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MARK KNIGHT

9 November 2019 • WAR CRY • FEATURE 3

Logging on to the past W

HAT might you have done during the First World War? BBC Rewind – the corporation’s archive project – has relaunched its digital experience, which takes users on ‘an interactive personalised journey through World War One’. The Armistice Day pages ask a series of questions and, with each click, people can learn more about various aspects of the war. They are brought to life through clips from the BBC archive that feature soldiers who served in the war and their loved ones. The first question is geographical. After selecting the region of the UK that they were most likely to serve in, users can learn information specific to it. Those who may have served in the Midlands will be able to hear the story of the egg collectors, who were under pressure to collect eggs locally that would be sent to feed the wounded soldiers at the front. One million eggs were needed each week. Anyone who selects the Scotland, Northern Isles and Hebrides region will learn about the ‘Gretna girls’ or the ‘munitionettes’, the female workforce that produced munitions. They worked at HM Factory Gretna. At the time, it was the world’s biggest munitions factory, with its own independent transport network, power source and water supply. The next question asks whether the user would have served at home or away. Service away included caring for the wounded as a nurse, maid or cook, or serving in the British Army, the Royal Navy or the Royal Air Force. At home, contributions to the war effort could have been producing munitions or working the land. But there were also conscientious objectors who refused to fight because

Sarah Olowofoyeku reports on the interactive website that takes users back in time of their pacifist, political or religious beliefs. They were often mocked and shamed, and almost 6,000 of them were sent to prison. Whatever a person did in the war, the clips and information from the BBC archive make it clear that it was tough for everyone. Families at home grieved as thousands died in the fighting. Many sacrifices had to be made. Men and boys from Britain and its empire left the lives that they knew to go into the unknown. But, despite the harsh conditions, men continued to fight. And In the war, many many of those on the front lines ended up sacrifices had to making the ultimate be made sacrifice by giving up their lives in the conflict. Historian Vanda Wilcox suggests what may have been behind the soldiers’ resilience and willingness to continue fighting, writing that ‘men were motivated above all by comradeship as they fought alongside friends and companions’. Willingly putting oneself in danger or making a sacrifice is never easy, but a motivation can be powerful. Before giving up his own life for the sake of humanity, Jesus said: ‘Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends’ (John 15:13 New International Version). Jesus’ sacrifice made a way for us all to experience a friendship with him. His resurrection has given hope to many people in the past – and can assure us that, whatever battles we feel we are fighting, there is someone who will stand by us.


8 INTERVIEW • WAR CRY • 9 November 2019

‘Someone said it was the greatest anthem for peace they’d ever seen’ © Phil Crow

Author MICHAEL MORPURGO tells Emily Bright about the legacy of War Horse

‘W

Brinkhoff & Mogenburg

AR horse … what a strange beast you’ve become,’ remarks a First World War soldier in a thick Liverpudlian accent. He is trying to untangle the anguished animal, which has been ensnared in barbed wire in no man’s land. But he is not alone: he teams up with a German soldier, and they work carefully with wire cutters to free the horse. Joking and chatting during their task, they savour the temporary truce in fighting. Directed by Steven Spielberg, the 2011 film War Horse used creative licence in reimagining the emotive scene in Michael Morpurgo’s novel of the same name. Michael tells me that, although he has mixed feelings about the film adaptation, he views that no man’s land scene as a masterpiece. to the cavalry without Albert’s permission, ‘One of the great moments in cinema, without Joey is dragged from a peaceful farming life question, was the meeting in the middle between and thrust into a war zone to face artillery shells and pull guns. Distraught, Albert signs two soldiers,’ he enthuses. ‘That was done up as a soldier in a bid to be reunited with Joey. beautifully and it was funny.’ The novel, which was published in 1982, War Horse chronicles the friendship between Devon farm boy Albert and his horse, Joey. Sold charts the horse’s journey through trench warfare under the care of French, and British riders. ‘War Horse’ came from the story German Although the characters are of an old man I met in my village fictional, the experiences that

‘War Horse’ has been presented as a play since 2007

Michael Morpurgo inspired them were real. Michael was moved to write the book after speaking to a war veteran. ‘War Horse came from the story of an old man I met in a pub in my village in Devon,’ explains Michael. ‘He told me all about his experiences of the First World War, and I was conscious that this was probably the last time that this man was going to tell his story. I thought it was important that I shared his story, so people would know what had happened to him.’ The book has now sold more than a million copies. War Horse’s popularity led the National Theatre to turn the story into a play in 2007. Using state-of-the-art puppetry, the play has now toured 11 countries and enthralled more than seven million theatregoers. It is currently running at the Troubadour Wembley Park Theatre until 23 November. But when Michael first watched a preview of the play, there was still lot of work left to do, just a matter of weeks before the press night. ‘There were things that were completely wonderful about it, such as the design, the music and the puppetry. But it was too long by 20 minutes, and everyone thought it wasn’t going to last more than two or three weeks,’ he remembers. ‘Yet two weeks later, at the

