‘Away from the Western Front’ invites community choirs, musicians, singers and brass bands to perform its new First World War song ‘No Parades’

West Indians in the First World War (IWM Q 52423)

With ‘Pack Up Your Troubles’ and ‘It’s a Long Way to Tipperary’ we all know songs which grew out of the First World War. Now, Away from the Western Front, a National Lottery-funded project is adding a new song to the collection, but with a very different angle. Choirs, musicians, singers and brass bands are all invited to contribute performances of this new song to the First World War ‘Away from the Western Front’ project. ‘No Parades’, composed by Chris Hoban who has written for acclaimed folk band ‘Show of Hands’, has been inspired by the experience of West Indian men who fought in the First World War.

Two battalions of the British West Indies Regiment served in Palestine and Egypt, and at the end of the war they joined the rest of the Regiment in the Italian port of Taranto. After poor treatment by their British officers the soldiers mutinied, demanding equal pay and conditions to the white troops they had served beside for four years. The mutineers were punished and the Regiment disbanded, sent home under guard and barred from the victory parades. The song continues the story:

From the islands and mainland we came
To fight and to show our allegiance
But returned to our homelands in shame
While for some there’ll be honour and glory
The West Indian will have no parades

Musicians, community choirs and brass bands can join the project in two different ways. They can record their performances of ‘No Parades’ by using the score and lyrics provided or use the song and accompanying information on the ‘Away from the Western Front’ website to inspire their own compositions and submit those. The project will produce a CD of the best performances, as well as promoting the performances through the website and social media.

The song has been written in several formats including mixed choir, solo voice with piano, male voice choir and brass band, and also has a version in the style of ‘Mento’, a forerunner of Calypso and Reggae. It forms the centrepiece of an exciting national music project which aims to highlight the often overlooked history of the wider First World War.

Robin Clutterbuck, the project’s National Coordinator said: “Colonial troops played a very big part in the campaigns away from the Western Front, in Egypt, Palestine, Syria, Mesopotamia (modern Iraq), East Africa and the Balkans. The experience of West Indian men was similar to that of Indians and black Africans, and for some led to feelings of anger and disappointment after the war due to the way they were treated once their assistance was no longer required”.

The music project is part of the major national ‘Away from the Western Front’ project, which aims to increase understanding of what made the conflict into a World War. Local and regional partners in Devon, Lancashire, Berkshire, Sussex and London are studying different aspects of the wider war. Local museums and National Trust properties in these areas are working with community groups, youth groups and schools with funding from the HLF grant to research the lives and stories of those who served in these far away campaigns. Those stories are being brought to life through engaging creative outputs, drama, film, art and music, specifically designed to raise public awareness of the First World War away from the Western Front.

For more information about how to participate in this exciting project and to listen to our demo of the song please visit https://awayfromthewesternfront.org/projects/national-music-project/ or contact info@awayfromthewesternfront.org

Event review: The Sherwood Foresters in Dublin, Easter Week 1916

Event review: The Sherwood Foresters in Dublin, Easter Week 1916

Captain Christian “Freddie” Dietrichsen

The Sherwood Foresters in Dublin, Easter Week 1916

Nottingham Lakeside 7 October 2017

The Centre for Hidden Histories has provided financial support for a public engagement partnership examining the Easter Rising in Dublin in 1916 and, in particular, the role of the 7th and 8th Reserve Battalion Sherwood Foresters. The battalion was mainly made up of young working-class men from Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire.

The subject has been researched in some detail by Professor James Moran of the University of Nottingham’s School of English, and he has also forged the public engagement programme with Hall Park Academy, Eastwood. Jim Moran has worked on the project with Professor Fintan Cullen of the University’s Department of History of Art. Fintan is from Dublin.

The Sherwood Foresters who were sent to Dublin had little idea of what they were walking into, and the battalion suffered the greatest casualties of all the British regiments involved in the insurrection. The soldiers were also made to participate in the firing squads that executed the rebel leaders. Jim and Fintan have researched the story of what happened both during Easter week and immediately afterwards when they were moved to Galway. They used archival material to explore how, at the time of the rebellion, the Sherwood Foresters believed that they would be remembered.

Much of the research was embedded in a specially devised performance at Lakeside by year 10 students from Hall Park Academy in Eastwood. The intention was to recover the voices of the soldiers from Nottinghamshire, and the play used the words of the soldiers, their opponents, and Eastwood’s most celebrated son D.H. Lawrence who, the audience was reminded, was not a conscientious objector but was found (on three occasions) to be unfit to serve on the front line.

Jim Moran introduced the play, in order to set the scene for the performance. The Second Battalion of the Notts and Derbyshire Regiment, better known as the ‘Sherwood Foresters’, were the last of the 1914-1918 war volunteers. They went to war to defeat the Germans but soon found themselves in combat on the streets of Dublin. The Foresters arrived in the Irish capital on 26 April 1916. They marched from Kingstown port (now Dun Laoghaire) into the city. The battalion was divided into two. Two thousand troops were sent into the city along the tree-lined Northumberland Road, cheered on by many of the citizens of Dublin – although some of the soldiers appear to have thought they were in France and were surprised to be greeted by cheering crowds speaking in English rather than French!

Far from having an easy ride against what they had been assured was an ill-disciplined and poorly trained rebel force, they found themselves up against well organised fighters, and within hours of their arrival more than 220 Foresters had been killed or wounded by just 17 men of the Irish Volunteers.

The Foresters had received just 12 weeks training, and they were ill-prepared for combat; indeed, some of the men had not even learned to fire a rifle. Their machine guns and hand grenades had been left on the dockside in Liverpool. The British military leaders believed that a show of force would be enough to end the uprising. It was a serious miscalculation.

