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🎧 GALLIPOLI: CAUSES, CONSEQUENCES AND COMMEMORATION

Audio from Chalke Valley History Festival 2015 with Stephen Prince.
This lecture, recorded 100 years on, seeks to explain the Gallipoli campaign and place it in its wider context. It looks at the latest understanding of the evidence from both sides, particularly from the Ottoman/Turkish perspective. The example of Gallipoli remains compelling both for contemporary military operations and the nations involved, especially Turkey, New Zealand and Australia.

Those Magnificent Men..

One summer’s afternoon, in 1917, Grahame Donald attempted a new manoeuvre in his Sopwith Camel. He flew the machine up and over, and as he reached the top of his loop, hanging upside down, six thousand feet above the ground, his safety belt snapped – and he fell out. He was not wearing a parachute; they existed but were not issued to British pilots in the belief that their availability would impair fighting spirit. Hurtling to earth, with nothing to break his fall, Donald’s death was less than a minute away – but it didn’t come. In an interview given fifty-five years later, he says: 

The first two thousand feet passed very quickly and terra firma looked damnably ‘firma’. As I fell, I began to hear my faithful little Camel somewhere nearby. Suddenly I fell back onto her.

The Camel had continued its loop downwards, and Donald claims that he landed on its top wing – which he grabbed with both hands. Hooking a foot into the cockpit, he managed to wrestle himself back in, before taking the controls, and executing ‘an unusually good landing.’

If you were told this story by a man propping up a bar, you might smile politely and check your watch. But if it was told by Air Marshal Sir Grahame Donald KCB, DFC, AFC to a member of staff at the Imperial War Museum, you might feel inclined to believe it. 

At the time of his unlikely escape, Grahame Donald was a member of the Royal Naval Air Service, the naval wing of the flying services, but he would not be for long. On 1 April 1918, the RNAS amalgamated with its army cousin, the Royal Flying Corps, to form a new service, the Royal Air Force. 

Over the previous three and a half years of the war, the army and navy branches had competed for limited resources, each pursuing its own strategic ends, and it was now felt necessary to impose some kind of unity. 

Soldiers and sailors found themselves shoehorned together into an upstart service with no traditions, and many were not happy. One described the Royal Air Force as a ‘complete hotch potch’ whilst another complained that the new blue-grey uniform made him look like an actor in a comic opera. Most, however, were too busy fighting a new kind of war in the skies over France, to concern themselves with the politics of the world’s second independent air force. The Royal Air Force had been pipped at the post. Three weeks earlier, the Finnish Air Force, consisting of one aircraft and a man to fly it, had been formed.

The men who came together to form the Royal Air Force were leaping into the unknown. When the first four squadrons of the Royal Flying Corps flew across the channel to France, days after the outbreak of war in August 1914, it was unclear what role they would play. They began by watching the movements of the enemy, but the generals were not initially inclined to believe reports gathered by ‘fleets of flying birdcages’. The birdcages proved accurate, however, and aerial reconnaissance reports were soon relied on by both sides. 

Once cameras were fitted onto aircraft, they were used to map the entire Western Front in minute detail. The changing nature of the conflict gave the aeroplane its second crucial role. As the war stabilized into a stalemate of mud, wire, and attrition, artillery became the army’s most important weapon, and aircraft were used to range gunfire onto enemy positions, by flying over the target, and reporting the accuracy of each shell burst, back to the battery in Morse code.

These jobs (as well as bombing, and, in later years, ground strafing) made up the daily work of the Royal Flying Corps. This work was the reason for its growing importance, and it was to protect the aircraft, and to prevent the enemy from carrying out similar work, that aeroplanes were turned into fighting machines. This is how the great aces came to prowl the skies in search of prey; it is why young men engaged in gladiatorial dogfights to the death. 

There were no dogfights at the start, however. In the earliest days, rival airmen would wave as they passed each other, but before long, they began arming themselves with revolvers and rifles. The chance of hitting one moving aircraft from another with a single bullet was minimal, although lucky strikes did occur. Gilbert Mapplebeck was a pilot with 4 Squadron, who was hit in the thigh by a rifle bullet fired from a German machine. He was unfortunate enough to be carrying loose change in his pocket, and the force of the bullet drove a twenty-five franc piece into his groin, slicing away the tip of his penis. 

