My First Job: Michael Morpurgo, recent Children's Laureate, recalls his days as a soldier

Michael Morpurgo, children's author, was an officer-cadet at Sandhurst.

"I should have been a Field Marshal by now!" he laughs. Instead, he is the author of 107 books and, in May, finished his two-years as Children's Laureate. It is not other ranks, but ranks of children, that he will be addressing next week at the Unicorn Theatre in London and at Glamorgan University's GlamLit festival.

The nearest he gets to military matters these days is the touring play adapted by Bristol Old Vic and Scamp from his story Private Peaceful. At the Ashcroft Arts Centre, Fareham, this week, it tells of unjust executions in the First World War. But, as a teenager, Morpurgo liked marching in the corps of King's School, Canterbury.

Since he was "a frightfully good chap" and not gifted intellectually, he agreed with his stepfather and mother that the army would be just the thing. In 1962 he left school and went to Sandhurst. It was an invaluable experience. He was mixing with people from very different worlds: the more deprived parts of Glasgow, for example. Instead of today's bullying, he found the army a place of camaraderie and support.

Yet, within 24 hours, it hit him: "I knew that I did not want to spend my life playing at war." Soldiering was no longer a clear-cut matter of fighting evil Nazis. He married at 19, and his wife, the daughter of the Penguin founder Sir Allen Lane, also thought that the army was not the way to spend one's life. Halfway through the two-year course he decided to beat a strategic retreat from Sandhurst.

"I told my company commander of my decision and had to go before a board of five or six officers who did their best to persuade me to stay. I found it very painful." Yet he had made up his mind. Instantly the exit procedure was activated. He felt as if banished from a family.

He went to university and became a teacher and, at 30, a children's writer. Oddly enough, he believes that for him the army was a safe option, a move from one structured environment (public school) to another. If he had been braver, he might have followed his parents onto the stage. "I'd probably have been a playwright - Shakespeare! - by now," he laughs.

Michael Morpurgo is appearing on Monday at the new Unicorn Theatre, London SE1, and on Wednesday at the GlamLit Festival, University of Glamorgan (details on 0870 990 1299)

jonty@jonathansale.com

News
i100
Life and Style
Cooked up: reducing dietary animal fat might not be as healthy as government advice has led millions of people to believe
healthA look at how governments started advising incorrectly on diets
Sport
Neil Warnock
football'New' manager for Crystal Palace
News
REX/Eye Candy
science
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Voices
voices
Sport
Roger Federer is greeted by Michael Jordan following his victory over Marinko Matosevic
tennisRoger Federer gets Michael Jordan's applause following tweener shot in win over Marinko Matosevic
News
peopleJustin Bieber accuses paparazzi of acting 'recklessly' after car crash
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Oppressive atmosphere: the cast of 'Tyrant'
tvIntroducing Tyrant, one of the most hotly anticipated dramas of the year
Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

IT Teacher September strt with view to permanent post

£110 - £130 per day + Competitive rates of pay: Randstad Education Reading: IT...

Qualified Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Crawley: This independent Nursery is looking fo...

Qualified Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Crawley: This independent Nursery is looking fo...

Accountacy Tutor

£100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Bristol: Randstad Education is looking...

Day In a Page

Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

The science of herding is cracked

Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

This tyrant doesn’t rule

It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?
Rachael Lander interview: From strung out to playing strings

From strung out to playing strings

Award-winning cellist Rachael Lander’s career was almost destroyed by the alcohol she drank to fight stage fright. Now she’s playing with Elbow and Ellie Goulding
The science of saturated fat: A big fat surprise about nutrition?

A big fat surprise about nutrition?

The science linking saturated fats to heart disease and other health issues has never been sound. Nina Teicholz looks at how governments started advising incorrectly on diets
Emmys 2014 review: Can they genuinely compete with the Oscars

Can they genuinely compete with the Oscars?

The recent Emmy Awards are certainly glamorous, but they can't beat their movie cousins
On the road to nowhere: A Routemaster trip to remember

On the road to nowhere

A Routemaster trip to remember
Hotel India: Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace leaves its darker days behind

Hotel India

Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace leaves its darker days behind
10 best pencil cases

Back to school: 10 best pencil cases

Whether it’s their first day at school, uni or a new project, treat the student in your life to some smart stationery
Arsenal vs Besiktas Champions League qualifier: Gunners know battle with Turks is a season-defining fixture

Arsenal know battle with Besiktas is a season-defining fixture

Arsene Wenger admits his below-strength side will have to improve on last week’s show to pass tough test
Pete Jenson: Athletic Bilbao’s locals-only transfer policy shows success does not need to be bought

Pete Jenson: A Different League

Athletic Bilbao’s locals-only transfer policy shows success does not need to be bought
This guitar riff has been voted greatest of all time

The Greatest Guitar Riff of all time

Whole Lotta Votes from Radio 2 listeners
Britain’s superstar ballerina

Britain’s superstar ballerina

Alicia Markova danced... every night of the week and twice on Saturdays
Berlin's Furrie invasion

Berlin's Furrie invasion

2000 fans attended Eurofeurence
‘It was a tidal wave of terror’

‘It was a tidal wave of terror’

Driven to the edge by postpartum psychosis