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Keeping Britain Afloat

Keeping Britain Afloat was an oral history project, recording the stories of 50 veterans of the Second World War convoys.  In addition to a permanent exhibition at the Chatham Historic Dockyard, we created some lesson plans looking at the issues of supply and trade both during the Second World War and today.

The Teaching Resource

This teaching resource features five lesson plans which follow the broad course of the war and focus on the personal contributions of the Royal Navy, the Merchant Navy, the Fleet Air Arm and the Women of the Royal Naval Services [Wrens].

Within each session you will find links to video interviews specially recorded with veterans and we hope you will enjoy hearing their first-hand testimony which brings to life the rich stories of this amazing event in the Second World war. You will also see planned thinking points to stimulate classroom discussions, and task pointers for the activities associated with each session. The activities themselves are located within a separate workbook, and available to you to download and use with your learners – they include individual, pair and group tasks, research and written work, homework and family involvement.

Our resources are all provided free of charge, and whilst they remain the intellectual property of Legasee Educational Trust, we would be delighted if you would download, print off, photocopy and use in the way that best suits your learning and teaching styles.

Keeping Britain afloat by legasee educational trust. This image is part of the lesson plan a teaching resource from the Legasee website looking at the personal contributions to the royal navy during WW2
Lesson plans included in this resource

Lesson Plan 1

Life on a convoy

At the outbreak of war, all British owned merchant shipping came under the control of the Ministry of Shipping and later the Ministry of War Transport. The Merchant Navy often used older, less reliable and slower ships which were highly vulnerable to attack, therefore Royal Navy ships escorted them around the globe, protecting them and their cargo from enemy attack.

Meet some of the men who protected the convoys.

Lesson Plan 2

Against all odds

In 1939 Britain imported 68 million tonnes worth of raw materials, food and other consumable goods, by 1941 this had fallen to 26 million tonnes.

Supply lines were creaking the convoys were struggling to keep Britain afloat.

Lesson Plan 3

A turning tide

The winter of 1942/3 was the worst year of the war for shipping losses. But the tide had turned.

Meet the men and women who helped to do this.

Lesson Plan 4

Political playmakers

The naval convoys fulfilled many functions; not only did they enable Britain and her Allies to be kept supplied with food and raw materials, but they also fulfilled a political function.

Lesson Plan 5

Stretched to breaking point

In the convoy system, Royal Naval vessels would escort merchant shipping to protect them from sea and aerial attack.

However the Royal Navy were also needed for other tasks involving the war effort and this sometimes impacted upon the number of merchant vessels that were able to sail.

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Activity book

This Activity book links to the individual Lesson plans listed above.

Joan Endersby

Born Emily Joan Williams and having witnessed the enormous devastation of the Liverpool Blitz, it was inevitable that Joan would want to do her bit for the war effort. She joined the Wrens in 1943 and served as a Teleprinter Operator in Londonderry, Ireland. It’s an amusing interview which clearly demonstrates Joan’s zest for life.