The letter to Capt. Dietrichsen from his children

One of the officers leading the men was Nottingham barrister Christian “Freddie” Dietrichsen, a Captain in the regiment. Before the war, Dietrichsen – who was of Danish extraction, hence the surname – had married an Irish women, Beatrice Mitchell. They settled in Nottingham’s Park estate but with the outbreak of the war Freddie, fearing the possible impact of Zeppelin raids, sent his wife and children to Watford. Unbeknown to Freddie, Beatrice decided this was still too close to the action, and moved with her children to Dublin. They were among the crowd waving flags on Northumberland Avenue when Freddie marched past. He was surprised, because he thought they were in Watford, and they were surprised because they thought he was in France. The march into Dublin stopped briefly for Freddie to kiss his wife and children before carrying on. Shortly afterwards he was killed by a sniper’s bullet. In his jacket pocket were letters to him from his children, and a letter he had written but not sent, to his wife.

All of this was recounted in the Hall Park Academy’s performance at Lakeside, together with appropriate quotations from Lawrence. For the pupils, this was their first opportunity to perform on a public stage, for the parents it was an opportunity to be proud of their offspring, and for the Centre for Hidden Histories and Jim Moran it was an opportunity to find out more about a First World War event which the British army chose (presumably from embarrassment at having underestimated the Irish rebels) to play down. But, first and foremost, congratulations to the pupils of Hall Park Academy.

Black History Month Event: Dr Andy Davies, Writing on the Wall and Mapping the 1919 Race Riots in Liverpool

 

On 13th September 2017, I had the opportunity to visit Dr Andy Davies and Madeline Heneghan, from Liverpool based community organisation, Writing on the Wall to discuss their Centre for Hidden Histories funded project on the 1919 race riots.  Andy, Madeline and their group of volunteers have undertaken a detailed spatial mapping project of the events and locations of individuals affected by the postwar riots.

This mapping has been achieved through researching a recently donated archive which includes a collection of documents pertaining to the plight of black servicemen, seafarers and workers in Liverpool in 1919.  Based on this archive, the group have created a map of the events of the 1919 race riots using an ArcGIS software package available at the University of Liverpool. Volunteers on the 1919 race riots project include individuals who are local to Liverpool, some of whom have have participated in previous Writing on the Wall initiatives. Others are Geography students from the University of Liverpool.  Of the unique inter-generational dynamic that characterises this group, Madeline commented, “it’s a really nice group. Previous participants in Writing on the Wall projects have knowledge about the archive and the period.  The younger students were enthusiastic about discovering the archive material for the first time and brought their technical skills to bear on the project.” For Andy, whose research seeks to understand how Liverpool can be understood as a postcolonial city, this sense of co-production is central to his ethos as a researcher: “One of the things that I want my academic research to be is something that is not just me sat in a university writing stuff… It’s not like we’re the leaders of the research. A lot of the time people come up with ideas among themselves.” 

Once completed the map will be posted on the ‘From Great War to Race Riots’ website.   However, members of the public can experience the group’s research findings as part of a special event which is being held to coincide with Black History Month 2017. On 22 October, Andy, Madeline and the team will be leading  a walking tour through the city of Liverpool which will explore the history and urban geography of the 1919 race riots.  The event will end with a public lecture by David Olusoga, author of Black and British: A Forgotten History (2016).  For full details of this event and to book tickets, please follow this eventbrite link.

Andy hopes that this project will act as a springboard for future research networks and projects which will consider the global impacts of the 1919 race riots.

Impact: Professor Nigel Hunt, Adrian Farmer and the ‘Belper in Wartime’ Project

Exhibition on Belper’s FWW VC hero, Charles Stone. This included information on his struggles to settle after the war (Feb’ 2017).

At the Centre for Hidden Histories led Discovery Day in Leicester (4 September 2017), I was fortunate to catch-up with Associate Professor Nigel Hunt about the ‘Belper in Wartime’ project.  This project arose from a Centre for Hidden Histories event in Chesterfield. Nigel met Adrian Farmer, a representative of Belper’s World War One Working Group.  At the start of the Centenary, this group had won a Heritage Lottery Fund grant to research the individuals listed on the Belper War Memorial and produce a community history book about ‘Belper in Wartime’. Nigel suggested that as a follow-on project, the Belper Working Group should collaborate with the Centre for Hidden Histories and research life in Belper after the First World War.   A key research question would be to consider how men returning from the trenches adapted or struggled to reintegrate into postwar Belper community life. Newspapers have been a key source of information for this project as has witness testimony recorded from descendants.

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Impact: Lofthouse Park Revisited: Locals and Aliens during World War One

On 10th September 2017, the ‘In the Wrong Place, at the Wrong Time’ team held a free heritage open day for the public at Lofthouse Gate Working Men’s Club. The purpose of the day was to explore the hidden history of Lofthouse Park, one of Britain’s internment camps during the First World War. Now comprising a combination of housing estates, car parks and convenience stores, the site of Lofhouse Park is virtually unrecognisable from its World War One era incarnation. Dr Claudia Sternberg and David Stowe organised the day to provide descendants, local people and World War One history enthusiasts with the opportunity to engage with this difficult and often forgotten history.

David Stowe led a guided tour of the sites that would have comprised the former Lofthouse Park Internment camp where Germans, Turks and Austro-Hungarians, including many Jews were interned during the war. Participants in the tour were introduced to the testimony of Paul Cohen Portheim. They were also shown the sites of South Camp, North Camp and West Camp and told about the organisation of the institution, particularly the daily routine of its prisoners, many of whom were from the social elite of early nineteenth century, Anglo-German, German and European society. There is currently no commemorative plaque to mark the camp, but Claudia, Dave and illustrator Louise Atkinson have put together a map of Lofthouse Park to encourage members of the public to engage with its First World War history.

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