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Leaving it all behind: the impact of war on servicemen, their families and society

The documents in this resource have been selected from a collection of over 30,000 wills of Scottish servicemen from WW1 and WW2 that are preserved in the National Archives of Scotland.

Each document tells an individual story, but together they add to our knowledge and understanding of those who sacrificed their lives during recent wars. They show how ordinary Scots faced the prospect of dying for their country, and made provision for their family and friends. Visit background information that explains how the army disposed of soldiers’ pay and effects in the event of their death.

This resource is designed to support the teaching of Philosophy, and Religious, Moral and Philosophical Studies. By studying these documents, students can consider the dilemmas that every serviceman and woman must have faced during these times and which every citizen continues to face today.

The resource is set out in three units, with sources, audio files and activities in each. Teachers' notes and background information are also available. Some activities are online. All archive sources and activities are printable.

The graves of three British soldiers killed near Castelforte, Italy, 31 January 1944.
Imperial War Museum: NA 11580

Unit 1 - The Morality of War
Issues addressed include -Why are we at war? Can it be justified?

Unit 2 - Belief
Can a religious person be a member of the armed forces? Will I be able to kill a fellow human being?

Unit 3 - Realities of War
Will I survive? What will happen afterwards?