The Story Behind The Story
Seeing the beautiful and moving pictures of primary school children planting poppies as part of the World War 1 commemorations has been truly inspiring.
The educational initiative by the Royal British Legion aims to help young people understand the impact but it will also, undoubtedly, encourage them to find out more about members of their community who were affected by the conflict.
If I’d had the same opportunity when I was a child I may have been inclined to find out more about my great uncle, Sjt, G B N Johnson who fell on the tenth day of the Battle of the Somme. He was just 22 years old.
For it was many years later, at a family wedding, that my great aunt told me how devastated her mother Jane, my great grandmother, had been when she learned of the death of Norman.
The shock was devastating.
Every morning, thereafter, for the rest of her life, Jane would stand at the top of the stairs and visualise the excited commotion of the morning when Norman returned home on leave for what was to be the last time. Gripping the bannister she would pause and say “it’s alright Norman I’ll be with you soon.” And even then, frustratingly, I didn’t ask much more.
In 1914 Norman was working in a gentleman’s outfitters in Reading. He’d volunteered to fight for his county, like so, so many others.
The great uncle of my illustrator, Martin Impey, also fell at the Somme. Arthur Sainty died a few weeks later aged just 19.
And so it seemed wholly appropriate that we should dedicate our book Where The Poppies Now Grow, to them.
The story, specially written for young children, is a work of fiction and, in homage to the war poets, has been written in rhyme. Through the words and the pictures we have tried to recreate the sense of duty and pride of the time and to celebrate the human condition. That, no matter what, friendship is a more powerful force than conflict.
Our aim is the same as that of the Royal British Legion – to engage young children in that period of history so that they will develop an appreciation for the scale of suffering which was to shape the 20th century world.
It has been an honour to play a small part in the centenary commemorations and to indirectly support the work of the poppy planting initiative. We were particularly humbled when one reviewer paid us the ultimate compliment by saying that after reading Where The Poppies Now Grow, “children will never look at the poppies in the same way again.”
Where The Poppies Now Grow by Hilary Robinson and Martin Impey is published by Strauss House Productions.