Aircraft were turned more fearsome when mounted with machine guns aimed away from the propeller, but the aeroplane’s fighting potential truly began to reveal itself in the spring of 1915, when Anthony Fokker – a young Dutch designer working for the Germans – perfected a synchronizing gear that enabled a machine gun to fire safely through the spinning blades. The aircraft Fokker had offered his services to the British authorities before the war, and been turned down, and his successful invention now threatened to clear the skies of British aircraft. An arms race took hold, its goal being aerial dominance, and for the remainder of the war, aerial superiority swung back and forth between the sides.

This was a new concept of warfare; one in which progress depended not on past experience, nor on the views of the authorities, but on the initiative of the young airmen themselves. Only they truly knew what could – and could not – be done in an aircraft. In 1914, they decided to toss darts over the side of their machines. By 1918, they were dropping mammoth 1660 pounder bombs on German cities from the bomb racks of their Handley Page heavy bombers.  And just as they used initiative in the air, so they demonstrated it on the ground.  Individualist, unkempt, lacking in traditional military discipline, First World War airmen represented a new breed of soldier. When Archibald James, a pilot with 5 Squadron, returned from leave, he brought with him eight clear breaches of discipline:

Before returning to France I had bought from the local pack of harriers in Sussex, four pairs of hounds.  These I took out with me to France.  And when I arrived, they were greeted with a minimum of enthusiasm by my ardent soldier commanding officer. A considerably strained relationship ensued but the hounds were great fun.  I hunted hares of which there were quite a number in Bayeux-Armentières sector, with a most distinguished field, beautifully mounted on their first chargers.  There were only two or three little thorn hedges in the whole of our area, which extended nearly up to the gun lines. And these we periodically jumped as often as possible to keep up the illusion that we were a hunting club.

It was only an airman amongst First World War combatants who could have attempted to mimic the life of a country gentleman, whilst actively engaged in a struggle as bloody as the hare’s. It was as though the stresses of daily flying might be overcome by a grand gesture, or an imitation of normality. Robert Loraine, West End actor, squadron commander, and wearer of an entirely redundant monocle, built a theatre on his aerodrome, in which he staged anti-war plays, with the parts taken by those airmen who had survived the day’s flying.

The strains that these men were overcoming were huge. During the Battle of Arras in 1917, the life expectancy of a new pilot fell to eleven days. One sensitive man who struggled against his fears was the highest scoring British ace of the war, Edward ‘Mick’ Mannock VC. Tactician, socialist, supporter of Irish Home Rule, Mannock was a spontaneous, working class man, who generously nurtured young pilots, and machine gunned wounded Germans on the ground. He carried a revolver with him into the air, with which to take his own life, rather than burn. Whilst at home on leave, he broke down in front of an old friend:

We were sitting in the front talking quietly when his eyes fell to the floor, and he started to tremble violently. This grew into a convulsive straining. He cried uncontrollably, muttering something that I could not make out. His face, when he lifted it, was a terrible sight. Saliva and tears were running down his face; he couldn’t stop it. His collar and shirt-front were soaked through. He smiled weakly at me when he saw me watching and tried to make light of it; he would not talk about it at all. 

Mannock was killed – as were so many other successful pilots – when he broke his own rules of flying safety. His aircraft burst into flames after being hit by ground fire. It is not known whether he ended his own life, or was consumed in the blaze.  

And yet, in spite – or perhaps because of – the strain under which they lived, airmen became heroes to the public. In a war in which the majority of fighting was remote and impersonal, they engaged in tactical duels, watching an opponent’s facial expression, circling and straining to get on his tail. Pilots came to be known as ‘knights of the air’. One of these knights was William Leefe Robinson, a man who received the Victoria Cross, not for fighting against other aeroplanes, but for shooting down the first Zeppelin airship over British soil. A mood of euphoria gripped the country in the wake of his act, as though he had personally freed the country from the grip of a tyrant. In a letter to his parents, Robinson wrote:

As I daresay you have seen in the papers – babies, flowers and hats have been named after me, also poems and prose have been dedicated to me. Oh, it’s too much! I am recognized wherever I go about Town, now, whether in uniform or mufti. The city police salute me, the waiters, hall porters and pages of hotels and restaurants bow and scrape, visitors turn round and stare. Oh, it’s too thick!

As a ‘reward’, Robinson was sent out to France, to fly the Bristol Fighter, a prestigious new aircraft. He was shot down on his first flight over enemy lines, and taken prisoner. The prison guards did not bow and scrape. They mistreated him, and he fell ill, dying after his repatriation.

