Review: Michael Morpurgo

“I am a war baby.”

Michael Morpurgo, born 1943, grew up in post-war Britain. From the physical manifestations of shattered buildings, through to the silent, unspoken grief of his mother, and a lone photograph of Uncle Peter on his mantelpiece (shot down in the RAF aged 21), he described his understanding of conflict as a result of such an upbringing:

“War doesn’t just kill people; it destroys those who live on afterwards.”

Michael Morpurgo, unsurprisingly, attracted a large crowd of Marlburians to attend his evening of poetry and readings under the title “The Pity of War”. Delivered in the Memorial Hall, itself an articulation of service and loss, his recital formed part of the World War I commemoration programme, recalling those who gave their lives in the Great War.

Recently a leading contributor in public debate concerning World War I and its lessons, we were very honoured to welcome Michael Morpurgo to Marlborough College. A well-known pacifist, and another signature on the ‘No Glory in War’ open letter, he invoked a powerful sense of the waste of war. Captain Liddell Hart was right, he believed, when he said that this war “achieved little except loss.”

During his talk he explored the thought behind his international phenomenon, War Horse. He explained how when searching for a ‘narrator’ he didn’t want it be from a British side, a Canadian side, a French side, a German side, but how he wanted a “neutral observer”. This was a horse, the medium by which he could look at the “universal suffering not just of that war but of all wars”.

The humility of Michael Morpurgo was astounding, not once did he read anything from his own work. He told his story using literature written by others, and thus conveyed how war and its suffering are personal. Not just for him, not just for me, not just for the names inscribed around the Memorial Hall, but for every single one of us.

Tamsin Bracher (U6 MO)

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