The ForeshadowingSome notes on

The Foreshadowing

Teachers’ notes by Nikki Gamble
Publication Details: Marcus Sedgwick (2005) The Foreshadowing Orion ISBN 1842552198

The Foreshadowing can be used in a range of contexts. It could be read as a class novel alongside war poetry reflecting the ‘different faces of war’ or ideally as a
text to promote cross-curricular planning and teaching. The following teaching suggestions relate specifically to the English, Drama, History and Citizenship
curricular for KS3 but it is possible to adapt the work for students of different ages. It is anticipated that teachers of students in year 9, where there is potential
for developing cross-curricular links in teaching The First World War, will be able to use The Foreshadowing as a key text.
English and Drama
Reading the class novel can be managed in different ways each with merits and limitations:
• read the entire novel in class together. Attention should be given to the most able readers in the class to avoid frustration. Extension work and further reading could be set.
• Where full sets of the novel are available, reading can be set as homework assignments
• Students can be organised in reading groups/ literature circles, keeping notes of their thoughts and feelings in reading journals and using these notes as the basis for discussion. Teachers wanting to organise the reading of a class novel in this way are directed to work undertaken on the management of literature circles such as Harvey Daniels Voice and Choice in the Student-centred classroom or Kathy Short Literature as Knowing Suggested poems have been included in the notes for those teachers reading the novel alongside War Poetry. The novel is written in an undated diary format. Non-fiction autobiographical accounts such as Vera Brittain’s Testament of Youth might also be read alongside the novel.
Topics for small group and class discussion are suggested, providing opportunities to meet NC requirements for talking in different contexts, taking account of
different views and the modification of views in the light of what others say.
Drama strategies are recommended for exploring the emotional impact of key scenes and for identifying moments of tension and character motivations.
There are opportunities for improvisation and scriptwriting based on key scenes in the novel.
Writing opportunities include writing from a different point of view, scriptwriting and persuasive writing.
An interview with Marcus Sedgwick is appended to the notes and provides insight into the writing of the novel, which teachers can use when exploring the writer’s
craft with their students.
Key themes relevant to the Citizenship curriculum include conscription, volunteering and propaganda. Post reading discussion can lead to a consideration
of why and how we commemorate war. Discussion of these issues will enable students to think about topical, political and moral issues provide an opportunity
for them to relate their reading to their own experiences. They will have opportunities to express and justify their opinions.
The Foreshadowing will be of particular interest to those studying ‘The Western Front in the First World War’ as an –in-depth event. It can be used alongside
primary sources, local history resources and literature of the day to assess different viewpoints and evaluation of events.
Some online resources have been suggested to link to key events and facts mentioned in the novel.
A cross-curricular approach is advocated By QCA as a means of showing pupils that:
• history is a fascinating and relevant subject that develops many of the key
skills needed later in life
• pupils can be creative in the way they communicate their knowledge and
understanding of the past
• tap into pupils' emotions by providing powerful and moving
• demonstrate the wide variety of source material available to the historian,
by exploring films, cartoons, paintings, music, poetry and historical fiction.
Literature can be used with other sources to develop empathy.


It is 1915. 17 year old Alexandra Fox is the privileged only daughter of a respected doctor living in the wealthy seaside town of Brighton. Her eldest
brother enlists in the army, eager to fight in the war. Seventeen year old Tom does not want to fight and preferring to train to be a doctor like his father.
Alexandra wants to make her contribution by working as a volunteer nurse in the local hospital. She has a terrible gift being able to see the future. Her
premonitions, which have occurred since she was five years old, warn of death. Like the prophetess Cassandra, who so many centuries before foretold the
tragedies of Troy, no one will believe her. After Edgar’s death, she foresees that Tom will be shot and she determines to travel to France to save him.
Themes and Issues
• Destiny and self determination
• Family relationships
• Freedom of choice and action
• Women’s movement
• Courage, cowardice, heroism
• Bereavement
Main Characters
• Alexandra (Sasha) Fox. Her name is a form of Cassandra. She experiences premonitions, is fascinated by the Cassandra myth and its connections
with her own experience and wants to be a nurse
• Tom – wants to become a doctor, does not want to fight
• Edgar – Alexandra’s brother, eager to enlist and to see action
• Mother – mild hints at unfulfilled aspiration
• Father – a surgeon specialising in the care of shell-shocked patients holds traditional Victorian views about the roles of men and women. Believes
that it is a man’s duty to fight for his country.
• Hoodoo Jack – courier at the front, has experienced premonitions forewarning of death
• Part 1. Brighton: mainly domestic family scenes and Alexandra’s experiences at the military hospital
• Part 2. France: the western front, stationary hospital, ambulance train, frontline, High Wood


The novel is divided into small numbered sections which count down from 101 to 1.
‘I wanted to heighten the tension and by numbering the chapters like this I’m telling the reader how little time there is left to go before the end so that creates
a sense of excitement, that the plot is about to unravel - the end is approaching.’
Marcus Sedgwick

The length of sections varies. As the ending approaches shorter chapters give an impression of developing pace towards the final resolution. In other places gaps
in the narrative and blank pages are used to reflect the emotional and physical state of the narrator.
The novel is divided into two parts (see above). An epiphanal moment occurs at the end of the first part when Alexandra decides to take charge of her destiny.