The story of infantry fighting on the Western Front, with its vivid evocations of suffering and wasted life, has captured the modern imagination. Yet taking place above the very same Western Front was a conflict of intense human emotion, of young men growing up in an exciting and terrible world, of chivalry, of fear and danger, of the creation of modern warfare. Twenty-seven years after the end of the war, the atomic bomb was dropped on Japan. That event was only made possible by the ‘lessons’ that were learned during this period. The First World War in the Air is a conflict that deserves to be far better known.


Joshua Levine practised as a barrister for several years before becoming an actor and author of seven critically acclaimed histories. His plays have been performed on the London stage and he has written and presented documentaries for BBC Radio 4. He fronted the documentary film Dunkirk: The New Evidence for Channel 4 and most recently he worked as Historical Consultant on Christopher Nolan’s acclaimed Dunkirk.

He will be speaking about ‘The Aviation Heroes of the First World War’ at Chalke Valley History Festival on Monday 25th June – tickets are available here.

Michael Morpurgo talks to us about ‘An Eagle In The Snow: The Man Who Could Have Prevented WW1

Michael Morpurgo talks to us about writing historical novels and what inspired him to tell the amazing story of Henry Tandey, the most decorated soldier in World War One.

Michael Morpurgo talks to us about ‘An Eagle In The Snow: The Man Who Could Have Prevented WW1 from Chalke Valley History Trust on Vimeo.

OVER THE TOP: THE STORY OF DOROTHY LAWRENCE

Lizzie Crarer PRODUCTION SHOT 3

A BIT ABOUT THE RESEARCH AND THE RATIONALE BEHIND THE SHOW

Any historical narrative is shaped by its conclusion, and I knew about the end of Dorothy’s life before I knew anything else about her. In 1925 she was committed to Hanwell Lunatic Asylum, and remained in psychiatric institutions until her death in 1964. What she did at the start of her life however was quite remarkable, and I have wanted to find a way of retelling her story in a way that celebrates the energy and verve of this extraordinary personality.

Dorothy’s adventures are recounted in her short autobiographical book ‘Sapper Dorothy’, first published in 1919 and still in print today. On first reading, I was immediately engaged by the exuberant and unusual voice that jumped off the pages, and the story that defied all my preconceptions about female aspirations in World War One. In June 1915 Dorothy set off for northern France, intent on becoming the first female war correspondent. She wheedled and hoodwinked her way to procuring uniform and false papers, and ended up spending ten days under enemy fire on the frontline of fighting, disguised as ‘Private Denis Smith’. Finally discovered, she was sent packing back to England – not before being interrogated by some of the highest-ranking officers in the Third Army.

And there was one line that caught my eye: ‘if my highly respectable guardian, living in that dear old Cathedral city, could see me now, they would have forty fits.’

Screen Shot 2016-06-14 at 14.13.04Having grown up in a ‘dear old Cathedral city’ myself, this oblique reference piqued my interest. Following a hunch, I began what was to turn into a year-long process of research. Following a paper trail of letters, photographs, census entries and asylum records, I have confirmed that Dorothy’s cathedral city was in fact the same as mine – Salisbury.

A shared geographical point of reference enables a deeper level of imaginative engagement with her story; and for this reason I decided that the show had to be made in Wiltshire, for an audience in the southwest. I have wanted to explore the forgotten story of Dorothy’s childhood as a teenage orphan sent from London to live with her guardian in the Salisbury cathedral close; and I also want to ensure that who she was and what she did was remembered and celebrated as part of our regional World War One centenary commemorations.

 

For further information please contact The Heroine Project Presents producer Lizzie Crarer | 07747 833864 | lizziecrarer@hotmail.com


Crarer,Lizzie
Lizzie Crarer is a Bath-based theatre-maker and performer, and the director of ‘The Heroine Project Presents’: making theatre that tells the stories of women from history who have been overlooked or misrepresented.

OVER THE TOP: THE STORY OF DOROTHY LAWRENCE will be performed at Chalke Valley History Festival at 6.30pm on 30th June 2016

First World War Trench Build – Part 1

At this year’s festival we are very excited to have created a scale section of a First World War trench.  Built by a team of experts and local volunteers, and using authentic methods and materials, official period manuals, as well as drawing upon the testimonies of those who built and fought in them, this will be as close a representation of what a WWI trench was like as is possible.
It’s really starting to take shape and we are learning a lot! Here is our co-chair, James Holland with an update on Day 2 of construction..

