My First Visit To Chalke Valley History Festival For Schools

Georgina Hawkins, Aged 12, Millfield Prep School, Year 7

Day One

Lice. A LOT of lice. I hadn’t expected the CVHF to kick off with a talk from Horrible Histories illustrator Martin Browne that enlightened us on just how bad the wee beasties could get. If you’re at all squeamish, look away but the record number of 10,428 on a British Tommy in WW1 was incredible. Plus that was just the count from his shirt! Martin went on to emphasise that realism in art isn’t the only ‘right’ way to go, in fact choosing to draw in a stylistic way is thousands of years old and often more clearly gets across the desired message.

Out in the Living Histories exhibitions we learned about the harsh reality of warfare and the escallating cat-and-mouse chase between developing armour and the finding the means to break through it and inflict maximum damage. Equally interesting was the history behind some of our everyday food items, and especially the risks taken to obtain spices such as pepper and nutmeg in Tudor times. When things went wrong, they went terribly wrong, including falling into the hands of Vlad the Impailer or being marooned in the Arctic over winter. Which would you have chosen?

Moving on, I discovered that The Black Prince really knew how to be a prince, living a life of luxury whist fighting at the front for England. Not quite so comfortable were the Numidian Cavalry who were part of the Roman Army and rode naked without saddle, reigns or clothing into battle.

The WW2 Trench Experience relives the Allies fight to push inland following d-day. Interestingly the Allies had penicillin by this time but the Axis forces did not. Equally, soldiers given morphine had an M marked on their forehead, since an overdose would stop the heart.

There is so much diverse aspects of history at the festival and so many knowledgeable people, and it’s fantastic to uncover that what we think of as history may not be the reality at all.

Day Two

My second day at the festival saw less action than yesterday but more in-depth talks on a range of subjects. Out of an enticing choice of twelve topics I chose Appeasing Hitler, The Russian Revolution, Henry VIII and Mary Queen of Scots. All were interesting for very different reasons – Chamberlain’s desperate optimism that war with Hitler and the associated loss of life could be avoided, a taste of a lecture format, the manipulations of the men at Henry VIII’s side and being a Scot, my personal favourite, the doomed story of Mary Queen of Scots.

I also had a first-rate lesson in historical navigation with all manner of wonderful tools, including the revelation that I walk across the festival field at 1.5 knots. I’ll have to come back next year to work out how fast I can run.