BRI­TAIN RE­MEM­BERS WW1... RE­VIS­ITED

It’s now a year since the First World War Cen­te­nary, Jon Bauck­ham looks at how projects across the UK have been pay­ing trib­ute to the fallen

Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine - - CONTENTS -

We look at how peo­ple have been pay­ing trib­ute to the Great War fallen

Over the past 15 months, peo­ple across Bri­tain have been gath­er­ing to mark the cen­te­nary of the First World War. Be­tween Au­gust and Novem­ber 2014 alone, more than five mil­lion of us vis­ited the cap­i­tal to catch a glimpse of the art in­stal­la­tion Blood Swept Lands and Seas of

Red,d which fea­tured 888,246 ce­ramic pop­pies fill­ing the moat of the Tower of Lon­don – each rep­re­sent­ing a fallen Bri­tish or Com­mon­wealth ser­vice­man.

While this may well come to be the en­dur­ing im­age of the First World War cen­te­nary, it is im­por­tant to draw at­ten­tion to the di­verse ar­ray of re­search projects that have been tak­ing place na­tion­wide. From classes of school­child­ren, to mu­seum cu­ra­tors, peo­ple in nearly ev­ery city, town or vil­lage in Bri­tain have been de­vot­ing their time to un­earthing in­cred­i­ble sto­ries from the past.

Many of the projects have re­ceived help from the Her­itage Lot­tery Fund (HLF), which has been sup­ply­ing grants of be­tween £ 3,000 and £10,000 through its ‘First World War: Then and Now’ pro­gramme since 2013. In July this year, it was an­nounced that the scheme was to re­ceive an ad­di­tional boost, with UK Cul­ture Sec­re­tary John Whit­ting­dale con­firm­ing that the HLF would be set­ting aside a fur­ther £ 4 mil­lion for new ap­pli­ca­tions in 2015-16 alone.

Whether in re­ceipt of HLF fund­ing or not, a large num­ber of First World War

re­search projects have been recorded on

Who Do You Think You Are? Mag­a­zine’s Bri­tain Re­mem­bers map.

Launched on­line in Fe­bru­ary 2014, this in­ter­ac­tive re­source, which can be ac­cessed for free by vis­it­ing whodoy­ou­thinkyou aremagazine.com/bri­tain- re­mem­bers, has en­abled vol­un­teers to ‘pin’ their pro­ject onto a vir­tual map of the Bri­tish Isles, with space to in­clude a de­scrip­tion, along with pho­to­graphs and con­tact in­for­ma­tion.

At the time of go­ing to press, more than 170 pins have been added to our Bri­tain Re­mem­bers map, with dif­fer­ent-coloured mark­ers rep­re­sent­ing projects un­der­taken by groups, ar­chives and in­di­vid­u­als. New pins are be­ing added ev­ery week, but how have the first projects to be shared on the map fared over the past year?

Pro­ject suc­cess

One of the first pins to be added to the Bri­tain Re­mem­bers map rep­re­sents a pro­ject en­ti­tled Tell Them of Us, which is the work of Lin­coln-based com­mu­nity film-mak­ing group WAG Screen ( wagscreen.co.uk). Al­though most of the pins on the map rep­re­sent web­sites, events or ex­hi­bi­tions, this am­bi­tious First World War Cen­te­nary pro­ject has seen the cre­ation of a fea­ture-length drama telling the true story of how peo­ple in the Lin­colnshire vil­lage of Thim­bleby were af­fected byb the con­flict.

The film was still in pro­duc­tion when it was rec­corded on Bri­tain Re­mem­bers. How­ever,ow­ever Tell

Them of Us has since been screened in Lin­coln, and is now avail­able to pur­chase on DVD. On Christ­mas Eve, res­i­dents of north and north-east Lin­colnshire will also get a chance to see the film when it is broad­cast on re­gional tele­vi­sion chan­nel Es­tu­ary TV – avail­able in ap­prox­i­mately 140,000 homes.

Pauline Loven, pro­ducer, cos­tu­mier and a found­ing mem­ber of WAG Screen, says

Tell Them of Us has re­ceived “con­sis­tently

lov vely re­views” since it wasw un­veiled.

“We have heard of in­di­vid­u­alsi who were pro­found­lyp af­fected when view­ingv the film,” she tells Who Do You Think You Are?A Mag­a­zine.

“It hap­pened once wwhen I was at a screen­ing – a woman was weep­ing and shakking af­ter view­ing the film aas it ac­tu­ally trig­gered her own mmem­o­ries of the Se­cond World Waar and how her fam­ily had re­acted af­ter thet death of a loved one.” WAG Screen has also just wrapped film­ing on a doc­u­men­tary that tells the story of Wil­liam Crow­der, one of the main char­ac­ters fea­tured in Tell Them of Us.

While the film mainly fo­cused on the story of his brother Robert, who was killed at Pass­chen­daele, the group felt that Wil­liam’s wartime ex­pe­ri­ences de­served to be shared in more de­tail – es­pe­cially the cir­cum­stances that led to him re­ceiv­ing a Dis­tin­guished Ser­vice Or­der. Made pos­si­ble through DVD sales of

Tell Them of Us, pri­vate do­na­tions in­clud­ing from the fam­ily and money raised through the crowd­fund­ing web­site Kick­starter, around 150 ded­i­cated vol­un­teers have been in­volved in the new pro­ject, which is sim­ply en­ti­tled Wil­liam’s Story.