Narration and Point of View

The novel is narrated in the first person from Alexandra’s point of view allowing the reader to experience her thoughts and feelings. Although an undated diary
format is used, the book is narrated with a reflective distance.

Style and Literary Devices
The Foreshadowing is a beautifully crafted novel Angela Wintle praises Sedgwick’s prose which is ‘polished until each sentence is as smooth as a pebble.’ In
moments of high tension the writing is poetic without sacrificing the pace and the primacy of storytelling.
‘Foreshadowing’ refers to Alexandra’s premonitions it is also a literary technique employed to give hints in the early part of the novel about something important
that will happen later. In the opening line we learn that Alexandra ‘was five when I first saw the future.’ The novel charts the journey to a future that Alexandra has
already seen. Foreshadowing hints at what this future might be, creating dramatic tension that keeps the reader hooked. A surprise is reserved for the
final suspense. In this novel foreshadowing occurs mainly through dream sequences.
Short chapters numbered backwards from 101 – 1 (see structure)
A recurring raven motif alludes to myths and literature from diverse cultural traditions (see teaching suggestions).
The following notes offer teaching suggestions for you to select from, rather than a scheme of work. Some of the activities use the novel as a springboard for
researching the period; others are designed to refine a response to the text. The novel should be read and enjoyed first and foremost for the story.


Arouse curiosity: Title and Cover
Do not show the book jacket or give any explanation. In small groups ask each pupil to write down what is suggested to them by the title (this ensures that they
all commit an idea to paper rather than being influenced by the most vocal students in the class). Ask them to share and explain the thinking behind their
ideas. Invite a response to the book jacket, what do the images suggest this story might be about. Consider the use and effect of colour, font style etc.
Stimulate Interest
Create a stimulus display using visual images, books and artefacts. Displays could be based around any of the following topics:
• First World War (see book list)
• Cassandra and the Trojan Wars
• Premonitions and Prophecy in Literature
• Author Study – Marcus Sedgwick (see book list)
Activate Prior Knowledge
In pairs or small groups, ask students to discuss their understanding of the following words. Add words to the list to tailor the activity to your own objectives.
The words should relate to vocabulary or ideas raised in the novel.
Ask students how they would explain the terms to a younger student. Encourage them to provide illustrative examples to help explain what the words mean:
Nursing, Patriotism, Propaganda, First World War, Pacifist Red Cross, Conscientious objector, premonition
Gather the class together and share ideas. Make notes that can be amended and extended later as students’ knowledge and understanding develops.


1. WWI: Local History
Part 1 of The Foreshadowing is set in Brighton. Alexandra lives in Clifton Terrace, close to the Dyke Road Hospital where her father works and where, after much
resistance from her family, she becomes a VAD nurse. You can view old photographs of Clifton Terrace by following the weblinks below. The Dyke Road
Hospital is now the Brighton and Hove Sixth Form College. Lessons about war often focus on national and global impact. A local history study provides an
opportunity for pupils to connect with individuals. It also gives them an opportunity to generate evidence that will be used in the lesson and reflect on the
significance of the war at a more personal level.

Research (History)
Students can investigate the impact of the war on their own locality using local history resources, archives and online search facilities. They might be asked to:
• find the location of the nearest military hospital
• photograph visible reminders of WWI in the area such as war memorials
• find photographs and memoirs
• family memorabilia
• determine the provenance of street names public building and park names
if they have WWI associations
Use the evidence collected by the students to set up discussion groups about the local impact of the war. Create a display of local evidence.
Clifton Terrace, Brighton

2. Foreshadowing: Cassandra’s story

At the beginning of the story we learn about Alexandra’s special ability to predict the future. Although her predictions come true no one is willing to acknowledge
that she has been able to foresee events. A key issue for discussion is whether it would be a good or a bad thing to be able to see into the future.

‘I looked into the man’s eyes, but I didn’t see the inflamed tear ducts. I saw an empty bed. I saw death.
I think I began to shake, and then I heard the man speak.
‘My God,’ he said. ‘My God. Her eyes!’
He tried to back away from me, squirming in the bed.
‘Her eyes! He shouted again, and other patients began to call out from
their beds.
Then he began to cough and choke.
‘What does he mean?’ I asked.’ What’s wrong with….?
There’s nothing wrong with you,’ Sister said quickly, ‘but you’d better go
home. I’ll tell your father.’
The nightmare I was dreading has started.
I don’t know what to do.
I don’t know. (p115)

