Students at Ryedale School regularly make contributes to the Gazette and Herald newspaper. Here is a selection of pieces that have or will appear in the next few weeks about newsworthy events in school, all connected with the First World War.
Michael Morpurgo Year Seven Interview
To celebrate World book day and the World War One Centenary, eleven lucky year seven students from Ryedale School attended a Question and Answer session by celebrated author Michael Morpurgo. The award-winning writer of books such as Private Peaceful and War Horse spoke to an audience of pupils at The Milton Rooms in Malton, while others watched via a live broadcast to their schools. I have interviewed two of the students to see what inspired them from the event.
Did you enjoy the Michael Morpurgo Broadcast?
Yes, I really did. It was completely unlike anything we have done in school so far, and I think it was a really good idea to broadcast it live from The Milton Rooms so that nobody was left out. It was a great idea to invite Michael Morpurgo because this year in the WW1 Centenary and he has written quite a few war-themed books.
Why did you enjoy it?
I enjoyed it because I have never been to anything like it before and I am a big fan of Michael Morpurgo. It was fantastic to hear him speaking on live broadcast and the things he talked to us about were really interesting.
What did Michael Morpurgo talk about in the broadcast?
He talked to us mostly about his career as an author and his book Private Peaceful, which is set in the First World War. I found it really interesting to know that the first piece of writing he had published was a short story he had written to tell to his class when he was a teacher, he realised the class were bored and decided to create his own characters and story!
What did you find most interesting about his history as an author?
I found it really interesting that the first work he had published was a short story he had made up to tell to his class when he was a primary school teacher. Apparently, the headmistress had come up with the idea that the teachers should read to the pupils every day, all while she was in the bath!
How did the broadcast relate to any work you have been doing at school?
We have been doing a project on Private Peaceful in English because of the Centenary and we have also been including links to the First World War in many other subjects as well. We were given a booklet full of questions about the book which we had to fill in so we developed a really deep understanding of the novel.
What did he say that surprised you?
It really surprised me when he told us a funny story about himself when he was our age. He was on a train with his friends and they were all talking about where they were going on holiday. While all his friends were going to France and the seaside, he wasn’t going anywhere. So he checked his watch and said to his friends: “I hope this train isn’t going to be late because the queen’s coming to tea tonight.”
Anna Bailey (Year 9)
Our Heroes: How locals laid down their tools to march to war
Due to this year’s historical centenary, pupils of all ages at Ryedale School have been studying World War One. During the course of our project we discovered that the general public in the Ryedale area often underestimate the part locals played in the Great War.
In Helmsley, we were surprised to discover, that the stately home Duncombe Park put its extensive grounds to use training new soldiers. Though the stunning views bear very little resemblance to the front lines, many new recruits from the surrounding towns were trained for action there. The 2nd Earl of Feversham himself was one of the casualties in the First World War, leading the house to be let as a girls’ boarding school for the next 60 years.
But it wasn’t just local landmarks. One of the local soldiers went on to become a famous poet: a career largely beginning with his poem ‘The Happy Warrior.’ This was Herbert Read. The son of a farmer, Read was born at Muscoates near Nunnington, four miles south of Kirkbymoorside in 1893. He volunteered in January 1915, joined the Yorkshire regiment (also known as the ‘Green Howards’) and was later promoted to the rank of Captain. He was a natural leader and derived great satisfaction from his role, displaying courage and daring even under horrific circumstances. As a result of this he was awarded the Military Cross and the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) – an award just short of the Victoria Cross. He survived the gruelling war against all the odds and received a knighthood in 1953.
There were many more brave and noble deeds committed by local soldiers in the First World War, by those who survived and those who sadly didn’t. It is important that we remember these men for who they were: our historical neighbours and relatives who laid down their tools for the fight and their lives for their country. As we stroll past the memorials every day we must never forget that they are there for a reason, and we are forever thankful to those who fought for us and for North Yorkshire.
