Girls Discover WWI Through Tommy Atkins Play

Bolton School Girls' Division | 23 Jan 2019 | ISC Icon GSA Icon
Pupils at Bolton School Girls' Division enjoyed ‘meeting’ a typical soldier who fought in the First World War when Peter Gill brought his one-man play 'Meet Tommy Atkins' to Bolton School. The experience brought to life the girls' history learning.
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'Tommy Atkins' (played by Peter Gill) with Bolton School pupils who enjoyed the one-man play

Girls in Year 9 at Bolton School Girls’ Division spent an entertaining and informative afternoon ‘meeting’ a typical soldier who fought in the First World War. Peter Gill’s one-man play ‘Meet Tommy Atkins’ tells the story of “an ordinary man who was caught up in an extraordinary time” and not only portrays the trenches of the First World War but also the aftermath, including the life-long impact those experiences had on so many of the soldiers who came home and the changes that generation made to the UK.

Peter skilfully brought Tommy to life, allowing pupils to see beyond the statistics in their textbooks. He regaled them with stories of the action at Ypres, Passchendaele, Loos and the Somme as well as recalling moments of joy and empathy, including the Christmas truce. He also showed Tommy’s changing feelings about the war over time: bitterness at the way the war’s heroes were quickly forgotten by society turning to pride and comradeship as he gets older over the course of the play.

The programme notes, “Peter feels privileged in being able to portray ‘his’ Tommy and to remind audiences just how much was given by so many to ultimately give us the country we live in today.”

As well as providing lots of details about the First World War and its impact through Tommy’s story, Peter was happy to answer questions from pupils about his inspiration, research and particular moments in the play. He said that although no one person would have experienced everything that Tommy does in the play, it gives an overview of the whole war from a soldier’s perspective. The programme also included plenty of helpful and interesting information, including poems, a timeline, and an explanation of why the generic name ‘Tommy Atkins’ came to be used for British soldiers.

‘Meet Tommy Atkins’ was written by Peter in 2014 in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War.

About Bolton School Girls' Division

At Bolton School we help every girl discover her unique talents and strengths. Our staff are committed to developing in each girl the love of learning, creative independence and academic self discipline which will enable her to achieve excellent examination results. Our aim is to inspire in our girls the attributes, skills and values which will enable them to make informed choices, become responsible and principled citizens, enjoy successful careers and achieve personal fulfilment.

We understand that the best learning takes place when girls feel cherished, understood and secure. In our friendly and respectful, single sex environment, girls of all ages and backgrounds are free to relax and enjoy each other's company without feeling self conscious. They forge strong friendships to support and sustain them throughout their lives. They also have the opportunity to get to know members of the Boys’ Division through participation in extra-curricular activities alongside them.

Girls at Bolton School recognise how lucky they are to enjoy all the advantages of a supportive and inspirational educational environment with its superb facilities and exceptional range of extra-curricular activities; they value the importance of ‘giving back’ through participation in community action programmes, locally, nationally and abroad.

The best way to appreciate our school, is to visit us. The girls are terrific ambassadors and would love to show you their magical, uplifting surroundings as well as talk to you about the exceptional range of opportunities offered to them.

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