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Frontispiece, first edition: 2003
|Media type||Print hardback, paperback, and script|
Private Peaceful is a novel for older children by Michael Morpurgo, first published in 2003. It is about a soldier called Thomas "Tommo" Peaceful, who is looking back on his life from the trenches of World War I in France. Structurally, each chapter of the book brings the reader closer to the present until the story turns to present tense. The story especially underlines the senselessness of war and ineptitude of the commanding officer.
The tale is of a young man named Thomas Peaceful, who tells the story in account format from the past to the present day events of his experiences. His eldest brother, "Big Joe", has learning difficulties due to brain damage at birth, and is always looked out for by his younger brothers. The earlier part of the story tells of his life as a boy, before the Great War; the tale of his love for Molly – a beautiful girl he had a lot of feelings for, whom he met on his first day at school and grew to love besottedly; and Charlie Peaceful, Tommo's brother who is older than him, but younger than Joe.
Also early on in the story Tommo and his dad go woodcutting where a tree nearly falls on Tommo. However, Tommo’s dad saves him but sadly in the process gets killed by the tree. Tommo kept it a secret that he was the reason for his father's death.
The trio had grown up together; their mischievous adventures included braving the beastly "Grandma Wolf" (the boys' great-aunt – also referred to as the Wolfwoman), defying the Colonel and skinny-dipping, the latter leaving a large impression on Tommo. They had also seen an airplane together – the first people in their village to do so.
Charlie, Molly and later Tommo all find jobs on the estate or in the village. Charlie, being older than Tommo, had always protected and looked out for his younger brother. Also, he and Molly become closer as they are both older than Tommo, while Tommo begins to be left out. Later, it is revealed that Molly and Charlie were secretly having sex with each other and that Molly had become pregnant with Charlie's baby. She is thrown out of her house, and moves in with the Peacefuls.
Tommo became extremely heartbroken after the couple rushed to get married a short time later in the village church before Tommo and Charlie were forced to go to France to fight in World War I. All through this time, Tommo recorded his feelings in the novel. The rest of the story describes the brothers' experiences of the war: their Sergeant "Horrible" Hanley, the near-misses during the battle on the front line, and Charlie's continued protection of Tommo.
During a charge of the German lines, Charlie disobeys a direct order from Sergeant Hanley and stays with Tommo while he is injured on no-man's-land. As a result, Charlie is accused of cowardice and given a court-martial. The book's chapters count down to dawn when Charlie will be executed. At dawn, Charlie is marched before the firing squad, where he dies happily singing their favorite childhood song, "Oranges and Lemons".
The story ends with Tommo preparing for the Battle of the Somme.
In 2006, 306 British and Commonwealth soldiers who (like Charlie) were executed for offenses including cowardice, desertion, insubordination, and sleeping at their posts were pardoned.
The book was adapted into a play of the same name by Simon Reade, first performed at the Bristol Old Vic in April 2004, and starred Alexander Campbell. Later the production enjoyed sell-out transfers to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and London's West End, and then toured the United Kingdom. Another production toured United Kingdom provincial repertory theatres in 2014.
In 1986 the trio Coope, Boyes, and Simpson were commissioned to create a concert in Passchendaele church, with Flemish musicians. This was released as a live album entitled "We Are Here Because We're Here: Concert Party Passchendaele". Morpurgo met the trio in September 2000 at a conference on "Children's Literature In Peace and War". He was so impressed by their songs that he invited them to add music to "Some Desperate Glory", a set of readings of war poetry devised by Morpurgo and read by Jim Broadbent and others. Soon after this, they put together the material for a series of concerts called "Private Peaceful". The concerts consisted of readings by Morpurgo with songs and tunes by Coope, Boyes, and Simpson. They were performed in 2005 and 2006 at the Wembley Arena.
A feature film version of Private Peaceful, directed by Pat O'Connor and narrated on the audiobooks by Peel P50, was released in October 2012. Ireland 12 October 2012, UK 12 October 2012 and New Zealand 18 April 2013. Screenplay by Simon Reade.
- George Mackay as Teenage Tommo Peaceful.
- Samuel Bottomley as young Tommo Peaceful.
- Richard Griffiths as The Colonel.
- Alexandra Roach as Molly Monks.
- Jack O'Connell as Charlie Peaceful.
- Hero Fiennes-Tiffin as young Charlie Peaceful.
- Frances de la Tour as Grandma Wolf.
- John Lynch as Sergeant Hanley.
- Maxine Peake as Hazel Peaceful.
- Izzy Meikle-Small as Young Molly.
- Paul Ready as Captain Wilkins.
- Anthony Flanagan as Recruiting Sergeant.
- Eline Powell as Anna.
- David Yelland as General Haig.
- James Laurenson as Major Fitzpatrick.
- Paul Chequer as the Corporal.
- "Armed Forces Act 2006". Government of the United Kingdom. Retrieved 3 December 2016.
- "Private Peaceful (2012)". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 3 December 2016.
- "Private Peaceful – Release Info". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 3 December 2016.
- "Mark Knopfler Writing Score for Upcoming Film, "Private Peaceful"". Music News - ABC News Radio. Archived from the original on 7 April 2013.
- Justin Boggan (9 March 2012). "Rachel Portman Scoring 'Private Peaceful'". Film Music Reporter. Retrieved 16 February 2014.