Warrior

Flowerdew's ChargeWarrior was raring for it. It was March 1918 and he was looking up at the German positions at Moreuil Wood, 10 miles from Amiens in Picardy, at the heart of the western front.

The Germans had broken through and the Fifth Army was in ragged retreat. The enemy troops in the wood were reinforcing and digging in. Desperate times called for desperate measures. The cavalry would go in and Warrior would be at its head.

The small, sturdy bay thoroughbred was a legend among the troops, having served at the front since August 1914. He had somehow survived while hundreds of thousands of his human and equine comrades had fallen around him. One group of cavalrymen dubbed him: “The horse the Germans can’t kill.”

On being given the order to charge at Moreuil Wood, Warrior galloped forward, accompanied by a hail of bullets from the enemy as he and the rest of the party crossed no man’s land and rode up the hill towards the Germans. About half the group were hit. “But Warrior cared for nothing,” recalled his rider. “His one idea was to get at the enemy . . . We were greeted by 20 or 30 Germans who fired a few shots before running away, doubtless thinking there were thousands of us following.”

This is not a scene from Steven Spielberg’s Oscar-tipped film version of Michael Morpurgo’s War Horse story, which was a theatrical hit both in the West End and on Broadway. It is a true tale involving my grandfather General Jack Seely’s horse Warrior.

The battle of Moreuil Wood was one of the last great cavalry charges. It exacted a terrible cost. Although the allies triumphed they lost a quarter of their men and half of the horses involved. Warrior and Seely survived.

Long after the war Seely recounted the tale of the charger he had bred at home on the Isle of Wight in a book, My Horse Warrior, which was illustrated by Sir Alfred Munnings, the acclaimed artist. It is a tale of courage, run through with the sentiment of the citation that Seely is supposed to have written in recommending Warrior for the Victoria Cross, which read simply: “He went everywhere I did.”

But that was in long-forgotten 1934. Since then the story of Warrior’s war has been left in the memory of those who cherished it at the time — the book ran to five editions — and to the children of the Seely family who heard it, not infrequently, at our mothers’ knees.

Then the War Horse phenomenon began. The play, with its astonishingly lifelike horse puppets, was almost painfully moving but it was still principally a magnificent coup de theatre. It was only when Spielberg took up the challenge of turning it into a film that attention fastened on to how hundreds of thousands of horses were enlisted, like Morpurgo’s fictional Joey, to fight on the western front. The social background of Warrior, the thoroughbred, is the exact opposite to that of Joey, the three-guinea colt bought at auction by a drunken farmer to spite a rival and who was then saved from exploitation by the farmer’s young son Albert.

But inverted snobbery can be just as silly as the other kind and while Warrior may have had grooms and stables and extra riders as distinguished as Sir John French, the army’s early commander-in-chief, he still trotted out every year of the war to where the shells crunched and the bullets flew. His life was charmed but his heart never faltered and his very existence became an inspiration. He was even granted an obituary in The Times in April 1941, an honour not given to many horses. In such circumstances it seemed dumb not to front up and repackage my grandfather’s book. Four reprints and sales exceeding 20,000 with a consistent No 1 position in Amazon’s first world war bestseller list have justified the decision commercially. Just as gratifying is the thrill of revisiting a remarkable story worthy of any fiction.

WARRIOR was a warhorse by breeding. His mother, Cinderella, was bought by Seely after he saw her galloping in the distance on Hampshire Yeomanry manoeuvres on Salisbury Plain in 1902. She was so kind that my mother and her sisters could slide safely down her tail and she was so amenable that Jack used to ride her in Rotten Row, central London, before he went to work in Westminster as a member of the Liberal government alongside his great friend Winston Churchill. When Cinderella had a foal in 1908 by the visiting thoroughbred stallion Straybit, a name like Warrior was always on the cards, especially for an owner who by 1913 was to become secretary of state for war.

Yet while this is much more an Upstairs rather than a Downstairs story, don’t ever think that horse and rider didn’t forge a bond as close as man and animal have ever done. It also had its moments, starting with the first time Seely sat on Warrior as a two-year-old and got bucked off three times in a row, or when they first walked into the sea at Brook on the Isle of Wight’s western shore and capsized in the surf. They were too brave a pair to let that daunt them. Soon Seely wrote admiringly about Warrior, “he would follow the retreating water till the waves were breaking not 10 yards from his nose and then stand with feet well apart while the foamy water swept past his shoulders. It was then that I first realised what a courageous animal was mine, for I could see, though he trembled a little between my legs, that he was to overcome his fear”.

