I’ve been working with Year 10 students at Brune Park Community School in Gosport. Today we wrote ghost stories and poems inspired by the Artists’ Rifles Exhibition. I was deeply impressed and inspired by the quality of the writing produced by the students. Not only did they have incredibly vivid imaginations, they approached the subject of World War I with great sensitivity and understanding. Their work showed a depth of insight into the sufferings of those killed in the war that was very moving. They also wrote with an originality and flair that was really exciting to listen to. Some of their ghosts were so disturbing that I may not sleep very well tonight!
Here’s an example of their work.
The General’s Ghost
by Nicola Vince
His eyes lay icy blue, sunken back into their sockets, surrounded by his muddy brow. Blood that had frozen in time stood dry upon his face, blood that had previously dripped from the wounds that remain open. His face still set in its final lost expression, split by the mouth that still parted slightly from the last stolen breath.
Drowned in his own guilt as he watched his men be shot down over his shoulder, feeling every blow as his friends took their last breath. Watching his friends charge over the top on his command, only to tumble limply back down. The grime of what he had done stuck upon his hands. He held his gun and pressed the cold metal to his temple, letting off a blow that shattered his very soul. He fell to the ground and his body finally relaxed.
His crisp uniform still stands tidy, topped with five once gleaming medals that do not glisten anymore but instead are smeared with dirt, hiding his achievements that matter no more. Blood soaks his hat that rests slightly tilted on his head and his boots splattered with mud with the laces pulled tightly.
Echoing down each hall, the tough march thuds from his heavy wear boots but comes to a halt by a reliving of his falling friends. Feet picked up in every step, never a scuff to be heard, as he had been taught in his younger years.
Freezing in front of me with a lost expression on his face, he snatched my wrist with his leathery hands. Still moist from the guilt he once felt, his weakness hid behind what seemed a snake’s hold.
The intense smell of cigarettes hit my face and rolled past my cheeks as though it was stained upon his lips. The strong smell of medicine hung around him although failing to hide the smell of the guns’ smoke indented in his uniform.
Before he spoke, he cleared his throat from the long years of smoking. Speaking in a husky tone, his once authoritative voice had faded, replaced by what seemed not a man but a confused boy’s lost cry for help.
Dear Roslyn and Benjamin,
I am afraid that I will not be returning. Although I believe my absence will not be noticed. I know now that when I was home, I locked myself away from others, consumed by my work and my demons. I have always had an icy personality, cold and bitter to others around me. But when I met you, Roslyn, there is no possible way I could put into words how much I loved you. I suppose the only way I could come close is to say that you warmed me. I know it’s a preposterous thing to say but that is exactly what you did. You broke down my high wall that I surrounded myself with to push others out and you melted the cold blanket that lay upon my heart and for that I am forever indebted to you. Although I fear my actions are too late.
Benjamin, to you I believe I owe the deepest apology. I wish I could be a father that deserved to have a son like you. I hope when you are older you understand my cold ways were not intended to inflict pain on you and I will forever pay for my cruelty in my own mind, it will drive me crazy. The best thing I can wish upon you is to not grow into a man like me. You are the man of the house now and remember what I taught you about your laces, you must make the loop otherwise it will not work. You will be forever in my mind but engraved in my heart.
I must go; the guilt of what I have done is unforgivable. Oh Roslyn, if only you would have seen them. They fell down from the rapid gunfire like rag dolls hitting the floor one by one, each fall tearing my heart slightly more. I thought we had taken the machine guns out, I was sure of it. Even though so many of my soldiers told me they didn’t feel it was safe to go over the top, I did not care. I was once again cold hearted and oh how I will pay the price for my actions.
Goodbye my love and my boy.
I can confirm that I have indeed been defeated by my demons.