Private Peaceful was published by Harper Collins in 2003.
It is a story about a soldier, Thomas ‘Tommo’ Peaceful. He looks back on his life from the World War 1 trenches. Each chapter moves the story forwards in time, until the reader has caught up to Tommo in the trenches. From this point on, the story is written in the present tense.
The book examines the horrors of war and the unfair treatment of soldiers who were executed by firing squad for desertion or cowardice.
Private Peaceful was turned into a film in October 2012. It was directed by Pat O’Connor and starred George Mackay (as Tommo), Richard Griffiths (as The Colnel) and Maxine Peake (as Hazel).
The book was shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal, won the Red House Children’s Book Award, won the Blue Peter Book Award and was shortlisted for the Blue Peter Best Book of the Last 10 Years Award.
During World War 1, nearly 300 British Army soldiers were executed by firing squad for desertion and cowardice. Many of the men were suffering from shell shock, and in 2006 they were granted pardons.
Many Devon locations feature in Private Peaceful, and Michael Morpurgo used the book Devon in 1914 by James Ravilious to help him visualise how it would have looked in 1914.
In 2009 Michael Morpurgo travelled to Ypres in Belgium to better understand World War 1. In a war cemetery, five miles outside of Ypres, he found a grave bearing the name Private Peaceful.
Private Peaceful isn’t the only Michael Morpurgo book to focus on the subject of war. Shadow, A Medal for Leroy, War Horse and Why the Whales Came also feature conflict as a theme. In the clip below, Michael Morpuro talks about war as a theme in his novels.
In 2011, Michael Morpurgo said that Private Peaceful was his favourite of all the books he’s written.
War Horse was first published in 1982 by Kaye & Ward.
The novel is written from the point of view of Joey, a horse bought by the Army to serve in World War 1. It describes Joey’s experiences, and details how Albert, Joey’s former owner, tries to bring him home safely from France.
Michael Morpurgo says three men inspired the story idea that eventually became War Horse. Wilfred Ellis, a World War 1 veteran, told Michael Morpurgo what is was like to work with horses in the Devon Yeomanry. Captain Budgett, another World War 1 vet, told Michael all about WW1 cavalry, and Albert Weeks, from Iddesleigh, talked to Michael about how the Army had come through the village buying horses for the war effort.
He was also inspired by a harrowing World War 1 painting showing WW1 horses charging into barbed wire as they approached the German lines.
War Horse was adapted for the stage by Nick Stafford. The play was first staged at the Olivier Theatre in 2007. It used life-size puppets to portray the horses.
War Horse has also been turned into a movie. The screenplay was written by Richard Curtis and Lee Hall, and it was directed by Steven Spielberg. It was released on 25th December 2011.
The book was runner-up for the 1982 Whitbread Book Award.
It is estimated that nearly one million British horses died during World War 1, and perhaps as many as 10 million horses lost their lives during the entire conflict.
In 2008, War Horse was adapted for the radio. The broadcast featured the voices of Timothy Spall, Bob Hoskins and Brenda Blethyn.
Wilfred Owen was born on 18th March 1893 in Oswestry in Shropshire, England.
He went to school at the Birkenhead Institute and Shrewsbury Technical School.
As a child, his family moved around quite a lot. He lived in Shrewsbury and in several different homes in and around Tranmere.
He was a pupil-teacher at Wyle Cop School in Shrewsbury.
He wanted to attend the University of London, but he didn’t do well enough in the matriculation exam to earn a full scholarship. As a result, he couldn’t afford the fees and had to look at other options.
Wilfred Owen became an assistant to the Vicar of Dunsden, and he took some classes (in botany and Old English) at the University of Reading.
He moved to Bordeaux in France in 1913 and he worked as a tutor at the Berlitz School of Languages.
In France he met the poet, Laurent Tailhade.
Wilfred Owen enlisted on 21st October 1915, joining the Artists’ Rifles Officers’ Training Corp.
After seven months of training at Hare Hall Camp in Essex, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Manchester Regiment.
Wilfred Owen left for the western front in France in January 1917.
He experienced heavy fighting. On one occasion he was knocked unconscious when he fell into a shell hole, and he was once blown into the air by a trench mortar.
Wilfred Owen was diagnosed with shell shock and he was sent to Craiglockhart War Hospital in Edinburgh.
In hospital, Wilfred Owen met the poet Siegfried Sassoon. They became good friends and Sassoon, already an established poet, helped Owen to improve his poetry by drawing on his experience of life on the western front.
