Children’s Books: Six Books about Remembrance

On the last day of school before half term I went along to my son’s school where they were having a special assembly about Remembrance Day. They’ve been taking part in the There But Not There project with the local church. Each class had taken a name of a soldier on the War Memorial in the school and done some research on the soldier. They then sang this song and there wasn’t a dry eye in the house!

Fairly unusually, we have two soldiers listed on the school War Memorial. They are my Great Uncles, both died horribly young in France. I’m very proud of these boys who went to war and didn’t come back, but I would like to know more about them. I’ve always spoken to my son about these two boys, but as he’s got a bit older, he’s started to understand what it all actually means. Over half term we did some reading and learned a bit more about the First World War, about why we remember and about Remembrance Day.

Children's Books: Six Books about Remembrance

Here are our six books about Remembrance 

Remembrance Day (Why do we remember?)by Izzi Howell. This is the first book we read on the topic and it is very comprehensive. Covering everything from the First World War right up to modern day conflicts; and poppies, memorials and Remembrance Day parades. It’s written for children aged 5+ and it’s a solid place to start exploring the topics of war, peace, conflict and remembrance. 

Charlie’s War Illustrated: Remembering World War One by Mick Manning. Mick Manning’s grandfather joined the army in 1914 and served right through the First World War. Fighting in the artillery on the front line in Egypt, Palestine and France, Charlie lived to tell his tale. Written for readers aged 6+ this book was nominated for the 2014 English 4-11 picture book awards. Charlie’s War doesn’t pull any punches, but it shares the reality of war on the front line in a way which is interesting and engaging for primary aged children.

Remembrance Day by Jane Bingham & Ruth Nason. Remembrance Day looks at the background to the First World War and looks at objects, such as poppies and the Cenotaph that are key to the day itself. Key words at the bottom of each section help children build their vocabulary and get a better understanding of the topic. It’s a simple book for children aged 6+ and will help children to understand why we remember.

Coming Home (My Story) by Jim Eldridge. For slightly older children (8-11 years), this first hand account of a 13 year old who goes off to war to find his father is both gripping and moving. Joe returns home after the war and finds life is very different life to the one he left behind. His father is injured and furious at Joe for going to war, plus the Spanish flu is raging. Joe may have survived World War One, but the danger isn’t over yet.

Poppy Field by Michael Morpurgo. Most famous for his incredibly moving story, War Horse, Michael Morpurgo has written a special book about the meaning behind the poppy with the Royal British Legion. This illustrated book shares the real horrors of war in a poignant way through the love and loss of one family. The book also includes a full-colour, illustrated afterword that explains the history that inspired the story.

Remembrance: Imperial War Museum Anniversary Edition by Theresa Breslin. For readers aged 9-12 years; this is the fictional story of a group of Scottish teenagers who become engulfed by what is to become known as The Great War. Determined to forge their own paths during a time of enormous upheaval, the five friends encounter the horrors of the trenches. Their lives will be changed forever – and nothing will ever be the same again. It’s an incredibly moving and powerful story, one which is very thought provoking.

Children's Books: Six Books about Remembrance

This November there will be a number of events and Remembrance Services that we will go to. We will remember those who gave their lives so that we could have the freedoms we enjoy today. We will never forget.

Remembrance: The fallen soldiers of Didsbury

I’ve just returned from the Remembrance Sunday service in Didsbury where I live. My family have lived in Didsbury for several hundred years. Every street has a story. Every shop, every graveyard and every pub has the fingerprints of my ancestors all over them.

The pub I do most of my drinking in these days used to be called The Albert. It was renamed several years ago and is now called The Fletcher Moss. It’s changed a bit obviously, but it’ll always be the pub my Grandad and his mates marched off to war from.

Remembrance: The fallen soldiers of Didsbury

I never knew my Grandad, but I know he didn’t like to talk about the war. He fought in North Africa and then spent the last couple of years of the war in the London ambulance service, pulling bodies and parts of bodies out of the crumbled remains of houses. I think it takes a special, brave, resilient kind of person to be able to do that job day in and day out. I never met him, but I’m bloody proud of him.

Today I remember two of my Great Uncles, (John) Robert Atherton (1886-1915) and Stanley Harold Atherton (1899-1918). Their names are on the Didsbury War Memorial and also on the plaque at Didsbury CofE School. John Robert is also commemorated on the memorial plaque at St James Church, Didsbury. They both died in the First World War; young boys who met their deaths hundreds and thousands of miles from home.

Remembrance: The fallen soldiers of Didsbury
Robert Atherton is listed on the War Memorial st St James Church, Didsbury

I can only imagine the horror these boys, these children were met with when they found themselves on the battlefield. They weren’t even cut down in their prime; they were years off their prime. These boys didn’t leave behind them wives or girlfriends or children. They were still young men themselves, doing their bit for King and country.

Robert Atherton joined the Manchester Regiment 11th (Service) Battalion based in Ashton-under-Lyne. On 3oth June 1915 they sailed from Liverpool on the Aquitania and Empress of Great Britain. on 6-7th August 1915 they landed at Suvla Bay, Gallaopli. It was there on 17th August 1915 that Private John Atherton, a former Coal Carter from Didsbury, lost his life. He is commemorated on the Helles Memorial on the Gallipoli Peninsula, Turkey.

To my knowledge there are no pictures of Robert and Stanley in existence. As far as I’m aware their descendants locally boil down to me and my brother. No one remembers the boys who died in 1915 and 1918. The only thing we have to remember them are their names on a memorial. Theirs is not a unique story, but it’s a story most families have in their past. War touches everyone and continues to aftershock down through the generations.

I also remember William Henry Harrow (1917-1944), nephew of Robert and Stanley Atherton. William is my first cousin twice removed and he died in the Netherlands fighting in WW2. William was a Rifleman in the 6th Battalion of the Carmeronians (Scottish Rifles) and was born in Didsbury. He died of wounds and is buried at Bergen-Op-Zoom War Cemetery. I don’t know much about him and I’ve only recently discovered that he is related to me.

Today at the Remembrance Service at the Didsbury War Memorial there were a few veterans. Every year there are fewer of these proud, straight-backed men wiping away a tear, laying wreaths and saluting old pals. At the Remembrance Service today there were maybe 200 or more people, a great turn out and main roads were closed to accommodate the crowds.

People often ask who will remember when the veterans have gone. Well there were 200 or more people there today who will remember them, and that’s just in a small-ish village in South Manchester.

To me, maybe it’s because I’m a mother, I prefer to remember not just that whole swathes of youth died for their country and for our freedoms today. I prefer to remember them as individuals, each with a story, no matter how short. So tonight when I go to the pub, I’ll walk past the house where Robert and Stanley were born, order a pint at the bar where my Grandad ordered his pint, and I will remember them.

We will remember them.

Remembrance: The fallen soldiers of Didsbury

If anyone has any information about Robert Atherton, Stanley Harold Atherton, William Henry Harrow or their relatives, I’d be very interested in hearing from you. Please do get in touch. Thank you.