A few weeks ago I was contacted by Mr Weedon, a teacher at Moorfoot Primary School, Midlothian to see if I would give a talk to his class. They were learning about the First World War and were keen to find out more.
I said I would be happy to help and went along with my good friend Tom Gordon from the Royal Scots Museum at Edinburgh Castle, the museum is first class at outreach work, and it's not the first time Tom has cheerfully filled his poor car to the brim with WW1 equipment and helped me out.
The morning took a format we had used before, the kids split into two groups, one went with Tom for half an hour to look at, and most importantly for them, touch and try out all the webbing and equipment etc. I could tell the bugle was popular :-)
The other half of the class were with me and I gave them a talk about the life and wartime experiences of Pte James Marchbank, a 14 year old Territorial soldier who went to war in 1914. They were fascinated by his story, and there was even a wee tear from one of the kids when they heard James' dad was killed down the pit in 1917 when he was at the Battle of Arras, followed by the death of his pit pony Ginger who was killed by a shell a week later.
The children asked lots of questions, they had clearly been 'swotting' as some of them were very good indeed, a couple were quite amusing as well. I was letting them hear a taped interview of James in 1975, one wee hand went up, "What is that thing and what are the wheels going around for?" It's a cassette player says I, which made them none the wiser, so I said a 1970s MP3 player, ah's all round.
The kids swapped over, and Tom was a hard act for me to follow, but fair play they were still interested, once they all got together, they split into small groups and each table listed something about James that they could use in a timeline, it was a good way to get everyone involved and they then presented their 'soundbite timeline' as you can see in the video.
We finished off with volunteers trying on the full webbing, I think they were taken aback at how heavy it was, but most managed very well, one wee chap asked Tom what happened to 'bad lads' in the Army, he was delighted to demonstrate doubling around with his rifle above his head, bless him.
Mr Weedon also decided to have a go, we are happy to report that he won't be using this method during his lessons as he's a very nice chap and his kids are well behaved.
So a good morning for all of us, and hopefully one that other children in the area can experience.