Thanks to the support of our patron, Lady Antonia Fraser, DBE, throughout the past year we’ve been giving history books to some of our projects for Give a History Book. For the second year in a row, one of the Give a Book team headed to Salisbury for the Chalke Valley History Festival, a week of talks, discussions, debates, and immersive live events.
“I was lucky enough to attend The Chalke Valley History Festival in late June, the largest festival in the world dedicated entirely to the subject. You can experience the mead and ale brewing process of the Anglo Saxons, climb aboard the Viking ships and have a go as a soldier fighting in the trenches in WWI.
There were talks, discussions and Q&As throughout the week with various authors and historians. I heard John Jammes, an ex-member of the French resistance and winner of the Croix de guerre, in discussion about his involvement in WWII. Hearing Jammes’ recount of his life during the war made me realise that you can read all the books you want about the war, but there’s nothing quite like hearing about it from someone who lived through it.
At 93 he was still as eloquent as if he was back living the events between 1940-1945 for the first time.
‘you don’t know what it’s like to lose your freedom until someone comes and invades your country.’
Jammes used these powerful words at the beginning of the talk which reflected his sombre tone throughout when he spoke of his home country being occupied by foreign invaders. When he spoke of his years in the resistance, his tone changed, and it was clear that he was very proud of the services he provided for France.
At 14 he was already a courier delivering private messages between the leaders of the resistance. As the war ended when he was 17, he received no recognition or army pension for his services in the war as he had not been an adult. His bravery, however, did not go un-accounted. Officially he did not receive any compensation, however, he did meet Charles de Gaulle who thanked him personally and Field Marshall Montgomery, “Monty” to those close to him, whom he maintained a close relationship with.
It’s remarkable hearing someone talk about these events in their lives having only studied them in history classes and through textbooks. The festival encourages school children to get involved and immerse themselves in periods of history to get an authentic feel of life in a different era. To learn about an epic moment in history is one thing, but to understand why it is so important to remember and make sure it never happens again is another.”