“The Crow­ders were keen for us to con­tinue and so the ex­tended fam­ily have come to­gether to part-fi­nance the fol­low-up drama doc­u­men­tary on Wil­liam based on his mem­oirs, in­ter­views and other ma­te­rial,” Pauline adds. “We are too late for oral his­to­ries and the war is now be­yond our reach, but its echoes are with us and we should take the time to lis­ten.”

An­other ‘pin’ that has made sig­nif­i­cant progress since the start of the First World War Cen­te­nary is the Sum­mer­down Camp Pro­ject in East­bourne ( bit.ly/1FO7rm4), which fea­tured in a Who Do You Think You

Are? Mag­a­zine ar­ti­cle about the launch of Bri­tain Re­mem­bers in 2014.

At the time, the pro­ject in­tended to un­cover the his­tory of the mil­i­tary con­va­les­cent camp, in­clud­ing both sol­diers and mem­bers of the Women’s Aux­il­iary Army Corps ( WAAC) who worked there.

East­bourne Bor­ough Coun­cil Her­itage Of­fi­cer Kather­ine Buck­land is pleased to re­port that the pro­ject had al­ready been a “huge suc­cess” thanks to its vol­un­teers. “We opened an ex­hi­bi­tion based on our find­ings in March and now more than 20,000 vis­i­tors have ex­plored the sto­ries of the camp and

dis­cov­ered the tragic tales of sol­diers re­cov­er­ing from the hor­rific re­al­i­ties of war,” ex­plains Kather­ine. “We now also have an al­most-com­plete set of the Sum­mer­down

Camp Jour­nals, a weekly news­pa­per that was pub­lished at the camp.

“Our heroic vol­un­teers have cat­a­logued and in­dexed each of th­ese doc­u­ments, so we now have – for the first time – a com­pre­hen­sive list of sol­diers who were ei­ther re­cov­er­ing or work­ing at the camp, as well as a bet­ter idea of how the pres­ence of 150,000 sol­diers af­fected East­bourne.”

Look­ing ahead to the fu­ture

With three years of the First World War Cen­te­nary still to come, many pro­ject par­tic­i­pants are look­ing to the fu­ture and em­bark­ing upon new ini­tia­tives al­to­gether. The next 12 months are par­tic­u­larly im­por­tant due to the fact that 2016 marks sev­eral key an­niver­saries that fall within the wider cen­te­nary – per­haps the most sig­nif­i­cant be­ing 100 years since the dev­as­tat­ing Bat­tle of the Somme.

At an in­ter­na­tional level, the Somme com­mem­o­ra­tions will be­gin with a ser­vice at France’s Thiep­val Me­mo­rial on 1 July 2016, which is ex­pected to be at­tended by 10,000 peo­ple. Al­though the event will be screened across the UK, mem­bers of the pub­lic can en­ter a bal­lot for free tick­ets by reg­is­ter­ing their de­tails on­line at somme2016.com be­fore 18 Novem­ber 2015.

The an­niver­sary will also be marked by the Royal Welch Fusiliers Mu­seum at Caernar­fon Cas­tle ( rwf­mu­seum.org.uk), which ini­tially added a pin to the Bri­tain Re­mem­bers map to pro­mote its World War

One Facess cam­paign – a pro­ject that has in­volved track­ing down pic­tures of the 10,400 men from the Royal Welch Fusiliers who lost their lives dur­ing the con­flict as a whole. Al­though this is on­go­ing (around 2,000 pho­to­graphs have been found so far), the mu­seum is now also think­ing of ways it can com­mem­o­rate the Bat­tle of Mametz Wood, a deadly episode of the Somme that ac­counted for an alarm­ing num­ber of the reg­i­ment’s to­tal ca­su­al­ties.

“We are work­ing in part­ner­ship with the Na­tional Mu­seum of Wales, which will be hold­ing an ex­hi­bi­tion in Cardiff about Mametz and will be loan­ing arte­facts from us to put on show there,” Mu­seum De­vel­op­ment Of­fi­cer Shirley Wil­liams tells us. “Al­though dates are not yet con­firmed, we are also plan­ning a two-day event here in Caernar­fon with re-en­ac­tors from the Great War So­ci­ety to com­mem­o­rate the oc­ca­sion.”

How­ever, the fact that the First World War Cen­te­nary is far from over means that there is also plenty of time to add your own pro­ject to the Bri­tain Re­mem­bers map, which will be open to new sub­mis­sions un­til 2018. Whether you rep­re­sent a lo­cal ar­chive or fam­ily his­tory so­ci­ety, each pro­ject is equally de­serv­ing of wider recog­ni­tion.

But the map is also in­tended to be a re­search tool it­self – find­ing out what oth­ers are get­ting up to near you or in the town your an­ces­tors hailed from may pave the way for fu­ture fam­ily his­tory dis­cov­er­ies.

As demon­strated by th­ese fas­ci­nat­ing projects, the power of col­lab­o­ra­tion is not to be un­der­es­ti­mated.

Start ex­plor­ing and adding to the map now at whodoy­ou­thinky­ouaremagazine. com/bri­tain- re­mem­bers.

The war is now be­yond our reach, but its echoes are with us and we should lis­ten

Who Do You Think You Are?

WAAC cook Nel­lie Amor’s story fea­tures in the Sum­mer­down

Camp Pro­ject

The cast and crew of Wil­liam’s Story, fol­low-up doc­u­men­tary to Tell Them of Us

the

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