Turn to page 10


9 November 2019 • WAR CRY • INTERVIEW 9

Scott Miller plays Albert in the current tour


10 INTERVIEW • WAR CRY • 9 November 2019

From page 8 press night, they had made this extraordinary show. I was overwhelmed by how moving it was. I loved it. Someone said to me that it was the greatest anthem for peace they’d ever seen on a stage. ‘When you write a book, you have no idea how people feel reading it. You can’t see them. And here I was in the theatre with a thousand people in floods of tears at the end, and I knew the story touched hearts.’ Michael says that storytelling provides him with a platform to share his views on the topics that matter most to him. ‘I find the best way that I can communicate what I feel about the world around me is by telling a tale,’ he says. ‘But every story I write has to be really important to me. I have to care about it before I feel it’s worth writing about.’ To draw in his readers and make them care about the story as much as he does, Michael takes a personal perspective. ‘What I try to do is take history and focus on the individual. The reader loses themselves in the story of the individual, and through that, they care about what happens at times of

terrible stress or war or famine or whatever the story is set in.’ He also takes inspiration from his own family stories. For instance, he chronicled his two uncles’ experiences of the Second World War in a book published last year, In the Mouth of the Wolf. Michael’s uncle Pieter was an actor, but when the conflict commenced, he immediately

‘That was the most extraordinary story,’ says Michael. ‘My book is really about both of them, two brothers who take different paths and choices in life, and what happens to them. ‘Everyone has family stories like that, some of them wonderful, sad, fascinating, funny or strange. But some stories last and echo down the generations.’

Every story I write has to be really important to me

o write stories that can be enjoyed by T all generations, Michael is also open to reinventing fictional classics. His latest book,

joined up as an RAF pilot. He was killed a year later, aged 21. Francis, Pieter’s brother, was a peaceable teacher when war began. But when he heard that Pieter had been killed, he felt he could no longer stand by. He left his wife and newborn child to become a secret agent in France.

Boy Giant, is based on Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift. Published in 1726, Gulliver’s Travels charts the life of Lemuel Gulliver, an English surgeon who is shipwrecked on the mythical island of Lilliput. He wakes up to find that he has been taken captive by hundreds of little people called Lilliputians. Lemuel charms his way into their affections,


9 November 2019 • WAR CRY • INTERVIEW 11

Brinkhoff & Mogenburg

until he is caught up in a war between the Lilliputians and the neighbouring people of Blefuscu over the proper way to crack eggs. ‘The original story is generally talked about as being for small children,’ says Michael. ‘In fact, it was about power, corruption, war and all the things that were wrong with 18th-century society.’ Although Michael has written more than 130 children’s books, he retains a boyish enthusiasm about his latest project. He says: ‘I was asked to write a retelling of Gulliver’s Travels, which I’ve always wanted to do.’ Michael felt that it was time to modernise the tale and reimagine it for a new audience. ‘I decided not to just do a retelling but to bring it up to date. So I made Gulliver an Afghan refugee washed up on a beach. ‘He’s this young lad of about 12, everyone else in his rubber dinghy has died, and he’s parted from his mother. He finds himself in Lilliput, full of these little people. ‘Something extraordinary has happened over the last 300 years, and that is that Lilliput has become a society where everyone is kind. But then suddenly there’s a recurrence of war with this young Gulliver.’ Michael says that his new book brings significant issues and values to the fore. ‘I’ve been able to tell an old and beautiful story in a way that is so important, not just to the whole question of migrants and asylum seekers, but also the way we seem to leave kindness, thoughtfulness and generosity behind as we try to get richer.’ As a former teacher, he sees his authorship as a way to pass on positive values and prepare young people for the realities of adulthood. ‘When a child leaves school, his or her self-worth and understanding of the world have to be as strong as you can get them,’ he reflects. ‘The more children can think for themselves and know what has happened before, the better chance they’ve got of growing into that

