The Scottish Writers’ Centre are delighted to announce that we will be working with Poppy Scotland on their upcoming schools’ competition ‘Letters Home’. To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme during the First World War and explore the ever-important question ‘Why is it important to remember?’, the ‘Letters Home’ competition is a vital opportunity for school-aged children to understand the power and emotionality of words when coping with past, recent and current conflicts.
‘Letters Home’ asks Scottish pupils to write a letter home to their family, as if they were a soldier during the Battle of the Somme; an activity which allows them to vividly imagine the experiences soldiers would have faced, their feelings about the battle and environment in which they were located, how they would share these difficult events and the potential impact that such a letter might have on their family at home in Scotland. The competition is open to Scottish schoolchildren in P4-7, and S1-3, with two separate categories for the differing age groups.
The Scottish Writers’ Centre will be taking part in the judging process, which will see twenty five talented writers of each age category shortlisted. Eight semi-finalists will then be selected, all of whom will feature on Poppy Scotland’s website, and the overall winner will then be determined by a public vote. The closing date for submissions is the 2nd of December 2016, and winners will be announced by April 7th 2016. The application form can be downloaded at: http://www.poppyscotland.org.uk/learning/public/.
Letters of any kind are an invaluable historical resource; enabling an intimate insight into the experiences of ordinary people whose life would have otherwise went unrecorded. They reveal a history beyond dry dates and facts; they disclose how famous historical events, such as the First World War, were experienced and lived by the people in the midst of the fray. 12.5 million letters were sent to the front line every week during the First World War, and the effectiveness and frequency of the wartime post certainly made an inestimable contribution to the morale of the soldiers at the front. Letters were frequently censored by commanding officers, in order that no important information about the military was leaked to the enemy and that the spirits at home were not deflated by the truth about the trenches.
For inspiration, Poppy Scotland have suggested reading a passage from Michael Morpurgo’s Private Peaceful, in which the soldier Tommo writes home to his family, or visiting a local library or museum to perhaps discover some original handwritten letters from the First World War. The SWC also recommend Michael Foreman’s War Game: Village Green to No-Man’s-Land and Jim Eldridge’s The Trenches: a First World War Soldier, part of the excellent My Story series.
For more information: http://learning.poppyscotland.org.uk/
Words by Rachel Walker