Anyone who has ever ridden will know how easily startled a horse, especially a thoroughbred, can be by something as trivial as a car exhaust backfiring. They will also know the feeling of gratitude and pride when the animal beneath you stands brave in front of danger. Seely would experience this very quickly after war was declared on August 4, 1914. Having lost his ministerial job over the Curragh crisis in March that year he become a special aide to French, the commander-in-chief. Within a week he and Warrior were on a boat to France and within a month there were more than waves crashing in front of them.

Of the retreat from Mons in September 1914, Seely wrote: “It was the first time that I had ridden Warrior under shell fire and we went out through the little gate past the blazing stables. As we approached them, another bouquet of shells fell and burst, the nearest only a few yards away. To my amazement Warrior made no attempt to run away. I could feel him tremble a little between my legs as we trotted through the gate, but he pretended to be quite unperturbed. He was pretending to be brave and succeeding in his task.

“On many, many days thereafter during the four years that were to follow I rode Warrior in shell fire — sometimes so heavy that he was almost the only survivor — but never once did he attempt to bolt or to do any of the things which might be expected of an animal reputed to be so naturally timid as the horse. No, my stout-hearted horse not only kept his own fear under control but by his example helped beyond measure his rider and his friend to do the same.”

The example was soon to spread to a wider group. In February 1915 Seely was put in command of the Canadian cavalry and went with Warrior to join them in Hampshire. By May they were en route back to France and it is clear from the account of the voyage that the horse had already become something of a mascot to the troops.

“I well remember our arrival at Boulogne at 6am on a spring morning,” Seely wrote. “I led Warrior first off the gangway and got on his back sitting there as the men filed off. As they formed up somebody shouted out ‘Three cheers for Warrior’.”

It was an experience that Seely would have to get used to. “This handsome gay bay thoroughbred was my passport wherever I went,” he recalled. “As time went on, especially in France, the men got to love him more and more. As I rode along whether it was in rest billets, in reserve, approaching the line or in the midst of battle, men would say not ‘Here comes the general’, but ‘Here’s old Warrior’.”

At Ypres, the Canadians, to their dismay, were dismounted and stuck in the trenches. Warrior was however, as so often, an exception and, like his mother Cinderella before him, took to walking round behind Seely like a dog. It must have been one of the few amusing sights in a scene dominated by carnage.
Warrior was often at the centre of the devastation. One morning he was tethered just behind the front line when a German shell, instead of bursting into small fragments when it hit the ground, broke in half nearby. One half struck Seely’s brigade major’s horse in the chest and cut it clean in half.

“The orderly [in charge of the horses] was knocked down by the force of the blow and must have been unconscious for a little while,” Seely said. “He was still sitting on the ground when we returned and there was Warrior who had just moved away a few yards and was waiting for me. He neighed loudly as I came in sight and cantered up to me saying quite clearly ‘I would not leave you’.”

At times his ability to dodge the bullets and shells seemed almost supernatural. One day Warrior went lame and Seely rode another horse. A shell hit him and he was killed. Seely recalled: “I had three ribs broken myself, although I did not know it, but my first thought was, ‘What luck it was not Warrior’.” Indeed, what luck. Warrior survived the first day of the battle of the Somme — he and his team were poised behind the line on July 1, 1916 when 20,000 British troops were killed and a further 40,000 injured. Seely lay on the ground holding Warrior’s bridle as the 18-pounder guns boomed overhead. And he came through the strafing of horse convoys by German planes. “On one occasion Warrior was stuck fast in the mud and a German flew down and emptied his machinegun at us; the bullets were very near but not one of them hit us,” Seely said.Evening Standard - Brough Scott

During the march to Passchendaele in 1917, Warrior again sank into the mud. “There were many dead horses lying about which had foundered in the mud and could not be extricated,” Seely wrote. “All of a sudden Warrior went deep in up to his belly. Antoine [Prince Antoine d’Orleans et Braganza, Seely’s impeccably bred aide-de-camp, the great-grandson of Louis Napoleon] was just behind me with Corporal King and another orderly. It was only with immense difficulty that the four of us managed to get him back on to sounder ground. It was a narrow escape.”

For Seely and Warrior the real climax came with that fabled cavalry charge at Moreuil Wood but to survive that far they had to endure other adventures that at times seem almost comical in the telling. These included the ill-fated joint infantry, tank and cavalry attack at Cambrai. As was to be expected, the dynamic duo were up the front behind the leading tank.

