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Last Updated: Monday, 2 August, 2004, 18:18 GMT 19:18 UK
Pupils urged to study war poets
Siegfried Sassoon
Soldier poet Siegfried Sassoon was awarded the Military Cross in 1916
Schoolchildren are being encouraged to visit the Somme in France to deepen their knowledge of World War I and the soldier poets it inspired.

Helen McPhail, the UK representative of a joint campaign with the French tourist board, said the aim was to get more out of both studying and visits.

"The work of poets such as Siegfried Sassoon and Robert Graves can be regarded as genuine history," she said.

The campaign has begun on the eve of the 90th anniversary of WWI.

Germany declared war on France on 3 August, 1914, and Britain declared war on Germany on 4 August.

By seeing the battlefield sites schoolchildren get an immense amount ore out of their reading and understanding
Helen McPhail

Mrs McPhail, an author and authority on the poetry of the Great War, is working alongside the Comite du Tourisme de la Somme to spark children's interest in the region.

She told News Online: "We want to encourage more people to go overall and to prepare for it thoroughly beforehand by reading poets such as Sassoon, Graves and Wilfred Owen.

"The Somme is so easy to get to - just one and a half hours when you have crossed the Channel.

"By seeing the battlefield sites schoolchildren get an immense amount out of their reading and understanding and their parents will often get involved. A great grandfather might have died at the Somme and they might organise a visit to see the grave.

"I was at a big conference in Paris recently and I took people off to the place where Robert Graves was wounded and left for dead for 24 hours.

"Two of his own children, who had never been to the site before, came with me and were able to see how the experience had affected his views on many things for the rest of his life."

Trenches in World War One
World War I poetry recalls the harsh reality of fighting in the trenches

A visitors' centre is to be opened at the site of the Thiepval British war memorial in France by the Duke of Kent next month.

The memorial holds the names of some 73,000 soldiers missing in one particular area of the Somme.

Mrs McPhail is urging schools to use guides from the Guild of Battlefield Guides to make sure they are properly informed on trips.

She has developed a website - www.somme-battlefields.com - detailing how to make the most of a trip to the Somme.

War poet's letters sold
05 Nov 03  |  Cornwall


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