HMS Leigh Education

HMS Leigh – Guardian of the Thames is a community lead heritage and arts project that aims to connect people of all ages with the history of Southend Pier, aka HMS Leigh, during World War 2.  Supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, the Arts Council and Southend Borough Council, this project was part of the VE 75 celebrations.  Due to the pandemic, instead of the live event that had been planned,  a very successful online festival, HMS Leigh - Make Do and Mend ran from May 6th to May 10th 2020. 


Over 140,000 people engaged with the project online in May 2020.  This overwhelming response has generated a wonderful outpouring of largely unknown source materials.  The HMS Leigh Steering Group believe that this offered a huge opportunity to teach local history at a completely different level and inspire younger generations to follow in the footsteps of those resourceful men and women who together turned a pleasure pier into a naval battle station during WW2. 

Class in WW2

Thanks to the vision and generosity of our partners and funders, the HMS Leigh Team are inviting all Southend Schools on May 6th to May 7th, 2021 to Southend Pier to take part in an enriched history of HMS Leigh and to celebrate VE76 together.  If Covid-19 is still a threat by 2021, HMS Leigh - Guardian of the Thames will evolve to keep everyone safe as it did in 2020.  The dream is to transform Southend Pier into a giant collaboration of everything that is great about the past and the present with young people’s creativity being centre stage.



During the next year, the HMS Leigh Team will be working to save as many stories, memories, images and documents from Southend during WW2 as possible. From this great source material, will come learning materials for all ages that tell the hidden story of Southend during that era. The Team will also be preserving this archive in order to be able to share it with future generations. 

The HMS Leigh Education section is divided into primary, secondary and adult learning pages in order to provide you with material that is appropriate to all ages supporting teachers and parents to explore Southend’s heritage.  The HMS Leigh Team would appreciate your help and guidance on making these learning materials into a worthwhile legacy for those who lived through WW2 and the Covid-19 pandemic.

All materials on the HMS Leigh – Guardian of the Thames website are free for educational use. The images used have either been provided to the project by Southend Museum, Southend Pier Museum, individual local contributors or will have attributions attached to them – such as IWM for Imperial War Museum images.


If you and your pupils have any stories you would like to share, please get in touch. at:

Children Evacuating

Education Leaflet

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Main image courtesy of Dean Trotter

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