Eleven Eleven

Written by Paul Dowswell
Review by Elizabeth Hawksley

November 11th, 1918, the last day of World War I. It is still night, and three young soldiers are on their way to the Western Front: a young German, Axel; a young American air pilot, Eddie, whose family emigrated from Germany; and sixteen-year-old Will Franklin from England. Before the day is out, they will meet. None of them knows that a peace treaty is being hammered out.

Axel is on a train. He doesn’t want to go to war, but the German High Command has called up all sixteen-year-olds. He can’t understand why their soldiers look so exhausted and half-starved; the Germans are winning the war, aren’t they?

Will is cold, wet, hungry and terrified; they are marching towards the battle-line. His brother Jim is Platoon Sergeant but Will knows he can’t expect any preferential treatment.

Eddie prides himself on his skills as a pilot. He’s had four ‘kills’ so far. He needs five to call himself an ace. Even though he hears that there will be no flying that day, he’s determined to go up for one last time.

When the news comes through that war will cease at 11 am, not every one stops. Jim and Will are on a spying mission, and the order cancelling it doesn’t reach them, and Axel takes a last shot at the American plane flying towards them. Will the three young men still be alive at the end of the day?

Paul Dowswell knows his stuff. What comes across is the soldiers’ utter exhaustion after four years of war. Everything is in short supply, food especially. War is not glorious deeds of derring-do; it’s a grim struggle for survival. Eleven Eleven will appeal to boys of 12 plus who want to know what life on the Western Front was really like. Recommended.