CHILDREN from across Scotland are being invited to write poetry and create artworks as part of a nationwide competition aimed at raising awareness of the First World War.

English-based commemoration charity Never Such Innocence held its first event in Scotland yesterday at Glasgow’s City Chambers, where young people from city schools read poems about the conflict, in which more than 100,000 Scots died - more per head of population than any other home nation.

The charity, which takes its name from Philip Larkin’s 1964 poem about the consequences of the war, MCMXIV, and counts TV historian Dan Snow among its backers, was established to encourage children to think creatively about the conflict and its effects on society.

The initiative’s multi-media resource pack, which has a special focus on Scotland, is already helping schools to teach the topic, and features work by esteemed Herald and Evening Times war cartoonist Archie Gilkison, who has been described as the Wilfred Owen of cartooning.

Gilkison, whose work is to be exhibited at the Hunterian Gallery in March, died of pneumonia in training in Berwick in 1916 after being conscripted into the Scots Guards. He was 31.

Other topics explored in the education pack include trench warfare, the major battles, combat stress, propaganda and the impact of the war on women.

Writing in the foreword, Snow said the initiative would help children understand the world around them.

“The war changed Britain and the world,” he said. “This resource gives us an excellent account of the war, and its effect on society, art and culture.”

Scots youngsters aged 9-16 are being encouraged to enter their own poems, cartoons and paintings to a contest, with prizes being presented at a special ceremony at the House of Lords later in May.

Glasgow Lord Provost Sadie Docherty launched the competition alongside Never Such Innocence founder Lady Lucy French, great-grandaughter of Field Marshal Sir John French, who led British forces in 1914.

Four Glasgow schools, St Patrick’s Primary, Langside Primary, Bellahouston Academy and the Glasgow Gaelic School, took part in the event, which included moving recitations of war-themed poetry.

Among the readers from Bellahouston Academy were Maisie Watson, Lara MacDonald and Jaspreet Singh.

Maisie, 14, said reading war poetry had helped her understand the effects of the conflict.

She added: “Words are so important in describing how things were and how people felt. I’ve really enjoyed studying the poetry. And it has made me want to know more about the First World War. I will definitely be entering the competition.”

Lara, also 14, said she had particularly enjoyed learning about how the role of women changed during and after the war.

“The war was terrible and so many people lost their lives,” she said. “But it also had really far-reaching consequences for women. They proved they could work just as well as men. And not long afterwards they got the vote.”

Jaspreet, 13, added that the initiative had encouraged his classmates think about the contribution of Commonwealth citizens to the conflict, too.

He said: “Because Britain was a colonial country it ruled India, which meant men there had to fight in the war as well. It has been really interesting to learn about the sacrifices they made.”

Lady French said it was important to keep the war in the minds of younger generations. She added: “I am very excited to bring Never Such Innocence to Scotland. Highlighting the contribution of Scotland, and the other nations within the British Isles is vital to the centenary of the Great War and its commemorations.

“Scottish Women’s Hospitals for Foreign Service, for example, sent 14 separate units to provide medical support in at least seven countries.

“Getting today’s young people to play their part is very special – they are creating a centenary legacy for generations to come.”

Glasgow’s Lord Provost, Sadie Docherty, said the initiative would help young people understand the contribution made by Glasgow to the war effort, including the many thousands of women who worked in munitions factories on the home front. The rent strikes in the city in 1915, meanwhile, led by Glaswegian Mary Barbour, eventually gained the support of Prime Minister David Lloyd George and resulted in a rent freeze that set an important welfare precedent.

Ms Docherty said: “This event is about giving young people the information and knowledge to go off and research for themselves the part Glasgow played in the war and the impact it had on the city.”

Among the other speakers at the event was Colin Kerr, the Glasgow-born director of the War Graves Commission.

The city has some 2000 war graves in its cemeteries, marking the final resting places of Australians and New Zealanders as well as Glaswegians.

Mr Kerr said: “We are so delighted to support Never Such Innocence during this centenary period. We see this as a marvellous opportunity for kids in Scotland to connect with a hugely important part of this country’s history. Not just the wealth of arts and literature but also awareness of the Scots lying in cemeteries on the Western Front and here in Glasgow.”

Schools looking to enter the competition can find out more at