Reading and research (English)
Find out about Cassandra. Look up using non-fiction resources such as a dictionary of mythology. Research some of the sources of her story Aeschylus,
Euripides, Homer. Find retellings of the Cassandra story.
Debate (English)
Would it be a good thing to look into the future? Organise the class in pairs or small groups. Ask half the class to develop an argument to support looking into
the future and half to argue against it.
Organise two groups to present their arguments to each other. Following the presentation, summarise main points. Relate the discussion to Alexandra’s
Marcus Sedgwick says that he has been interested in the Cassandra myth for sometime and wanted to use it in an original story. Rather then retell the story as
myth he has chosen to give it a more modern setting.
‘By setting the book in the First World War I was able to give it more layers, whereas a straight retelling of Greek myth would have been more limited. I used
the parallels with the original story where they fitted my purpose; for example, their sea journeys and the war. However, I tried not to swamp my story with
original source material.’
Ask students to consider how the myth has acquired fresh life by being set at the time of the First World War (see interview for Marcus’ thoughts about the
appropriateness of the chosen period).
Students might write a short story based on an idea from a favourite myth or legend. Set the story in an appropriate modern period.
A definition of precognition

3. ‘Things are changing’: The home front

Wars are not only fought on the battlefields but also on the home front: Alexandra is keen to help by becoming a nurse, although she does not share the
patriotic fervour of those around her: ‘I looked across the water to France, and felt like the only person in the world who thought the war was a bad thing.’ (p14)
Alexandra’s father is resistant to her desire to do something useful. However, her mother recognises that the world is changing, that women are taking on the roles
traditionally carried out by men. This is certainly true for women from Alexandra’s privileged upbringing. For women from the working classes, labour was not new
though there were changes in the type of employment and the attendant wages.

On many occasions I’ve asked Father if I might help in the hospital, but he refuses. He says nursing is no occupation for a girl from a respectable family. If
the truth be told he doesn’t think I should have any occupation at all, but just wait for someone of the right sort to marry me. The ‘right sort’ means rich, and
from a good family. But I want to do something. I think I really do want to be a nurse. It goes way back to when I was tiny. I always wanted to help people but I
couldn’t. When you’re a little girl no one takes you seriously. You’re not allowed to help people. (p21)
‘She’s quite a young woman now,’ I heard Mother say. ‘She’s pretty but she’s even more intelligent. And she’s seventeen. You know she wants to do
‘It’s still not the sort of thing she should be doing,’ Father replied. ‘You don’t know what they’re like, Dorothy. They’re a rough bunch of girls.’
He meant nurses in his hospital.
‘Perhaps’ mother said, ‘but they do the job that needs doing. And things are changing. The war is changing things,’
‘Don’t preach to me about my own profession,’ father said, curtly. ‘If Alexandra becomes a nurse you know the sort of people she’ll have to deal with.’
‘She could join the Women’s Emergency Corps. That’s only for decent women to join. The uniform alone costs two pounds.’
Father snorted. ‘If by “decent women” you mean suffragettes….’

Investigation and Research (History)
Students who have studied Britain 1750 – 1900 can revise what they have learnt about attitudes to women in this period. Ask them to describe the 'ideal'
Victorian woman.
Use a range of sources to research how things were changing as a result of the war. (See resources lists)
Alexandra’s father mentions the suffragettes. Opinion amongst members of the women’s suffrage movement was strongly divided about the war. While Emmeline
and Christabel Pankhurst were firm supporters, Sylvia Pankhurst was deeply against it. Ask students to investigate the views held by different members of
women’s suffrage movement.
Alexandra takes up a position as a VAD nurse in the Dyke Road hospital. Ask students to research what a VAD nurse was. What duties would they perform?
How is this similar/different to modern nursing?
Hotseating (English/Drama)
Ask students to imagine what it must have been like to be a parent, sister, child being asked to support the war. Using the drama strategy of ‘hotseating’ invite
them to ask questions to explore the range of feelings and emotions that family members might have had about supporting the war. What practical things could
they do to help?
Read and discuss Jessie Pope’s ‘War Girls’
Reading and Writing (English/History)
Make a PowerPoint presentation of propaganda posters designed to gain support on the home front e.g. National Service; Women’s’ Land Army; the Kitchen is the
Key to Victory (see online resources below)
Discuss the rhetorical devices and the images used.
Design and produce a propaganda poster aimed at encouraging support on the home front using persuasive slogans and images.
Alternatively, this activity might be carried out with recruitment posters (see section 4 below)

• Jessie Pope ‘War Girls’
‘The disadvantages of being a woman have eaten like iron into my soul.’ Vera
‘Meek wifehood is no part of my profession; I am your friend, but never your possession.’
Vera Britain
Find out more about Vera Britain at these websites:
Home Front Propaganda Posters
Find out more about VAD at this website:
Women in WWI
Investigate different perspectives from the women’s suffrage movement

4. Freedom of choice: to fight or not to fight

Edgar and Tom react in different ways to the social pressure to support the war. Tom says that he is not a pacifist but that he does not want to fight. Tom is
given a white feather, a symbol of cowardice instigated by the Order of the White Feather. Many suffragettes supported this activity. Eventually social pressure
forces Tom to enlist. The Foreshadowing raises issues that are of continued relevance today. It provides an opportunity to discuss the morality of war, to
consider contemporary attitudes and to reflect on how these values are consonant or contrast with prevailing views today. Key Citizenship issues to
explore include freedom of choice, volunteering and conscription.

