Tam Gardner and Sam Kemp are veterans of the Korean War. They were both NCOs with the Black Watch. But to the P6 pupils at Torphichen Primary in West Lothian, they’re known quite simply and affectionately as “Tam and Sam”.
With the pupils, they helped to make a film about the 1950s conflict More… which has become known as the Forgotten War and can be viewed at the new online museum and social network site www.rememberingscotlandatwar.org.uk.
“Tam and Sam were easy to talk to. They told us a lot and they weren’t shy to say stuff about it. They told us about pulling friends off the barbed wire - and that’s quite scary,” says P6 pupil Monica Anderson.
For their part, Tam and Sam enjoyed every minute of their school visits interacting with the children.
“We let them lead it and it was easy to communicate with them. They wanted to know what the war was really like, about action and injuries and mental stress, and we told them the truth about it but without sounding like Errol Flynn or John Wayne,” says Tam.
The inter-generational aspect of this groundbreaking new site and social networking area is one of its strongest virtues, says Joanne Orr, the CEO of Museums Galleries Scotland, who led the project.
“The inter-generational aspect allows different perspectives on different conflicts, in which older and younger generations can learn from each other. The older generation might change a young person’s idea about the reality of war, while a young person might think ‘He was once as young as me and he’s experienced some amazing things’.”
The culmination of three years’ work, Remembering Scotland At War features more than 200 exhibitions, interviews, photographs and footage from the Second World War up to Iraq and Afghanistan.
Its 50 themes range from wartime entertainment, internment of enemy aliens and genocide to the Suez Crisis and the Cold War, and the filmed interviews with veterans and civilians are often carried out by school pupils or youth groups.
Exhibition areas are: Lewis at War, Fortress Orkney, the Glasgow West War Story, the Crofters and the Second World War, as well as West Lothian and the Forgotten War.
Among the memories captured are those of being taken prisoner by the Germans in the Second World War, of being a child buried in rubble during the Clydebank Blitz and of training for deployment in Afghanistan.
In addition to the online exhibitions, there is an interactive social media area where personal memories can be exchanged and anyone can create a profile to upload their own reminiscences, photographs and videos or discuss exhibitions and make comments. There’s also a dedicated learning centre where teachers, pupils and parents can download school-based activities.
“The idea is that the museum is free, constantly evolving and fully interactive,” says Ms Orr.
“The community area is ideal for young people used to interactive sites and the learning centre is specifically designed for use in the classroom, allowing pupils and teachers to create their own material to put on the site.
“That’s as important as anything. It’s about breaking down barriers between the formal museum and personal recollections and reflections, as well as about being cross-generational,” she says.
By using the “shopping basket” on the site, teachers can pull down specific information they might want for a particular lesson, which they can “build” themselves and then project the material directly on to a whiteboard.
“The idea is that everyone and anyone can become part of the whole legacy. The site will have a life of its own. Pupils will even be able to curate their own exhibitions and put them online,” says Ms Orr.
The Torphichen children became involved specifically with the Forgotten War because of the school’s proximity to the Scottish Korean War Memorial in the nearby Bathgate Hills.
“My group did animation and it was really fun,” says Monica. “I made lots of characters and moved them for the camera. We had a soldier writing home to his family, and the mice and the rats carrying disease in the Korean trenches that Tam and Sam told us about. It feels good to see our stuff on the site. You feel proud,” she says.
For class teacher Marnie Ferguson, the project was bang on the money with the Curriculum for Excellence.
“They were effective contributors in designing and making the film, responsible citizens interviewing veterans and learning history, successful learners in ICT and now confident individuals talking about their project to parents and the press.”
For Tam and Sam, the project has also brought some belated recognition for those who fought - and not least those who died - in Korea.
“Eleven hundred British soldiers fell in Korea but you’d be hard put to find a war memorial in Britain which mentions this. I’ve never found it on any memorial,” says Sam
“It was a United Nations action and I’ve been told there’s no mention because it’s seen as a conflict, not a war. But we were there and I can tell you it felt like a war!” says Tam, adding: “Maybe a thing like this, working with these youngsters, will make it that bit less forgotten.”
- Remembering Scotland At War is part of a UK initiative, Their Past Your Future, a partnership of the Imperial War Museum; Museums, Libraries and Archives England; Northern Ireland Museum Council; National Library of Wales; and Museums Galleries Scotland. Supported by the Big Lottery Fund