A week before I gave a talk at the local school and the librarian at Garforth said to me, “A talk? To the children, that’s brilliant, you never know what affect you may have. In years to come you may shape a child’s path or interests from what you say in that classroom.” I thought he was exaggerating.
The 8+ year olds were studying WWII. I told them a bit about my Grandad’s journey, in a way they could relate to the more human side of the frontline. I asked them questions…1. What did they think it was like for the young boy to lose his friends? 2. Would they have felt as scared as the young soldier describes? 3. Had they ever had to be strong for others like the young soldier tried to be? 4. Why did they think the soldier heard music in his head whilst he lay in the trenches. I exemplified the number of losses, equating it to the number of pupils in their class. If I gave them a Black Cross it meant a casualty, if it was a Red Cross they were injured. Those left without a cross stood up – I explained that out of their class only the few standing would have come home alive or uninjured physically – it impacted. I figured it went ok…
Then I got a message from one of the mums at the school. “Can we buy the book please, my son loved it when you came in to class. He talked about it all the way home and then to my Dad. We visited my Grandad last week (he lives in Oxford) and he was talking to him about war for his homework and he told him all about the famous author that had come in to class! Lol x”
There is some swearing – he was a soldier in the thick of it after all! (Children are not to repeat it or I’ll be in trouble.) They bought the book and young Benjamin got home and got stuck into it immediately, (see photograph Mum sent me) he was eager to read about the soldiers experience, eager to educate himself, eager because it’s there, I delivered, I talked, I showed up, I’m passionate and I want it to inspire, to humble, to keep history alive for the next generation. It’s a small part I’ve played, but it’s an important one I’m proud of.