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Visiting the Somme

Earlier this month I went to the Somme, to visit the scenes where WWI was fought nearly 100 years ago.

I was there to make videos for a new website that will be live later in April. The website is called www.readingwar.co.uk and is an attempt to help children to understand what happened between 1914 and 1918 in Europe and beyond. It will feature my new book, Over the Line and another book, Tilly’s Promise by Linda Newbery.

Both of us have made videos about how we wrote our books. Some of mine are set in the places where the book is set. Delville Wood. The English Channel. A network of reworked trenches.

The most important video for me was when I revisited Sid Wheelhouse’s grave. Wheelhouse played for Grimsby Town and features as an uncompromising defender in the first chapter of Over the Line. I also described his death in a gas attack in 1916.

When I visited his grave two years ago – while I was writing the book – I was deeply affected. I knew I had to work harder to get his character and circumstances right.

But it wasn’t easy. How do you describe a man choking to death under gas attack over 95 years ago? I am pretty sure my first visit to his grave helped me to understand the gravity of what I was describing. I hope my second visit and the video I made are respectful too.

Reading War goes live next month. I’ll alert you on this blog. Over the Line is out now. You can get it in bookshops and libraries. I can post out signed copies too.

Thanks for reading.