Anna Bailey and Emma Audsley (Year 9)
The Ryedale Book Festival was recently held at the Milton Rooms in Malton and I was lucky enough to go along. It was a huge success, so to end on a high, Michael Morpurgo was invited to read aloud his international best-seller, “Private Peaceful”.This he kindly accepted and I was one of the many entranced faces in the packed audience.
As Michael Morpurgo began to speak, there was awed silence. He told the story in a way that made the audience experience a range of emotions. He made us cry, laugh, pulled at our heart-strings and shocked us. He had us all hooked from start to finish. I am sure that those of us who had already read “Private Peaceful” are now seeing it in a completely different perspective and that those who had not, will now be inspired to do so.
Michael Morpurgo brought to life his three main characters: Charlie, Tommo and Big Joe, with the help of his singers Coop Boys and Simpson who helped to create a fantastic atmosphere, singing after each chapter.
Minna Syms (Year 9)
An Interview with Mrs Read
I interviewed history teacher, Mrs Read, at Ryedale School who had some interesting stories to tell, tying in with the 100th anniversary of the First World War.
Mrs Read’s Granddad William Elliot was born in Ireland and later went to England where he joined the cavalry. However committed the offense of running off and escaping to Liverpool, something he was then wanted for! Later in life he joined the cavalry again but had to change his name to P. Kelly. He became a rank of sergeant and in June 1916 he said farewell to his family, where he was thought to have stated: “I will be fighting in the battle of the Somme and so it will not matter as I will probably be killed”. He was one of the lucky ones and managed to survive.
A year later, in 1917, he was leading men to the front line, by then he was an experienced soldier. He smelt gas around them and ordered his men to put on their gas masks. A posh officer told the group that he was their leader and that they shouldn’t listen to P. Kelly but should take orders from him, therefore half of the group put their gas masks on and half didn’t. Sadly P. Kelly was right resulting in half of the group being gassed and dying a painful death. Mrs Read still has his treasured medals but the names on them say P. Kelly instead of his actual name: William Elliot.
Mrs Read’s military past didn’t stop there, she went on to tell me that her Uncle Harry was a trained Paratrooper in World War Two and was one of the first to land in the battle of Normandy along with many beginners. Being a young, confident man like most soldiers he spat on the dead German’s faces, something he later regretted. After the battle of Arman he was told they wanted him to fight in Holland but he refused because there were soldiers who hadn’t done anything yet and he believed he had done his fair share. He ran away from the army and went back home to Liverpool. All seemed fine until finally there was a knock on the door. He opened the door to face the military police to which he responded: “I will come quickly and quietly if you just let me finish my dinner”.
Another relative of Mrs Read’s was someone called Joey who fought in North Africa during the Second World War. He was then captured by the Italians who put him in a prisoner of war camp where all the men knew was that if they escaped they had to walk north to be able to get to the Swiss border. They managed to escape the camp when the English started invading Italy, although Joey didn’t know that and neither did the others who escaped. 120 prisoners of war set off on their long trek through the Alps and only three survived, one being Joey. When he arrived he was taken to a hospital where he slowly recovered and gained a few visitors. He was a particular interest to a Swiss girl who invited him to stay for dinner. She had a younger sister named Annie and they both fell in love with each other, however, towards the end of the war Joey returned to Liverpool. About a week later, when Joey was out, there was a knock on the door to which Joey’s mother answered and Annie was on the doorstep with a suitcase containing a bridal gown and all the English she knew was “I have come to marry Joey.”
Mhairi Maxwell (Year 9)
Above the Fields
Above the fields, poppies grow;
Beneath, the soldiers, row on row,
All as one, a sea of red
Each soldier before, had bled.
As the poppies, sway and shrug,
In the ground, before, churned and dug.
From destruction, each poppy thrives,
A token to each of the soldiers’ lives.
Laying here, silent and still,
War won: soldiers nil.
Dulce Et Decorum Est-
Each soul now gets, its deserved rest.
Samantha Brown (Year 9)