Shell Shock Stories & Beyond: Are you a Community Researcher Engaging with Trauma Narratives as part of your First World War Centenary Project?

‘Shell Shock’: image from ‘The Fourth’: the magazine of the 4th London General Hospital, RAMC (T.F.), January 1917 (Wellcome Images available on Wikimedia Commons).

Professor Nigel Hunt and Dr Larissa Allwork at the University of Nottingham have been awarded AHRC funding to explore the extent to which the psychological condition of trauma has been integrated into community engagement with the First World War centenary. Trauma here is being incorporated broadly to encompass a range of responses to the 1914-1918 conflict. From shell shocked soldiers recovering in specialist hospitals to cases of ‘barbed wire disease’ in ‘enemy alien’ internment camps; and from post-1918 literary and poetic representations of trauma to the contemporary family historian dealing with issues of transferential trauma in the archive. As part of their project, Nigel and Larissa want to get in touch with any Heritage Lottery Funded and/or AHRC First World War Engagement Centre community history projects that are engaging with narratives of trauma as part of their research.

Over the course of the centenary, community partners have expressed an interest in examining the human impact of the war and have looked to the First World War Engagement Centres to support them in doing so. Several participants in engagement activities have remarked that any understanding of the events of the war is inadequate without comprehending its traumatic effects. The difference between historical and contemporary perspectives on mental and emotional trauma presents a challenge to community researchers as it requires an understanding of how such trauma was regarded, described and recorded in historical records. An additional challenge is presented by the emotional impact on the researcher who examines potentially disturbing and upsetting material. This challenge is often felt more keenly by researchers who investigate people with whom they have a direct connection, such as members of their family or community.

Nigel and Larissa’s project is intended to equip community partners from across the First World War Engagement Centres with the skills and support to meet these challenges and to ensure that this crucial perspective on First World War history is not omitted from the programme. As part of their project, Nigel and Larissa will be holding a series of public workshops across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland for community groups on the topic of war trauma, with specific reference to the First World War and its aftermath.

Nigel and Larissa are keen to get in contact with any Heritage Lottery Funded and/or AHRC First World War Engagement Centre community history projects that are engaging with issues of trauma as part of their research. This means that Nigel and Larissa are interested in community history projects that might include topics such as:

  • Autobiographical narratives by soldiers on the front line who suffered from shell shock.
  • Autobiographical narratives by civilians who suffered from shell shock.
  • Observations on shell shock by First World War era doctors, psychiatrists and psychologists.
  • Observations on shell shock in First World War era local and national newspapers.
  • Observations on reintegrating traumatised veterans into communities, both during and after WWI.
  • Literary representations of shell shock (eg. Rebecca West, Pat Barker etc.)
  • Poetic representations of shell shock (eg. Siegfried Sassoon, Wilfred Owen etc.)
  • Documentary film or television representations of shell shock (eg. ‘War Neuroses’ etc.)
  • Dramatic film or television representations of shell shock (eg. ‘King and Country’ etc.)
  • Encounters with trauma narratives through family history research (eg. discovered a relative with shell shock).
  • Encounters with ‘Barbed Wire’ disease as a result of research into the British ‘enemy alien’ internment camps.
  • Encounters with trauma narratives associated with histories of migration and displacement.

Nigel and Larissa would like to hear from Heritage Lottery Fund and/or First World War Engagement Centre researchers engaged in these themes because they:

  • Want to understand how much community research is being done in relation to trauma and the First World War.
  • Aim to understand the needs of community researchers in relation to this subject area.
  • Desire to compile a list of groups who would be interested in a workshop on trauma and the First World War, to run in either autumn 2018 or spring 2019.

If you are engaged with narratives of trauma as part of your First World War centenary community research project, please contact: larissa.allwork@nottingham.ac.uk or on Twitter @LarissaAllwork

Press Release: Centre for WW1 Internment and Internee Database at Knockaloe

We are delighted to announce that the long-awaited Centre for World War 1 Internment and Internee Database, collating and detailing information on enemy aliens interned in the British Isles, will be will be opening at Knockaloe in Patrick Village on the Isle of Man in Spring 2019. 

George Kenner, German civilian World War I POW, at the Knockaloe internment camp on the Isle of Man PoW Camp, 8 June 1918 (Wikimedia Commons).

Our Community Charity project launched with the website www.knockaloe.im on 17 November 2014, 100 years to the day that the first internee moved into Knockaloe. Our aim being to create a Visitor Centre and interpretation of Knockaloe Internment Camp, and a Database bringing together the stories of the men who lived in our small village 100 years ago.

Over the past three years, we have been focussed on our work of bringing together what is a huge amount of fragmented information about the civilians interned in the British Isles from sources all over the world. We were thrilled to work with Panikos Panayi, Professor of European History at De Montfort University, and have the support of major UK universities via the “Centre for Hidden Histories: Community, Commemoration and the First World War” Project at the University of Nottingham, to develop our initial framework for the database, getting the tens of thousands of internees listed. Our work now is focused on bringing together fragmented information from all over the world to allow us to collate internees’ experience of internment, as well as their movements between camps during their internment.