Edgar and Father were very excited, Tom was quiet.
‘You don’t want to enlist in the ranks,’ Father said to Edgar. ‘You can take up a commission. With your OTC experience you’ll be snapped up.’
It would have been better if I was a regular already,’ Edgar said. ‘It’ll all before I get there. By the time I get a commission and hang around on a parade
ground for months, it’ll all be over.’
‘Then better you don’t delay. Move quickly and you’ll get your share of the glory.’ (p11)
‘What?’ Father spluttered.’ You’re not falling for all this Socialist nonsense, are you? I won’t have a pacifist in my house!’
‘No, father,’ Tom said. I could see he was scared of Father. ‘No,’ he said.
‘I’m not a pacifist. But I don’t want to fight.’ (p13)
‘I’d rather save men here than kill them over there.’ (p27)
The sun shone and gulls cried overhead, when suddenly, I saw a flash of colour at our side. I looked round to see a young woman in a dark blue dress approaching us. She had two friends with her, girls a little older than me, also in expensive dresses. Before we even knew what was happening, the girl was talking to Tom.
She was very pretty and at first Tom smiled as she pressed something into his hand.
Tom Looked down at what she’d given him and his face fell. It was a white feather. (p25)

Discussion (Citizenship)
Organise a small group discussion inviting students to consider questions raised by the novel and relating them to their personal experiences and developing
• Consider Edgar and Tom’s motivations for their personal choices about fighting or not fighting in the war. Do you think their choices are justified?
Why? Why not?
• Tom says that he is not a pacifist but he doesn’t want to fight. What do you think he means?
• What is a pacifist? Is it always possible to take a pacifist stance when solving conflict?
• What is your ‘conscience’? (Thomas Aquinas defined it as ‘the mind of man making moral judgments')
• Can problems emerge when ‘conscience’ is used as a guide for moral behaviour?
• Have you ever objected to an action or refused to participate because you believed it to be wrong or immoral?
• Should individuals have freedom to volunteer if their country is at war?
• What should you do if your conscience conflicted with the nation’s laws?
Debate (Citizenship)
Following discussion of the issues organise a debate for and against the motion: :
’It is every man’s duty to fight for his country’
Discussion: a topical issue
Relate the issues to a recent or current conflict e.g. Northern Ireland, War in Iraq, Palestine. Examine the justification for war. Compare the reasons to those given
for the First World War. Are there any similarities?
Bravery (English/Drama)
Explore the concept of bravery. In small groups create a ‘freeze frame’ image to represent the word ‘bravery’. View and discuss the images. Extend the students’
thinking by prompting them to reflect more deeply.
Suggested questions:
• Can you be brave and afraid at the same time?
• Can you be brave without being aware of it?
• Do you have to be in peril to be brave?
• Is there a difference between being foolhardy and brave?
• Can avoidance of conflict be a brave decision?
Research (History)
Use a range of sources to find out about conscientious objectors. What variety of reasons did people have for objecting to the war?
Find out about the order of the white feather. How did it start? Who was involved? The necessity for public servants to wear King and Country badges.
Read Jessie Pope’s poems ‘Who’s for the Game?’ and ‘The Call’ What evidence do they provide of contemporary opinion?
Drama (English/Citizenship)
The complexity of emotions that different characters may have experienced can be explored through drama. Several strategies are suggested for exploring
different opinions about enlisting and ‘doing one’s duty’. Select the ones that most appropriately suit your needs
Forum Theatre
A small group improvises a family scene. The rest of the class observe carefully.
The topic of conversation is the war. Some way into the conversation Tom admits that he does not want to sign up. Freeze the moment. Ask rest of class to voice
their personal thoughts on the characters. Is this how they would react? Would they change anything in the scene? Students with suggestions either direct the
scene or take part in the improvisation. Encourage quality responses and veracity.
In small groups improvise the scene where Tom is given the white feather. Freeze at the moment that Tom realises he has been given the feather. Select one group to show their scene. Hold the freeze and invite other students to sculpt the figures to show how they would react in that moment. Pay attention to gaze, tilt
of head, hands, orientation (e.g. turning towards or away from Tom). Extend the activity by ‘thought-tracking different participants in the scene including the
young lady with the feather and passers-by.
Ask students to take on the role either of Edgar or Tom and to prepare a soliloquy expressing their thoughts and feelings about the events of the day. Invite some
students to perform their work. Other members of the class can ask questions. Ensure two or three students present each role. Highlight and encourage different
Conscience Alley
Divide the class in two. Half of the class are in favour of ‘Every man should do his duty’ the other half support freedom of choice. Organise the class into two facing
rows, making a central alley. Ask 1 student to be Tom and pass slowly down the Alley. As he passes students on both sides call to him voicing their thoughts and
feelings. Ask ‘Tom’ to reflect on how it made him feel. Review some of the things that were said by both sides.
Reflect on whether the drama has helped them understand a character or change their point of view about a particular character.
Finally ask students to relate this work to themselves. What would they do in a similar situation? Why?
Reading and Writing (English/History)
As an alternative activity to the home front poster activity (section 3 above)
make a PowerPoint presentation of recruitment posters e.g. ‘Take Up the Sword of Justice’; ‘You can Become a Skilled Tradesman by Joining the Army’; Women of Britain say “GO!”. (See online resources below)
Discuss the rhetorical devices and the images used.
Design a recruitment poster using persuasive images and slogan.

