Wednesday 28 May 2014

War quiz brings out Girl Guides' competitive spirit

Thanks again to the Camborne Girl Guides for paying attention and listening to last week's talk on the First World War, and giving interesting answers to the quiz. It must have been difficult at 7pm on a school night.

It was tricky finding a way to do the subject justice while making it interesting for the audience.
The idea of a quiz seemed to go down well, with Mars bars as prizes. It was keenly contested with 4 teams of 5 girls eager to win. The questions were:

1. How many countries fought in the war?
2. How many soldiers fought in the war?
3. Name one way in which the legacy of the war can be felt today?
4. How many miles of trenches were dug in France?

The team that had the most right answers won the chocolates, and there was a clear winner. Question 3 produced some interesting responses. One of the groups wrote simply: 'We must study it'. They were awarded the point!

Others were more poignant. One group wrote: 'We lost family'.

Congratulations to the winning team, the Parrots, for scoring 3 out of 4.

Sunday 11 May 2014

Good governors make prisons work - Lord Ramsbotham

Lord Ramsbotham speaking at the Oxford and Cambridge Club about the nature of prisons: prison itself is not the punishment: being sent to prison is the punishment. Quite a hard distinction to get across - especially when so many people know so little about prison. He believes the purpose of the prison system is to encourage people to build a better life. Good examples of successfully functioning prisons - in Norway and the Netherlands. Ramsbotham was Chief Inspector of Prisons from 1995 to 2001.

Brought back memories of a Bridging Arts project - Srebrenica Now - in Feltham Young Offenders Institute and Wormwood Scrub: we created photographs and posters to be used by the education departments in both. Feltham YOI is a very tough place. Have things moved forward since the report Ramsbotham himself wrote in 1998: “This report… is, without doubt, the most disturbing I have had to make during my three years as Chief Inspector of Prisons... I ask the staff… implicated by these remarks whether they would be happy for their sons, or the sons of any of their friends, to be on the receiving end of the treatment and conditions described in the report which are unacceptable in a civilized country.”

Someone mentioned in passing that things were once again bad at Feltham: cuts mean many of the young offenders are locked up in cells from Thursday evening through the weekend.

Ramsbotham said much depended on the calibre of prison governors. Prior to 1963, governors had military backgrounds. Since then things have changed and prison management has become less disciplined.

Alongside Ramsbotham was a speaker from Prisoners Abroad - the only UK charity caring for the welfare of British prisoners held in foreign prisons. This seems a great example of a charity doing much needed work on a relatively small budget.

Friday 9 May 2014

A Soldier's Story: Private Frank Johns 1st Battalion Canadian Infantry pt 1

The most important part of any research project is working out how to start among the shelves upon shelves of books and records.
1914-1915 Star - authorised in 1918 for all who
 served in a theatre of war between 5.9.14 and 31.12.15
Obverse, showing name

Items such as medals are especially useful as they serve as a clear point of departure for research. For example, we have been lent a particularly poignant medal bearing a name: Private Frank Johns, no. 6352, 1st Battalion Canadian Infantry.

The records of Frank Johns's life were mostly lost, and the family were happy for us to take up the story and see what we could uncover. A few things were known, such as the fact that he emigrated from St Ives, Cornwall, to Canada, and fought and was killed in France in 1915.

In the past few months I have explored Frank John's story in more depth and I will post some of the results of the research here. It is an incredible story.

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