RC Sherriff Learning resources for schools: Extract from Journey’s End

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Activity (English or History) based on an extract from Journey’s End

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Images from the performance of  How Like it All Is by Kingston Grammar School students in September 2015.

How Like It All Is , written by Roland Wales, is based on Sherriff’s letters, diaries and other writings, and includes scenes from the unpublished and never performed sequel to Journey’s  End.  The action takes place during a reunion for Sherriff’s wartime comrades in 1930, including their visit to the theatre to see a performance of Journey’s End, at that time enjoying sensational success in its first West End run. These ‘present day’ scenes are intercut with extracts from the sequel and with  his experiences in the trenches, as the fledgling author struggles to come to terms with the past, its legacy in the present and the shadow it casts over the future.

The script of ‘How Like It All Is’ is freely available for schools to use in whole or in part (download a pdf (PDF) copy here).

Activity suggestions

The following dialogue from Journey’s End occurs between a seasoned veteran of war, 45-year-old Osborne, and an 18-year-old new recruit named Raleigh.

  • Ask for volunteers to read the passage aloud.
  • Ask for a second set of volunteers to read the passage again. This time, focus on holding the two
  • pauses written into the script for about 5 seconds each. What do the pauses add to the scene?
  • In pairs, read the passage twice more, switching parts for the second reading.
  • What words are repeated several times in the passage?
  • What atmosphere is created?
  • What emotions do you suspect the two men are feeling?

A British dugout near St Quentin, France. Monday evening, March 18, 1918.

Raleigh: Are we in the front line here?

Osborne: No. That’s the support line outside. The front line’s about fifty yards further on.

Raleigh: How frightfully quiet it is!

Osborne: It’s often quiet — like this.

Raleigh: I thought there would be an awful row here — all the time.

Osborne: Most people think that. (Pause)

Raleigh: I’ve never known anything so quiet as those trenches we came by. Just now and then I heard rifle firing, like the range at Bisley, and a sort of rumble in the distance.

Osborne: Those are the guns up north — up Wipers way. The guns are always going up there; it’s never quiet like this. (Pause) I expect it’s all very strange to you.

Raleigh: It’s — it’s not exactly what I thought. It’s just this – this quiet that seems so funny.

Osborne: A hundred yards from here the Germans are sitting in their dugouts, thinking how quiet it is.

Raleigh: Are they as near as that?

Osborne: About a hundred yards.

Raleigh: It seems uncanny. It makes me feel we’re — we’re all just waiting for something.

Osborne: We are, generally, just waiting for something. When anything happens, it happens quickly.  Then we just start waiting again.

Raleigh: I never thought it was like that.

(Play extract and suggested activity taken from Shaw Festival Study Guide, Canada, 2005)

Extract from Journey’s End (PDF version of this page)

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