“I am sure Warrior enjoyed every minute of it,” Seely said. “Down the main street of Masnières we went together, Warrior’s nose nearly touching the tank. Then misfortune befell the adventure, for with a frightful bang the bridge collapsed and the tank fell through into the canal. Warrior and I nearly fell in too. There was a good deal of rifle fire around and many of the horses behind us were hit but Warrior’s luck held and although he was the leading horse, he escaped without a scratch.”

Further adventures saw Warrior survive when a sniper missed him and killed the horse whose nose he was touching, and when a shell landed on the ruined cottage in which he was stabled. Amazingly, he emerged from the rubble.

Most remarkable of all was when Seely and Warrior, against all convention of the time, led the signal troop to mark the route for the cavalry engagement at Moreuil Wood on March 30, 1918. Such a group would normally contain a junior officer and his horse, not a general on his thoroughbred. But this was Warrior and for all its impetuosity and loss of life of men and horses, the attack did check the German advance.
Indeed, the battle of Moreuil Wood was crucial in checking the Germans’ Ludendorff offensive, their last throw of the dice in an attempt to win the war.

TWO days later Warrior was lame and both Seely’s replacement horses were killed. A year on he took part in the victory parade with the Canadian cavalry in Hyde Park, London. Four years to the day after Moreuil Wood, and now safely in retirement, Warrior won the lightweight race at the Isle of Wight point-to-point under his original groom, Jim Jolliffe, and to the utter delight of his owner:”It was a glorious day. Everyone was pleased. I could not bear to have him led away and we rode home together over the downs rejoicing in this splendid conclusion of an anniversary which neither of us could ever forget.”

By now Warrior had become very much the celebrity, lauded wherever he went whether it was to review troop parades, to war veterans’ rallies, to greet the visiting Queen Mary at tea, to give out sweets at the local Hulverstone school or just to go hunting with the Isle of Wight foxhounds. As so often happens with famous horses — and in my time Arkle and Red Rum have been the greatest examples of this — the animal thrives on the attention, pricking his ears for the cameras, dipping his head to be stroked by his idolaters.

You can swear that is what Warrior was doing when he and Jack Seely made the papers in 1938 trotting outside Jack’s home at Mottistone with their combined ages (30 and 70) making a century. With horses already quite elderly at 20, this is a rare achievement.

They must have been a very special team. Among my grandfather’s papers in Nuffield College, Oxford, is a diary entry from Good Friday 1941. “I do not believe,” he wrote about Warrior’s death the previous week, “to quote Byron about his dog Boatswain, ‘that he can be denied in heaven the soul that he held on earth’.”

Warrior: The Amazing Story of a real War Horse is published by Racing Post Books at £14.99

First published in the Sunday Times on 1st January 2012


Brough ScottBrough will be speaking at CVHF on Sunday, 28th June in ‘WARRIOR: THE REAL WAR HORSE
. He will follow Warrior’s extraordinary journey from birth to his survival through Ypres and the Somme with his grandfather, General Jack Seely. Surviving five years of war, this will be the story of men and horses who fought and died, for ‘God and Country’.

The Trigger: The Journey That Led The World To War In 1914

Audio from Tim Butcher’s talk at Chalke Valley History Festival on 28th June 2014.

On a summer morning in Sarajevo a 101 years ago, a teenage assassin fired not just the opening shots of the first world war but the starting gun for modern history. Best-selling author Tim Butcher tells the story of Gavrilo Princip, whose killing of Archduke Franz Ferdinand proved so catastrophic that his own story has been largely overlooked.

War Horse and Private Peaceful: Writing about World War One

Audio from Michael Morpurgo’s talk at Chalke Valley History Festival on Sunday, 29th June.

Award- winning writer Michael Morpurgo talks on writing about the first world war for young people including Private Peaceful, Medal for Leroy and, of course, War Horse. Its huge success as a book, then a play and then a block-busting film, has made its creator into one of the most successful children’s authors of all time.

Catastrophe: Europe Goes to War, 1914

Audio from Max Hastings’ CVHF talk on Saturday 28th June 2014.

Journalist, editor and acclaimed author Sir Max Hastings tells the story of how Europe went to war in 1914 precipitating the first of the 20th century’s great tragedies. He challenges the view of some modern historians that British participation was unnecessary and concludes with the christmas truces when the struggle had lapsed into the stalemate which was to last the next four years.