Dr Emma Login, University of Birmingham
When we think of First World War memorials, we may imagine great stone monuments such as the Cenotaph in London or Thiepval on the Somme, France. Yet, these structures frequently took many years to build, and for those with loved ones fighting overseas, and especially for the bereaved, a more immediate and localised response was necessary. As a result, communities constructed countless war memorial shrines in towns and villages throughout the United Kingdom. Read more…
Central Youth Theatre
Shot at Dawn- Lest we Forget is a Heritage Lottery funded project, by the Central Youth Theatre, that focuses on soldiers who were executed for desertion and “cowardice” during the First World War.
Nick Mansfield, Senior Research Fellow in History, University of Central Lancashire
Britain has embarked on a massive public history jamboree to commemorate the centenary of the First World War. Its overwhelming storyline is emotive, which I suspect that the citizen soldiers who I knew as a boy, particularly those rural representatives that I Interviewed in the 1980s, would have found distasteful .
Anna Young, Assistant Curator
Research & Cultural Collections, University of Birmingham
During the first week of spring term, Research and Cultural Collections welcomed students from the first cohort of the new English module, Remembering World War One. This module is set to run for the duration of the commemorative period and is designed to introduce students to the shock of the war – its historical, cultural and psychological enormity and incomprehensibility – as it was expressed by writers who experienced it and lived through its aftermath. Read more…
Prof Ian Grosvenor, University of Birmingham
Across Europe and beyond in 2014 the Great War took up residence in museums, art galleries and libraries, with exhibitions presenting the conflict through a national lens.
Exhibitions to be discussed here are Paris 14-18, la guerre au quotidien, a photographic exhibition at the Galerie des bibliothéques de la Ville de Paris, 1914-1918 Der Erste WeltKrieg at the Deutsches Historisches Museum in Berlin, and Life Interrupted: Personal Diaries from World War I at the State Library of New South Wales, Australia.
Ypres is a place that has seared itself into both the collective soul and the communal memory of the British people. An historic cloth town lying in the flat landscape of northern Flanders, it has come to symbolise the sacrifice of a generation of young men in the Great War. This metamorphosis of Ypres into a focal point of remembrance began in mid October 1914 when the area was overwhelmed by bloody fighting as the Germans strove to end the war quickly in a ‘race to the sea’. Their aim was to capture the Channel Ports and thus cut off the British Expeditionary Force from reinforcements and supplies from England.
Chloe Howard, University of Birmingham
As an undergraduate student at the University of Birmingham, I have been working with Historic Royal Palaces to assess people’s attitudes towards remembrance of the First World War and the importance of the centenary this year.
Standing against the backdrop of The Tower of London’s magnificent ‘Blood swept lands and seas of red’ poppy installation, I spent a week asking members of the public to fill in a postcard questionnaire. Read more…
Measuring the Impact, Legacy and Success of Anniversary Events
Dr Joanne Sayner
It is now expected that academics and museum professionals should reflect on the impact of work they have done. But how is such impact to be measured? How can we judge whether an event has been successful? This was the focus of a workshop recently held at Hampton Court Palace and attended by 81 delegates from a variety of institutions including those representing Government, academia, museums and heritage organisations, archives, and funding bodies. Read more…
Dr Sam Edwards, Manchester Metropolitan University
The commemorative events of August 2014 have at last initiated the long-anticipated season of remembrance connected to centennial of the First World War. The build-up of the preceding few months has finally given way to ceremony and solemn contemplation as Heads of State gather to lay wreaths of remembrance at sacred sites of memory: in Mons, at the Menin Gate, on the Marne. Seen from another perspective, however, the ceremonies taking place this August are not just a ‘beginning’; they also provide the closing parenthesis to a summer of memory which began on 6 June with the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings of 1944.
Birmingham’s Hall of Memory
Emma Login, PHD Student, Ironbridge International Institute for Cultural Heritage, University of Birmingham
The Hall of Memory has been an integral part of the Birmingham landscape for nearly 90 years. Originally surrounded by extensive memorial gardens and accompanied by an impressive colonnade, the Hall has clearly undergone multiple revisions since its construction. Yet, these changes are small scale compared to those undertaken throughout the memorial’s planning stages, as citizens debated exactly who and what should be remembered.
In Memory of Fred Andrews
Henrietta Lockhart, Birmingham Museums Trust
At Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery we have been preparing for an exhibition about Birmingham men who served in the Royal Warwickshire Regiment during the First World War. I had the opportunity to follow up some of these individuals during my recent trip to Northern France. Read more…
Dr John Carman, Ironbridge International Institute for Cultural Heritage,
University of Birmingham
This year we will choose to remember the outbreak of World War One and many will also recall the D-Day landings of June 1944 from World War Two, the one a century ago, the other seventy years. There are now no survivors in Britain of the land war of 1914 to 1918 and as time passes fewer who recall D-Day. Of the many who were not there but who will nevertheless remember these two events of the last century, including myself, we may wonder how many will recall other wars with similar dates.
A man at war: The diary of Corporal Walter Davis
My Great Grandfather was Corporal Walter Davis, otherwise known as Wallace. He was born in April 1892 in Aston, Birmingham, and grew up to become a mould maker, this is what I am myself now, I didn’t realise he was too until I had already become one myself, I guess I must have inherited his passion. He enlisted to the army on 8th September 1914 in Birmingham and began as a Lance Corporal with the 9th Battalion North Staffordshire Regiment. His number was No.11666. Read more…
“This was the man we knew”
Andrew Thornton, Birmingham City University
To mark the centenary of the First World War, many local research projects will be investigating the lives of individuals whose names are commemorated on war memorials in their area. Using a variety of sources, this research can be very rewarding and enables a fuller picture of the serviceman, or woman, to emerge. Here are some brief biographies of local servicemen from the West Midlands that demonstrate what can be found by using a variety of archival sources. These include reports in local newspapers, surviving service records, unit histories and war diaries held at The National Archives and regimental museums, and photographs.
Martin Killeen, Cadbury Research Library, University of Birmingham
Preceded only by the cover of The Southern Cross magazine, 1915/1916 is a composition by W.L. Sherwood, a Staff Sergeant at Edgbaston’s military hospital. Before the reader of this journal encounters the calm reassurance of the established conventions (portrait photography and prose), with 1915/1916 Sherwood has introduced a disquieting sense of ambiguity to produce a complex response to his themes of war, suffering, survival and death and to their Edgbaston campus setting.
Prof Stephen Badsey, Department of History, Politics and War Studies, University of Wolverhampton
Professional historians have had a long time to think and plan about the 100th anniversary commemorations of the First World War: almost a decade has passed since our first discussions. As a sub-branch of the war’s history, we have also studied the ways in which the war has been remembered and commemorated over the decades since it was fought in 1914-18.
Dr Joanne Sayner, University of Birmingham
As we approach the centenary of the First World War, it is appropriate that we consider what makes this commemoration so significant. In the context of large scale national plans and political support for the event, are we really remembering the ‘who’ and the ‘how’ or are we commemorating (or indeed celebrating) just because we can or because we feel that it is expected of us?
Dr Jonathan Boff, Centre for War Studies, University of Birmingham
The commemoration of the First World War remains contentious. In part, this is because the memory of the war itself remains contested. The popular view remains that of Blackadder’s war without the jokes, a futile tragedy of mud, blood, incompetence and poetry.