Young Children Should Be Included in World War One Commemorations Too

In just over a year commemorations will officially begin to mark the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War.

Many believed The Great War, which started on August 4, 1914, would be over by Christmas of that year.

The reality was much worse than had been feared. It lasted four brutal years. Four years of carnage considered by many to be one of the worst massacres in history.

My great uncle died on the tenth day of the Battle of the Somme in 1916 – his body was never found but his sacrifice is recorded on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing Of The Somme.

The great uncle of my illustrator, Martin Impey, also fell at the Somme. Between us we have shared stories handed down from our grandparents and stories which fascinate children of all ages today.

Admiring of their devotion to duty, and to their country, and deeply aware of the effect the deaths of our great uncles had on our grandparents’ families we decided our next collaboration, Where The Poppies Now Grow, a work of fiction, in rhyme, set in Edwardian Britain would recreate the sense of duty and pride and also be a celebration of the human condition – essentially capturing the very essence of the time.

Commendable focus by the government has been made to ensure that secondary school children will be part of the commemorations. At present two children from every state secondary school in England from spring until March 2019 will be given the opportunity to visit First World War battlefields. But it is our hope too that children of primary school age will be able, in their own way and suited to their needs, share in that witness as well so that they too will also develop an appreciation for the scale of suffering which was to shape the 20th century world.

And there are other benefits too for engaging children of all ages.

The anniversary will provide the chance to foster intercultural understanding and strengthen ties of tolerance. Eric Pickles, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, has said that he believes the commemoration will provide “an opportunity to unite Britain’s ethnic minorities as it will demonstrate a history connecting every corner of the kingdom and every community from Bangladeshis in Birmingham to Sikhs in Southall.”

Where The Poppies Now Grow is dedicated to the memory of our two great uncles but it has been written for our young children to help them engage with a period of history where so many sacrificed their lives so that we might live in peace.

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