True religion is going out there and helping the needy every single day, lifting their spirits and giving people a roof over their heads world and playing their part in it. ‘While it’s important that children have a really good laugh, they need to know that when they read a book, they’re learning something. So you send a child away not offering them simple solutions, because there are none, but instead the opportunity to think deeper and to work out stuff for themselves.’ Casting his mind back to his own childhood, Michael remembers that the first book he truly loved was Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson. It remains his favourite to this day. ‘He was one of those wonderful writers who could write stories for kids, dark stories like Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde for grown-ups, travel books and poetry. The man was a genius. He’s the writer I’d most want to be.’ Also among his list of treasured stories as a child was the Christian nativity. He says: ‘I loved the story, the music and the imagery that surrounded it. ‘It tells of an extraordinary birth of a man, who changed the world in a remarkable way. It’s the best story ever created about goodwill, and it stays with you.’ Michael reflects that his upbringing in the Christian faith has also stayed with him, and may well have shaped his writing. ‘I went to school under the shadow of Canterbury Cathedral. I was in the choir there, and I was confirmed there. I’m very connected to the Christian philosophy.’ He attends a small church in his home town in Devon. ‘There are about 80 people in the congregation,’ he says. ‘It’s a 14th-century

church with a devoted vicar, who is just terrific. ‘The church is the centre, without any doubt, of the community in this tiny little village. And that’s what churches should be – the centre of a community, which keeps people together.’ Although he has reservations about elements of organised religion, Michael thinks Christians can play a vital role in meeting the needs of vulnerable people within their communities. ‘True religion is going out there and helping the needy every single day, lifting their spirits and giving people a roof over their heads when we can. ‘Jesus Christ taught us to love our neighbour, and was connected to and helped the lives of those most in need. He taught us there was another way, which was loving kindness.’

l Boy Giant is published by Harper Collins


12 INNER LIFE • WAR CRY • 9 November 2019

Prayerlink YOUR prayers are requested for Joshua, who recently lost his grandmother, Sheila; for Raymond, who is concerned about the future; for Nicky, who is not well; and for Clare, that she will find strength. The War Cry invites readers to send in requests for prayer, including the first names of individuals and details of their ­circumstances. Send your requests to Prayerlink, War Cry, 101 Newington Causeway, Lon­don SE1 6BN. Mark your envelope ‘Confidential’.

Becoming a Christian There is no set formula to becoming a Christian, but many people have found saying this prayer to be a helpful first step to a relationship with God Lord Jesus Christ, I am truly sorry for the things I have done wrong in my life. Please forgive me. I now turn from everything that I know is wrong. Thank you that you died on the cross for me so that I could be forgiven and set free. Thank you that you offer me forgiveness and the gift of your Holy Spirit. Please come into my life by your Holy Spirit to be with me for ever. Thank you, Lord Jesus. Amen Extract from Why Jesus? by Nicky Gumbel published by Alpha International, 2011. Used by kind permission of Alpha International

Nigel Bovey gives chapter and verse on each book in the Scriptures

Matthew

HE Gospel According to Matthew is T primarily addressed to a Jewish readership. The author’s aim is to explain how

Jesus is the fulfilment of the longed-for kingly Messiah. To do so, he uses many supportive Old Testament texts, sometimes along with the phrase ‘this was to fulfil’. He also portrays Jesus as making references to the leading patriarchs and prophets in Judaism. The genealogy in chapter 1 traces Jesus’ roots back to Judaism’s founding father, Abraham. Matthew’s gospel majors on what Jesus said. It covers three main areas: the practicalities of faith, parables and prophecy. In the Sermon on the Mount, which begins with the Beatitudes (chapter 5) and includes the Lord’s Prayer (chapter 6), Jesus sets out the spiritual priorities for any would-be followers. A spiritual relationship, he says, is not only about belief in God but also includes right behaviour and attitudes towards other people. Jesus offers moral insight on personal relationships (5:21–48; 7:1–5 and 12), religious observance (6:1–18) and materialism (6:19–24). The sermon also contains the first of Jesus’ many parables (7:24–27), which are simple

stories set in the every day that tell a spiritual truth. Chapter 13 bursts with such stories. Jesus uses a sower, a mustard seed, hidden treasure, yeast, a priceless pearl and a fishing net to illustrate and explain his spiritual points. In later parables, Jesus identifies those who

Jesus offers moral insight on personal relationships, religious observance and materialism

will be eligible for a place in the Kingdom of Heaven. They are people considered by society to be at the bottom of the pile (20:1–16), those who repent (21:28–32) and those who are ready (21:33–44; 22:1–14; 25:1–30). As well as predicting his own death and resurrection (17:22 and 23), Jesus prophesies about the end of the world. In a similar vein to the apocalyptic Old Testament prophets, he describes cataclysmic political and environmental conditions, tribulation for believers and astronomical disruption as precursors to his return (chapter 24), following which there will be the Last Judgment (25:31–46). To enable those who put their faith in him to be ready to meet their Maker, Jesus submits to the ignominy of crucifixion ur will be done, ‘Your Kingdom come, yo 0 6:1 w (chapters 26 and 27) before the glory of he att (M ’ en on Earth as it is in Heav his resurrection (chapter 28). ) on New International Versi

Key verse

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War Cry 9 November: selected articles  

War Cry 9 November: selected articles