• Jessie Pope ‘Who’s for the Game’; ‘The Call’

All that a pacifist can undertake - but it is a very great deal - is to refuse to kill, injure or otherwise cause suffering to another human creature, and untiringly to
order his life by the rule of love though others may be captured by hate.
Vera Brittain
Marcus Sedgwick Cowards Hodder
Film link: Regeneration
Find out more about:
Conscientious objection in WWI:
The order of the white feather
Jessie Pope

5. Treatment and Convalescence

Alexandra’s duties as a VAD nurse bring her into contact with soldiers who have been sent back to ‘Blitey’ for treatment and convalescence. She learns that for
some patients the psychological damage is worse than physical injury and that her father specialises in treating these patients. She also learns that attitudes to
shell-shock patients are divided. Some pity the soldiers others think they are malingering.
‘Oh yes. Your father,’ she said.’ But don’t worry, most people around here like him because he has hard work to do. He works on the neurasthenia patients.’
‘The what?’ I asked.
‘Neurasthenia. The ones with shell-shock.’
I noticed that the corner of her mouth twisted slightly as she said the word. She got on with her work, and I with mine (p61-2)
Reading and Analysis (English)
Read and discuss a selection of poems about wounded soldiers.
• Siegfried Sassoon ‘Survivors’
• Eva Dobell ‘Pluck’
• Wilfred Owen ‘Disabled’
Medical treatment of shell shock
BBC website

6. Trauma and Grief

Alexandra’s fears are realised when her Edgar is killed. She stops writing in her diary and when she starts again six months later her entries are short fragmented
and brief. Under social pressure, Tom enlists in the army choosing to join the Public School Boys Battalion rather than accept a commission. His departure is

A generation of men is like leaves on the trees. When the winter winds blow, the leaves are scattered to the ground, but with spring, a new generation of men
bursts into bud, to replace those that went before. (p109) Though the events of Christmas morning are months ago now, I can still see
them all is if it has just happened. In some ways I can see things more clearly now than I could at the time, because then my vision was obscured by shock and
Now there’s only pain (p118)
It was only a few days after the telegram arrived, maybe not even into the New Year, that Thomas told us he was going to join the army, after all.
Mother took it badly, and begged him not to go but Father….
I had thought he would have been overjoyed, even delighted, that he had finally won the argument with Thomas, but he wasn’t (p122)
Paired talk(English)
In pairs ask students to discuss the family’s reaction to Tom’s decision to enlist. onestudent takes on the role of Father. The other interviews them about their
thoughts and feelings at this moment. Keep this activity brief. Now ask the other student to take on the role of Tom while they are interviewed
by their partner.
Tom’s postcard (p127) to his family is terse. He uses a standard postcard with pre-printed banal statements. He deletes those that don’t apply. It is clear that
there is a void between what is written and what is actually thought and felt.
Students can write:
• The postcard that Tom sends
• The unsent letter in which Tom expresses his true feelings
After writing, students can perform their work. One way of doing this would be to have two students representing both sides of Tom (contained and expressive
modes). One reads a sentence from the postcard, then the other reads part of the letter and so on.
• Siegfried Sassoon ‘The Hero’
• Edward Thomas ‘In Memoriam’

7. A Decision

An epiphanal moment occurs at the end of part 1. Alexandra has a premonition of Tom’s death it is at this point she decides that her destiny lies in her own hands.
She makes a decision to travel to France in order to prevent Tom’s death.

At last my time has come.
I know it from the foreshadowing of Thomas’s death.
I don’t know how, but as I lay awake shivering after the dream, I know it hasn’t happened, and that maybe it won’t for some time. It’s definitely something
that has yet to be.
I don’t know why this is happening to me, or how it does. It feels as if someone is playing games with me, with my life, my destiny. Or with that of my family.
Finally I have the chance to do something with what I have seen. (p129)
Personal Writing (English)
Student’s can relate Alexandra’s decision to their own lives. Invite them to reflect on a time when they felt powerless. What action could they take to regain
control? It may be most appropriate for this writing to be kept private, if students

