From to Boudicca to the Battle of Britain, the stories of English history are an integral part of English national identity. But if you had to pick the best one which would it be?
That was the challenge laid down by the Little, Brown Book Group and the Historical Association to 5,000 secondary schools around the country.
Inspired by historian Robert Lacey's Great Tales from English History, they asked school children from years 10 - 13 to write their own great tale.
Emily Roberts from Plymouth won the competition for year 10 and 11 pupils for her tale about suffragette Emily Davison.
Steven Wenham and Charlotte Houlgate split the prize for years 12 and 13.
A Suffragette to Beat All Others by Emily Roberts
Emily Davison woke early on the morning of June 4th 1913; she smiled as her eyes adjusted to the bright sunlight shining through the threadbare curtains.
She paused to listen to the shrill dawn chorus that had tormented her mornings ever since she could remember.
It suddenly sprung to Emily’s mind that this could be the last time she heard that noise, although it was a sound she could quite happily live without!
Before she could become too emotional and loose her nerve, Emily changed her train of thought, after all today was the day she was going to complete what was going to be one of the most influential acts of defiance in the votes for women campaign yet.
Easing herself slowly out of bed Emily felt the usual twinge of pain in the bottom of her back that had been present ever since she threw herself down the iron staircase at Holloway prison.
Cursing, Emily gritted her teeth and went about getting herself ready for the Derby at Epsom Racecourse. She knew that all pain must be endured for the good of the cause.
On her way to the station Emily found herself starting to think of her motives for going to the races that day. Whatever the outcome, whether she lived or died, whether she walked away or was arrested on the spot, Emily felt certain that the press would report the event in such a way that the Government would quite happily give suffrage to women.
As she approached the ticket booth, Emily saw that there was a train leaving in just fifteen minutes, if she joined the shorter queue for a return ticket she could make it on time. Hurriedly purchasing her ticket, Emily ran to platform nine and arrived at her seat as the conductor blew his whistle.
When the ticket collector came to take her ticket she noticed that he paused for a second longer than usual to study the ticket and take into account Emily’s suffragette uniform. After satisfying himself that Emily was not going to cause any trouble the conductor continued on his journey leaving Emily in peace.
Soon the rhythmical hum of the train sent Emily into an unwelcome sleep, and she dreamed of times when she was being force fed in prison. She could still fell the sweaty hands of the doctor as he pushed the tube into her nose. However hard she tried Emily could not escape, only the slowing of the train woke her.
Collecting her things Emily made her way to the racecourse and was faced with a crowd of over a thousand people. Positioning herself on the last corner of the track Emily heard the pistol that signified the start of the Derby. Her heart was pounding as the sound of galloping hooves got closer and closer.
She wasn’t nervous just determined to do what was right. Clutching her suffragette flag and looking at the birds in the sky one last time, Emily took a deep breath and leaped in front of the king’s horse.
She felt nothing as the sheer force of the horse knocked her to the side of the track. As she was falling, the screams of shocked spectators came to her ears and she could distinguish the smell of mud, blood and sweat all mingled in one.
Her terrifying journey came to a halt when her head hit the floor with a sickening thud and everything went black.
Over the next few days, Emily tried to wake up but she could not move. Her subconscious mind played tricks on her, mixing new and old memories making it hard for her to think. On the fourth day, Emily felt a sudden lurch in her chest and she sensed she was near the end, so she prayed.
She prayed that one day the government would see sense and give women the vote. Emily also prayed that she would never be forgotten and someone, one day would tell her tale.
She was not scared in her final moments because she was Emily Wilding Davison, an activist for women’s suffrage and proud to be a martyr for the cause.
Our Finest Hour by Charlotte Houlgate
Of course, I cannot truly comprehend the multitude of emotions and testing of his ability my grandfather went through the day of 15th September 1940.
The day that ironically diminished Germany’s hopes of invading Britain and altered the course of the war significantly, what came to be known as ‘The Battle of Britain Day’.
My grandfather’s eyes would glaze over as he recounted to my eager brothers and I of the Luftwaffe’s underestimation of the British ‘Few’, who had been rested and recuperated as a result of Vice Marshal Douglas’ prodigious Big Wing idea.
His account was so intense I felt I became him; that I could see the patchwork quilt below and the bright white sun of the clear morning piercing the windscreen of my Hurricane which along with the rest of 12 Group situated at Debden was contributing in taking the Luftwaffe by surprise, despite their overwhelming numbers.
I feel the anxiety yet excitement of being involved in such a battle, today may be my last and there is an underlying knot of tension and fear tightening in my stomach, but nonetheless I am also optimistic.
Arranged in the famous finger-four structure I silently await instructions from my squadron leader, emotions and thoughts rushing through my head. Endless battles, terrifying near-death experiences and tragedies of my fellow pilots have made me a callous, independent man.
The blood coursing through my veins is cold and I have been tested emotionally and physically to such an extreme my body is drained and exhausted. The eerie silence is sharply interrupted by information that the attackers are here. I stop thinking about the past and focus solely on the present, the knot of tension gone and replaced by adrenaline as a Dornier comes into view. I tail it, concentrating on annihilating this symbol of Germany and with it, Germany itself.
I hadn’t realised I was so uncomfortable in the cockpit, my seat too high to focus on the circle and dot reflecting in my eyes and so stuffy in the thick uniform that by the time I had steadied my Hurricane and gathered the strength to push the button I had become completely distracted from other events.
The Dornier I had aimed for had now spiralled to the ground engulfed in flames but before I knew it my fighter was mirroring it. It tumbled noisily out of control, the unbearably hot flames flying back into the cockpit, and I was now choking from the thick smoke, the flames searing my uniform, burning my skin.
I fumbled for my parachute. I tugged and tugged but I couldn’t concentrate, feeling the unendurable heat melting my skin away like candle wax liquidising as the wick burns deeper. The only thought now in my head was out! My eyes forced shut, I grasped at the side of the cockpit, feeling desperately for the door. The chaos of the situation juxtaposed cruelly with another thought: I was alone. Was I to be just another patriotic yet lonely soldier to die in this war, or was I to come out alive?
At that precise moment I realised I had found the door and I knew as I somehow opened it and hurled myself out with all my might into the cool morning air that my destiny was to live. Falling at an alarmingly fast rate through the air, it must have been a miracle that I managed to open my parachute and was later saved as I quickly lost consciousness and hurtled like a lost soul from the sky.
Others weren’t so lucky. 13 British pilots lost their lives that day but the Germans lost even more. However I cannot help but feel proud that as a result Hitler withdrew ‘Operation Sealion’; a plan to invade Britain, brutally realising they did not have the air supremacy needed to transport supplies across.
The day famously changed the course of the war, a British victory making Churchill’s words even more poignant: ‘Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years men will still say: ‘This was their finest hour.’