching part (b) which should be accessible to most candidates following a GCSE History course. It is offered as guidance and should not be seen as a writing frame or the only or best way to tackle this exercise.

  • An introduction

This needs to have a clear focus on the set question and also needs to show an awareness of what an interpretation actually is.

It needs a clear reference to the different interpretations of the issue / topic.

There is a need to briefly set the issue in its historical context.

There is NO NEED to evaluate any sources or evidence in this part of the assignment.

  • A discussion / explanation of the first interpretation

There should be a clear statement of this interpretation.

There should be a clear attempt to explain how people who support this interpretation have arrived at their views.

There should be discussion of evidence which can be used to support this interpretation. Both content and attribution need to be addressed

  • A discussion / explanation of the second interpretation

There should be a clear statement of this interpretation.

There should be a clear attempt to explain how people who support this interpretation have arrived at their views.

There should be discussion of evidence which can be used to support this interpretation. Both content and attribution need to be addressed

  • Summary

There should be a final answer to the set question.

There should be a judgement reached as so which set of evidence is considered to have most validity in addressing the interpretation.

It is recommended that the answer to part (b) should be about 1200 words in total.
It is also recommended that candidates use no more than four sources from each section to explain how and why each interpretation has been arrived at.


Source B1

A white feather – the symbol of cowardice and failing one’s country – was handed out scornfully to those who refused to fight during the First World War. An accepted view at the time of the ‘war to end all wars’ was that these men were cowards who went against an overwhelming tide of patriotism which swept the country.

[An historian, writing about the feelings of the general public towards conscientious objectors, in a history book published in 1928. The book was written after the release of some conscientious objectors from gaol]
Source B2

[An illustration in a recruiting pamphlet for the King’s Shropshire Light infantry produced in 1915]

Source B3

I shall only consider the best means of making the path of these conscientious objectors a very hard one.

[David Lloyd George, the Prime Minister, responding to a question asked in the House of Commons on July 26 1916]

Source B4
Plymouth Guildhall was crowded last night on the occasion of a meeting called by the Mayor to protest against the lenient treatment of conscientious objectors housed in Princetown convict prison, or the Dartmoor work centre, as it is now called. There was strong resentment to the liberties and privileges allowed to these law breakers, and it was declared that unless these persons were confined within the grounds of the prison there would be serious consequences.
Further views were expressed stating that it was a scandal that these men should be allowed to live pretty much as they pleased and buy what food they fancied. They are disloyal men and anarchists. They have rations on a higher scale than that laid down for the civil population and are allowed to buy as much as they like.
A Nonconformist minister tried to speak, but the audience refused to listen to him, and the proposal to pass on the meetings views to the governor of the prison was agreed with much enthusiasm and cheering, only two people being against it.
The conscientious objectors at Princetown had proposed to send delegates to the meeting, but this was not allowed.

[A report from a local newspaper of a public meeting giving views about conscientious objectors (1917)]

Source B5

A Conscientious Objector
Perhaps you wonder what I am,
I will explain to you,
My conscience is the only thing,
That helps to pull me through.
Objection is a thing that I
Have studied thoroughly,
I don't object to fighting Huns,
But should hate them fighting me.

Send out the Army and The Navy,

Send out the rank and file,
Send out the brave old Territorials
They'll face the danger with a smile.
Send out the boys of the Old Brigade
Who made Old England free
Send out me brother, his sister and his mother
But for Gawd's sake don't send me.

[A popular poem, whose author is unknown, published in a magazine in 1917]

Source B6
In 1916 and 1917 police raids were carried out on the offices of such places as The National Council against Conscription, and the Independent Labour Party, when they confiscated all leaflets, newspapers and documents. This shows how seriously the government took the threat of men escaping the war machine! Apparently men also fled to Ireland to escape call-up ("shirkers"). Various "comb-outs" took place to winkle out these "shirkers". Others enrolled as war volunteer workers in order to avoid call-up.

It was also planned that Conchies would lose their voting rights for five years after the end of the war. The general public often took matters into their own hands and a meeting which supported Conchies organised by the National Council for Civil Liberties which was to be held at the Cory Hall in Cardiff, 10 November 1916 was prevented by violence.

[John Rae, an historian, writing in his book, Conscience and Politics: The British government and the Conscientious Objector (1970)]
Source B7

[A recruitment poster encouraging young women to urge their men to join the army (1916)]

Source B8

Conscientious Objector (CO): I believe that God alone has the right to take life and that under no circumstances whatever has a man the right to kill another person. I believe that war is immoral.

Tribunal Member 1 (TM): You object to taking life; do you not think it is your duty to do all can to prevent our enemies from taking our lives?

CO: Not by organised murder, for that is what war is.

TM 2: Do you mean to say that my son, who has gone out to fight for such as you, is a murderer? You ought to be ashamed of yourself.

TM 1: Do you say force is un-Christian? Do you object to force being applied to criminals.

TM 2: When a policeman goes to arrest a man he does not first knock him down with his truncheon.

TM 1: Application for exemption is refused.

[A transcript of the Military Tribunal of a conscientious objector held on 28th October 1916. The whole Tribunal lasted no more than a few minutes in total]


Source B9

  • Some were pacifists who were against war in general.

  • Some were political objectors who did not consider the government of Germany to be their enemy

  • Some were religious objectors who believed that war and fighting was against their religion. Groups in this section were the Quakers and Jehovah Witnesses.

  • A combination of any of the above groups.

  • Some conscientious objectors did not want to fight but were keen to 'do their bit'. These people were willing to help in weapons factories and some went to the trenches to do jobs like stretcher-bearer, though not to fight.

  • Other conscientious objectors refused to do anything that involved the war - these were known as 'absolutists'.

[From a website for schools about the First World War showing the different types of conscientious objectors (1999)]

Source B10
I am speaking now as one who has seen war. I think that everybody who has seen war has one governing desire, and that is to see war abolished from the world. I am not at all sure that these people whom we propose to reject as the outcasts of the State, may not be the best people to help in the fight to make an end to war. There is one thing that nobody can deny them, and that is courage, the most difficult form of courage in the world, the courage of the individual against the crowd. That is a courage every State would do well to protect and guard. That is a courage which, above all others, makes for freedom.
[Captain Gwynne, an MP, giving a speech in Parliament in a debate on conscientious objectors on 26th June 1917. He was also a serving officer in the First World War]

Source B11

[A photograph of conscientious objectors working as stretcher bearers in the First World War in 1917]

Source B12
We were called names at school and people in our street wouldn't speak to us and the landlord said he wouldn't repair our house because father was a ‘conchie’ and wouldn't fight. But to me my father was one of the bravest men for standing up for his principles.
[From an interview with the daughter of a conscientious objector in the First World War (1940)]

Source B13

[The conscientious objector memorial in Tavistock Square Gardens in London which was erected by the Peace Pledge Union and dedicated on 15th May 1994]
Around the left edge it reads: TO COMMEMORATE MEN & WOMEN


On the right edge it reads: ALL OVER THE WORLD & IN EVERY AGE


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