PART TWO8. Casualties: No.13 Stationary Hospital

They all have it.
All of them
The trench-haunted look. An appalling weariness behind their eyes. Every single man that has passed through the Rest Station while I have been here, and there
have been literally thousands of them, has exuded an awful aura of….. of what?
Is it horror? Or fear? Pain or fatigue or shock?
It is all of these things. They don’t talk about trenches specifically; you pick up hints and notions and hear stories and rumours, but none of them talk
about it directly. Yet there is enough to form a terrible picture of what they have witnessed, what has been done to them, what they have done to other people.
That’s what made me realise what it is about them.
They have lost faith. (p155)
It has been a continual onslaught, and it amazes me that we have coped, but we have. All day and night we take men in on their stretchers, direct from the train,
clean them up, move them on. We load the trains with supplies for their next journey: clothes, cases of sterilised milk, butter, eggs, biscuits, meat extracts,
cigarettes. (p162)
I’m just a girl in a nurses uniform, but that doesn’t mean I know how to save these men, and them – they are men in uniforms, but that doesn’t mean they
know how to die.’ (p178)

Research (History)
Use a range of sources including books and online searches to find out about the casualty clearing system and stationary hospitals. Art work and autobiographical
writing such as Vera Brittain’s Testament of Youth can be drawn on.
Consider the relative merits and weaknesses of different view points.
Is there such a thing as objective evidence?
Is subjectivity acceptable in historical enquiry?

• Wilfred Owen ‘Futility’
• Siegfried Sassoon ‘How to Die’

Women at the Front
• Cicely Hamilton
• Dr Elsie Inglis
• Nurses
Military Hospital
• Painting by C.R. W Nevinson http://www.artww1.
I am a Sister VAD, and orderly all in one. Quite apart from the nursing, I have stoked the fire all night, done two or three rounds of bed pans, and kept the
kettles going and prepared feeds on exceedingly black Beatrice oil stoves and refilled them from the steam kettles utterly wallowing in paraffin all the time. I
feel as if I had been dragged through the gutter. Possibly acute surgical is the heaviest type of work there is, I think, more wearing than anything else on earth.
You are kept on the go the whole time but in the end there seems to be nothing definite to show for it - except that one or two are still alive that might otherwise
have been dead. The picture came back to me of myself standing alone in a newly created circle of hell during the 'emergency' of March 22nd 1918, gazing half hypnotized at the dishevelled beds, the stretchers on the floor, the scattered boots and piles of muddy clothing, the brown blankets turned back from smashed limbs bound to splints by filthy bloodstained bandages. Beneath each stinking wad of sodden wool and gauze an obscene horror waited for me and all the equipment that I had for attacking it in this ex-medical ward was one pair of forceps standing in a potted meat glass half full of methylated spirit.
The cold is terrific; the windows of the ward are all covered with icicles. I'm going about in a jersey and long coat. By the middle of December out kettles, hot water
bottles and sponges were all frozen hard when we came off duty if we had not carefully emptied and squeezed them the night before. Getting up to go on duty
in the icy darkness was a shuddering misery almost as exacting as an illness. Our vests, if we hung them over a chair, went stiff and we could keep them soft
only if we slept in them. All the taps froze; water for the patients had to be cut down to a minimum and any spilt in the passages turned in a few seconds to ice.
Vera Brittain A Testament of Youth

9. By Ambulance to the Casualty Clearing Station

After we had finished, we went along to the carriage at the end of the train set aside for nurses. There we lay down on the low bunks, and slept our way towards
Towards the front, towards the war. (p205)
Research the casualty clearing stations using contemporary sources such as diaries and paintings.

• Hospital Train: Gino Severini http://www.artww1.
• Casualty clearing station
10. The Battlefield
The last two days have been a lifetime.
I think it can be barely thirty-six hours, in fact, since we left the safety of the hay barn, to where I am now.
Where I am now
From what I can see in the valley below me, this can only be one place.
The mouth of Hell. (p234)
Below me as I sit here waiting, I take the occasional peep down into the valley.
My eyes grow wide at the sights I see. The men. Thousands of them. The guns.
Hundreds upon hundreds of big guns. The horses. The tents, the equipment, the cooking wagons, the ambulances. In a muddy field in the middle of France.
Reading: Mapping (English)
Working in pairs or small groups and using an outline map, students can chart lexandra’s journey from Brighton to High Wood. Ask them to label and
annotate the map using details of events and quotations from the text.
Contemporary photographs could be attached, where available.
Picture Research (English/History)
Reread the description of the Battlefield (p241). Locate photographs and art work that shows to go with this description. Create a visual display.
Visualisation / Reading
This scene takes place in July. Ask students to imagine what it must have been like in the depths of winter. Read Wilfred Owen’s poem ‘Exposure’.
• Wilfred Owen ‘Exposure’
• What is a trench?
• A visit to the trenches
• Barbed Wire Art Félix Vallotton http://www.artww1.