A phenomenal amount of work has been done by the community, volunteers and grant/donation funded staff and we are delighted to confirm that the “Centre for WW1 Internment” at Knockaloe will be launching in March 2019 with a major event (details to be announced shortly via www.knockaloe.im), its timing to coincide with the centenary of the end of “Knockaloe Internment Camp” whose final internees only departed in the autumn of 1919.

 

Impact: Uncovering Secret Soldiers at the Military Intelligence Museum

Dr Jim Beach (The University of Northampton) and Joyce Hutton (Archivist) at the Military Intelligence Museum have been working with a team of volunteers associated with the intelligence services in order to excavate the ‘hidden history’ of the Intelligence Corps during World War One.  So who were the Intelligence Corps and what was their role during the conflict?

From August 1914 the British army recruited a miscellany of individuals to its newly-formed Intelligence Corps. Drawing initially upon civilian linguists, the corps evolved from a small collection of well-meaning amateurs of variable quality to a large, well-structured, and professional organisation. By the Armistice its officers and men were shouldering the main weight of Britain’s intelligence work on the fighting fronts.  But the Intelligence Corps in the First World War has been difficult for historians to research. Primarily this is because it was a temporary organisation, with the army deliberately omitting the corps – for security reasons – from key reference documents such as the Army Lists. This problem is further complicated by the fact that the corps constituted only one segment of the army’s intelligence personnel, so many doing intelligence work never belonged to it.  Since the 1960s a number of historians have synthesised the corps’ history between 1914 and 1919, but this has usually been within the context of a broader ‘regimental’ history or general surveys of military intelligence.

Funded by the Centre for Hidden Histories and Everyday Lives in War,  the  ‘Secret Soldiers’ project seeks to contribute a more comprehensive history of the role played by the Intelligence Corps in World War One.  Key aims held by Jim, Joyce and the volunteers are to establish a more accurate estimate of the number of Intelligence Corps officers in this period and to have a more complete record of the organisation’s activities.  Working with ex-Intelligence Corps volunteers on this project has allowed Jim to delve far deeper into this area of history than he thought possible. In an interview in September 2017, Jim noted that the former investigators who work on this project sometimes think through problems associated with the Military History Museum’s collection in a very particular way. For example, if the information cannot be found in one record set, the volunteers are often able to suggest another section of the archive where the information might be discovered.  This is based on their administrative knowledge of how the Intelligence Corps works. In relation to this process, Jim has noted, “What they have shown…is that the information available is of an order that I didn’t think was possible…the depth and quality of the material is way beyond what I would have thought at the beginning.”  For Joyce, the ‘Secret Soldiers’ project is an opportunity to excavate the archives, closely read documents and understand their value within the context of the Museum’s collection.

The Centre for Hidden Histories looks forward to reading the publications that are planned to arise from this fascinating collaboration.  Click here to read about a recent ‘Secret Soldiers’ event held at the University of Northampton in December 2017.

 

Impact: Exploring the Consequences of WWI in the Middle East with the ‘Beyond Destruction’ Project

Dr Mark Jackson (Newcastle University), Research Associate Niveen Kassem and creative writing cultural organisation, Identity on Tyne, have been funded to uncover hidden histories within the Gertrude Bell Archive about Middle Eastern ethnic minorities during WWI.

The First World War and its aftermath saw the establishment of new nation states after the fall of the Ottoman Empire but this period also resulted in massacres, forced relocation and mass-movements of minorities. A century on, many parts of the region are still a war-zone and minority communities continue to suffer.

Using the Gertrude Bell Archive located at Newcastle University, the Beyond Destruction project engaged members of the minority Iraqi, Christian Assyrian communities from Northern England in their history in Iraq before and after WWI and since in the UK.  Fostering inter-generational dialogue in relation to this history, the project encouraged community discussion of destroyed heritage sites in the Middle East, the importance of the preservation of languages such as Aramaic and Syriac as well as the uncovering of documents in the archive written by Gertrude Bell’s neighbor, Cyril Porter.  Porter was a British Army engineer who was stationed in Iraq between 1914-1918.  He frequently wrote back to his family in Carlisle.  In one of these letters, Porter powerfully described hearing about what would become known as the Armenian genocide from witnesses who managed to survive.  You can access this letter by clicking this link. 

Reflecting on the significance of Centre for Hidden Histories funding for this project, the Beyond Destruction team commented:

“The funding you have provided has been very important to our work with the Middle Eastern communities for whom WWI had radical consequences. We have been able to engage communities from Iraq with Gertrude Bell archives and explore their responses and reading to these histories and how these histories resonate today. We have run successful workshops that provided the communities with the space to explore their voices, memories and identity in the shadow of the past. Our next plan is to reach out for more Middle Eastern communities living in Europe and beyond by developing sample size social media and the internet.”

This blog was co-written by the Beyond Destruction team and Larissa Allwork

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.