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.

Event: We Will Remember Them Exhibition

William Robinson Clarke WW1 RAF pilot from Jamaica, photo courtesy of the Royal Aero club

LAUNCH EVENT:

Friday 22nd September 6:30pm

New Art Exchange

39-40 Gregory Boulevard, Nottingham NG9 6BE

The We Will Remember Them project, funded by the Centre for Hidden Histories, aims to uncover hidden narratives that will strengthen the coverage of under-represented groups in relation to the centenary of the Great War. Empire troops fought in the most infamous battles of the war, including at Ypres and Passhendaele, but the hidden histories of soldiers from the Caribbean and South Asia still need to be recovered and their stories told, not only in scholarly monographs but in other cultural forms too.  Consequently, this project aims to ensure that we try to avoid the real risk that younger generations will conceive of the war as fought entirely by white soldiers.

The research output has been constituted in the form of a travelling exhibition which will facilitate the general public becoming (more) aware of the courage, sacrifice and stories of “Commonwealth” soldiers. The exhibition will tour the East Midlands and London and will launch at New Art Exchange on the 22nd September.

Following the launch, the exhibition will travel to the following venues:

  • 25th-29th September Nottm. County Hall, West Bridgeford NG2 7QP
  • 2nd-5th October Clifton Cornerstone, Southchurch Drive, Clifton NG11 8EW
  • 6th-12th October Bulwell Riverside, Main Street NG6 8QL
  • 12th-18th October Mary Potter Centre, 76 Gregory Blvd. NG7 5YH
  • 18th-23rd October Nottm. Central Library, Angel Row NG1 6HP
  • 23rd-26th October Nottm. City Council, Loxley House, Station Street NG2 3NG
  • 27th October-1st November St Anns Valley Centre, 2 Livingston Rd NG3 3GG

Please contact nottinghamblackarchive@gmail.com for more information.

This project is delivered in association with Renaissance One

Call for Papers: Beyond the Western Front -The Global First World War

Call for Papers: Beyond the Western Front -The Global First World War

The Centre for Hidden Histories is proud to announce a two day Conference and Community Showcase, entitled Beyond the Western Front: The Global First World War to take place at the Albert Hall Conference Centre, Nottingham, 1st and 2nd July 2016

Two young Belgian girls greet their father outside their home on his return from work, as their mother looks on from the doorway. Birtley-Elisabethville, Co. Durham, 1918. IWM Q 27746
Two young Belgian girls greet their father outside their home on his return from work, as their mother looks on from the doorway. Birtley-Elisabethville, Co. Durham, 1918. IWM Q 27746

Through a combination of academic papers, workshops and creative performances, this free conference will examine different understandings of the war and seek to provide a broader cosmopolitan context in which to place the British First World War orthodoxy. We seek representation from a variety of national, faith and other emerging communities whose histories are rarely considered, and for whom the traditional Armistice Day celebrations may have strikingly different meanings.

The existence of a First World War beyond the Western Front is a critical element of the Centre’s thematic interest and the conference would be intended to examine this in an open and discursive manner. We are actively seeking contributions from community groups and academic researchers.

It is hoped that the debates at the event will prompt further research and collaboration between academics and communities. Where possible, prompts to the AHRC Connected Communities, Care for the Future and Global Uncertainties themes will be made.

The conference will explore four major themes:

  1. The Lives of ‘Others’
    We are looking for contributions that examine the experiences of those whose war was fought outside the western trenches; at home and around the world. This embraces not only the combatant roles of Asian and African troops in European and non-European theatres but also the important contribution of labour. All the combatants enlisted labour for the myriad heavy duties to supply and maintain front lines. There are few monuments to labourers. The Great War was also a global war at sea, and a large number of merchant seamen were non-Europeans.
  1. The War as Global Revolution
    The war was one of the most significant moments of change in recent history. We want to examine the global impact of these changes, in the destruction of old orders, the raising of new ones and in the development of new ways of living. This raises the question of periodisation e.g. the ‘1914-18 war’ so often projected; or, in the language of the UK Allied Victory medal ‘The Great War for Civilisation 1914-1919’; but what of the perspective from other parts of the world, eg. Turkey – should it be 1911 to the Treaty of Lausanne 1923? What is rather obvious is that the Great War did not end with the ‘Armistice’ or with the Paris treaties, but turned to revolution with sustained violence and destruction on a large scale across a large part of the world.
  1. We Are Making a New World: The lives of those who survived
    In remembering the fallen, did we forget the even greater numbers who came home? We are interested in proposals that will examine the challenges faced by the men, women and children who lived into the peace. There were not many ‘memorials’ for those who survived the war, but there were memories and psychological damage on a large scale.
  1. Different Memorial Cultures
    With the war now lost to living memory, cultures of remembrance are the primary methods by which people engage with it. We are looking for contributions that illuminate and explore the very different cultures of remembrance across national, ethnic and social groups.

 

Potential topics include, but are not limited to:

 

  • The impact of defeat
  • The impact of victory
  • The questioning of religious belief as a result of war
  • From 1914 to When? The question of periodisation
  • ‘Enemy aliens’ and the impact of war on minority communities
  • The concept of the refugee from 1914 to the present day
  • Migration and resettlement
  • The First World War and the founding of nation states
  • War and the growth of the power of the State
  • Total war and attempts to retreat from this in the early 1920s.
  • Postwar independence movements
  • The First World War and the creation of the modern Middle East
  • The impact of continuity on British national attitudes
  • The First World War in the twenty first century
  • Unknown Warriors: the creation of mass memorials
  • Memorial traditions in different cultures and territories
  • The changing heroic ideal
  • War and the changed roles and positions of women, and not just in the industrial states.
  • Influenza, a pandemic and the single largest demographic disaster of the 20th century. To what extent the flu was a result of the war?

Format

We invite proposals for workshops, 20-minute papers, performances, or posters. Other creative responses or discussion and debate formats will also be considered.

Persian man posing for a photograph. Note a truck with British troops in the background. The Service of the 9th Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment in the Persian Campaign, 1918. IWM Q 73032
Persian man posing for a photograph. Note a truck with British troops in the background. The Service of the 9th Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment in the Persian Campaign, 1918. IWM Q 73032

We accept applications from individuals, community groups and academic researchers from any discipline, with an interest in relevant topics. The Centre would particularly welcome proposals that involve collaborations between community groups and academics.

Please send a brief description of no more than 300 words outlining the topic you wish to share and your preferred format of presentation.

Submissions should be made to hiddenhistories@nottingham.ac.uk by 29th January 2016.

Informal enquiries welcome.

 

From Bombay to the Western Front

On Tuesday evening, I attended a commemorative event at the Imperial War Museum North. It had been organised to reflect on the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Neuve Chapelle, which was the first major offensive to involve the British Indian Army.

Among the speakers at the event was Dr Santanu Das, of the English department at Kings College London. Dr Das, who is an expert in the culture and literature of the First World War, made the argument that while the First World War is often defined as the ‘clash of empires’, it could equally be defined as a watershed event in the history of cultural encounters in Europe.

Dr Das has been leading an international and interdisciplinary team of researchers and a number of cultural institutions across Europe to illuminate and examine this question during the centennial years of the war’s commemoration.

In this film we see how Dr Das has partnered with Imperial War Museum, London, In Flanders Fields Museum, Ypres, and the Museum of European Culture, Berlin to scour their (and many other) vast archives for letters, photographs, literary texts, sketches, artefacts, newspapers, and audio recordings. We see how all these sources are being brought together to be examined side-by-side, in order to piece together a fuller picture of the experience of the Indian troops and labourers, and the Europeans who they came into contact with.