11. The Raven

Throughout the novel, Alexandra has a recurring premonition in which a raven
appears. The writing of these sequences is poetic and dream like. Linda Newbery writes: ‘Some of Marcus Sedgwick's most effective writing is in the dreamlike
episodes involving a raven, giving the war scenes a mythic significance' Times Educational Supplement

‘It was a strange feeling, and not a nice one to hear her talk. To hear her say exactly what I knew she was going to say, just a moment or so before the words
actually left her lips. ‘One such symbol that occurs in many mythologies including the Greek, the Celtic and the Norse, is that of the raven. It has become a symbol of the battlefield, a harbinger of ill-omen and death. Why? Because the raven is a carrion bird, and would have flocked to feed on the corpses of the Greek and
Trojan warriors.’ (p44)
It was then that I saw the raven. It was a huge bird, and at first I could only marvel at its beauty. The blackness of its feathers was perfect; a glistening oily
blackness set off by the charcoal grey of its beak. It fixed an eye on me and put its head on one side, and only then did I see what it was standing on, what it had
been feeding on.
thought I was going to be sick, but I could not look away, and then the
bird spoke to me.
It spoke in the voice of the dead upon which it was feeding.
‘You!’ it said. ‘You alone saw the horror of war, and wept when we did not
believe you.’ (p96)

Collect and display some literary references and sources for the Raven. The following sources might be used:
• Norse myth (Odin’s Ravens, Valkyries)
• Celtic myth (The Morrigan)
• Greek Myth (Apollo)
• Arthurian myth (some versions of the Loathly Lady)
• Bible (Proverbs 30:17)
• North-west coast Native North American folklore (trickster stories)
• Welsh and Irish myth (Raven associated with prophecy)
• Collective noun: ‘an unkindness of ravens’
Reading (English)
Analyse the style of writing of one of the dream sequences. (Dream sequences
occur on p128 p 171 p 208 p220 p251). Consider the effect created by
vocabulary choices, sentence length, tense, metaphor
Sound Collage interpretation of a dream sequence (English/drama)
Poetic moments lend themselves to multi-modal interpretation using all of the senses.
This activity can be carried out with a group or the whole class.
Choose one of the dream sequences.
What mood is evoked by this scene? Write mood words on the board so that they can be referred to.
After a vocal warm-up, create a sound collage of the sounds suggested by the passage using the voice and body as an instrument. Words and phrases from the
passage can be incorporated into the sound collage. Experiment with different ways in which the words can be spoken. Encourage students to find sounds that
reflect the mood that you want to create rather than trying to represent actual sounds. Organise the class in a circle. As you pass around the outside of the circle each student offers a sound. No two sounds should be the same, if necessary ask for alternatives. Move on quickly coming back to students who need more thinking time. Once everyone has given a sound they will need to remember it. Agree some simple signals for louder, softer, start, stop, faster slower.
Conduct a sound collage for the scene bringing in different sounds. Ask students to suggest how the piece could be improved.
Perform the sound collage as a preface to reading one of the dream sequences.

• Edgar Allan Poe ‘The Raven’
“Of inspired birds ravens are accounted the most prophetical. Accordingly, in the language of that district, `to have the foresight of a raven' is to this day a
proverbial expression.”
Macaulay: History of St. Kilda
‘The raven once in snowy plumes was drest, White as the whitest dove's unsullied breast, Fair as the guardian of the Capitol, Soft as the swan; a large and lovely
fowl His tongue, his prating tongue had changed him quite To sooty blackness from the purest white.’ Ovid
‘The raven himself is hoarse That croaks the fatal entrance of Duncan Under my battlements.’ Shakespeare: Macbeth
Thou said'st--O, it comes o'er my memory As doth the raven o'er the infected house, Boding to all!--He had my handkerchief.’ Shakespeare: Othello
‘Like the sad-presaging raven that tolls
The sick man's passport in her hollow beak,
And, in the shadow of the silent night,
Does shake contagion from her sable wing.’ Marlowe: Jew of Malta
Links to Raven Literature

11. High Wood

The final suspense of the story takes place at High Wood. The early days of engagement at the Somme saw the highest casualties and devastation to the
landscape was complete. The suggested activities focus on these two facts.

I had to talk to him once more, and say goodbye properly. Then I would leave it alone like everyone wanted me to. I knew I couldn’t risk being seen in the valley
in daylight, and now that the mist had lifted it wad much too risky. We found an out of-the-way crook at the top of the valley, a little hollow amongst some sickly-looking trees. Away in front of us was the valley, and beyond that, the awful sight of Mametz Wood. The whole place like a biblical scene of pestilence and death.
Read (English)
Read and analyse a selection of poems about engagement. Compare these poems with some of the earlier poems such as Rupert Brooke’s ‘The Soldier’.
Performing Poetry (Drama/English)
Select one of the poems. In small groups ask students to interpret the poem using slow motion mime (no contact). Prepare a dramatic reading of the poem
(you may need to revise reading for performance) with accompanying slow motion action. Encourage students to work with veracity.
Visual Response (English/Art)
Collect photographs of the Sussex Downs around Brighton (alternatively you may want to use images of your local countryside or contemporary images of the
countryside around the Somme) and images of the High Wood with broken tree stumps (see online sources). Explore ways in which the landscapes can be
juxtaposed to create original art work.
Words and images can be combined to create a collage of the battlefield.