In March 1918, Owen was posted to the Northern Command at Ripon. He continued to work on his poems and he celebrated his 25th birthday in Ripon.
In August 1918, Wilfred Owen returned to the front line in France. He was killed in combat on 4th November 1918 on the banks of the Sambre Canal. World War 1 would be over one week later.
He was awarded the Military Cross for his bravery in an attack on enemy near the village of Joncourt.
Only five of Wilfred Owen’s poems were published before he died.
His most well-known poems include: Strange Meeting, Anthem for Doomed Youth, Futility, The Parable of the Old Man and the Young, and Dulce Et Decorum Est.
Throughout his short life, Wilfred Owen’s poetry underwent a transformation. His earliest poems were heavily influenced by the Romantic poets John Keats and Shelley. His later work, influenced by Siegfried Sassoon, combines these Romantic elements with a gritty realism drawn from his own experiences of World War 1. His poems reveal the true horrors of the life in the trenches of World War 1.
Wilfred Owen is buried in Ors Communal Cemetery.
In Poet’s Corner in Westminster Abbey, Wilfred Owen is commemorated along with fifteen other World War 1 poets.
Wilfred Owen appears in Pat Barker’s Regeneration Trilogy.
The Cenotaph is a war memorial on Whitehall, in central London. It is a few minutes walk from many of London’s most famous sights including 10 Downing Street, Trafalgar Square and the Houses of Parliament.
It was built after the end of World War I as a temporary memorial to those who died. The name comes from the Greek word for empty tomb or empty burial place.
The original cenotaph was made from wood and plaster and was designed to be temporary. However, the public left so many flowers at its base, the decision was made to make it a permanent memorial.
It was designed by the architect Edwin Lutyens, and built from Portland stone. The height is 11 metres and the carved wreaths at either end are 1.5 metres in diameter.
There are three carved stone wreaths on the Cenotaph, as well as two inscriptions reading ‘The Glorious Dead’. The dates of the First World War are inscribed in Roman numerals.
There are actually no right angles on the structure, although its sides appear to be perpendicular to the floor. In actual fact, the verticals would meet about 300 metres in the air, to symbolize the space between Earth and Heaven.
The Cenotaph and Whitehall were the scenes of celebrations in May, 1945 when World War II ended. The dates of the Second World War were added to the monument.
Routine maintenance and cleaning of the Cenotaph takes place every year. Major renovations took place in 2013, in time for the November Remembrance Day celebrations.
The national service of remembrance is held annually at the Cenotaph, every November on the Sunday closest to the 11th. King George V suggested the ceremony, which was first held in 1919.
An exact copy of the Cenotaph was built in London, Ontario, Canada in 1934. There are also Cenotaphs in Manchester, Hong Kong, Auckland, Southampton and Toronto.
Here are some facts about life in the World War 1 trenches.
Trench warfare featured prominently in World War I. It was a method of fighting in which opposing armies dug trenches for protection and defence.
During World War I, there were an estimated 2,490 km of trenches throughout western Europe. Most trenches were about 3 metres deep and between 1 and 2 metres wide.
Life in the trenches was extremely hard, as well as dangerous. Most soldiers spent between a day and 2 weeks in a trench on the front line before being relieved.
Sanitary conditions in the trenches were poor and many soldiers suffered from gangrene and cholera. Often, dead bodies were simply left out in the open rather than buried.
Trenches could quickly flood during heavy rain and one of the duties of the men was to drain water with a pump. Other duties included refilling sandbags and repairing the wooden flooring.
Rats, which could grow as large as cats, were a problem in the trenches. Frogs, spiders and lice were also pests that the soldiers had to battle daily.
One of the worst things about life in the trenches was the horrible smell. Many men did not bathe for weeks, and the trenches also smelled of rotting sandbags, cigarette smoke and poison gas.
It was difficult to sleep properly in the trenches because of the noise and uncomfortable surroundings. As a result, because men were tired and constantly in danger of falling asleep while on watch, the watch was kept to 2 hours.
The first trenches were primitive and were simply deep holes dug in the ground. Later trenches were more sophisticated and often had sleeping quarters, toilets and showers, and cooking facilities.
There were several cease fires or truces during World War I. Towards Christmas in 1914, the British and German soldiers came out of their trenches, stopped fighting, and even sung carols and exchanged gifts. This became known as the Christmas Truce.
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