• Robert Graves ‘The Leveller’
• Robert Graves ‘David and Goliath’
• Wilfred Owen ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’
• Wilfred Owen ‘Anthem for Doomed Youth’
• Wilfred Owen ‘Strange Meeting’
• Siegfried Sassoon ‘Counter Attack’


Investigation Using Primary Sources
Description of the Battlefield
High Wood by Philip Johnson (1918)
The Somme: war diary
Somme 1916: war diary
Battle of Bazentin Ridge: outline
“Over what was Brigade H.Q. on September 15th 1916 some sort of a house has been erected. We then went on through the utter desolation of these grisly fields
to High Wood itself. The undergrowth of broom and small shrubs has mercifully covered much of its ugliness but of the original trees only forty bare poles are still
standing. I found without difficulty the 47th Divisional Memorial Cross, and then came upon the remains of the shelter which served as joint HQ for all the
battalions of the brigade. It was a litter of bomb-boxes and bits of timber, but there is no doubt it was the right place. We wandered about waist-high in the
undergrowth gradually finding the trenches, and then I saw some graves outside the wood, and on going over to them I found they were mostly those of officers
and men in the regiment.”
Major Charles Herbert Fair DSO
Return visit 1920
High Wood to Waterlot Farm,
All on a summer's day,
Up you get to the top of the trench
Though you're sniped at all the way.
If you've got a smoke helmet there
You'd best put it on if you could,
For the wood down by Waterlot Farm
Is a bloody high wood.
E A Mackintosh (parody of Chalk Farm to Camberwell)
Art: John Singer Sargeant ‘Gassed’
Art: Kennington ‘Gassed and Wounded’
12. Afterword
The final chapters explain how Tom was saved and describe Alexandra’s recovery.
She has proved that she has control over her own destiny and that she can make a positive contribution in society.
Father didn’t want me to be a nurse at all, and now here I am in a war in France, doing just that. Maybe, like Edgar, he thought I wasn’t up to it. But I realised a
few days ago that I am. (p266)
Rupert Graves ‘Remembering the War’ written about the First World War but in the first years of the Second World War.
Final Reflection (all subjects)
Consider how and why we commemorate war.
"We can truly say that the whole circuit of the earth is girdled with the graves of our dead... and, in the course of my pilgrimage, I have many times asked myself
whether there can be more potent advocates of peace upon earth through the years to come, than this massed multitude of silent witnesses to the desolation of
King George V, Flanders, 1922
The British Red Cross Museum
British Red Cross Museum and Archives
44 Moorfields
Telephone: 020 7877 7058
The Imperial War Museum
Imperial War Museum
Lambeth Road
London SE1 6HZ
United Kingdom
Telephone: 020 7416 5000
The Commonwealth Graves Commission
Education Section
Commonwealth War Graves Commission
2 Marlow Road
VAD Nursing
Linda Newbery (2002) Some Other War Barn Owl Books
Vera Brittain (2005) Testament of Youth Penguin
Enid Bagnold (1978) A Diary Without Dates Virago
James Riordan (2001) War Song OUP
Theresa Breslin Remembrance Random House
World War I
Michael Morpurgo Private Peaceful Egmont
Michael Morpurgo War Horse Egmont
Michael Foreman (1995) War Game Chrysalis
Erich Maria Remarque (2005) All Quiet on the Western Front Vintage
James Riordan (2001) When the Guns Fall Silent OUP
Charles Yale Harrison (2004) Generals Die in Bed Random House
Iain Lawrence (2002) Lord of the Nutcracker Men Collins
K. M. Peyton (1990) Thunder in the Sky Red Fox
Malcolm Brown (2001) Tommy Goes to War Tempus Publishing
Lyn Macdonald (1991) 1914- 18 Voices and Images of the Great War Penguin
Robert Graves (2004) Goodbye to all That Penguin
Peter Hart (2005)The Somme Weidenfeld & Nicholson military
War Poetry
David Roberts (ed.) (1998) Out in the Dark: poetry of the First World War in
Context Saxon Books
Mathew George Walter (2004) In Flanders Fields Allen Lane
John Stallworthy (2002) Anthem for Doomed Youth Constable and Robins
Catherine w Reilly (1981) Scars Upon My Heart: women’s poetry and verse of the
First World War Virago
Simon Goldhill (edit) Aeschylus (2004) Agamemnon Cambridge University Press
Clemence Maclaren (1996) Women of Destiny: a story of the Trojan war
Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Kenneh McLeish (edit.) Euripides Women of Troy Nick Hearn Books
Useful Websites
BBC Radio Interview archives
BBC Website
Channel 4 Microsite
Spartacus Encyclopedia
Nikki Gamble has taught in primary and secondary schools. She is a lecturer, writer and in-service provider
specializing in children’s literature, drama and arts education. Nikki is currently course tutor for the
Advanced Diploma in Language, Literature and Literacy at the University of Cambridge, Faculty of
Education and Associate Consultant at the University of London, Institute of Education. She is serving on
the committees of the British Section of IBBY (International Board on Books for Young People) and UKLA
(United Kingdom Reading Association). Nikki is co-author of Family Fictions (with Nicholas Tucker) Guiding
Reading at Key Stage 2 (with Angela Hobsbaum and David Reedy) and Exploring Children's Literature (with
Sally Yates).