The Centre for Hidden Histories is delighted to support a new project by Away from the Western Front, which has also attracted support from the Heritage Lottery Fund and the British Institute for the Study of Iraq (Gertrude Bell Memorial).
The project will explore the heritage of the men and women from Britain and its former Empire who served in the often overlooked campaigns of Salonika, Egypt, Palestine, Syria, Mesopotamia and Africa.
The Western Front has remained the main focus for European commemoration of the First World War but the campaigns which took place away from the Western Front allow us to place the war in a global context, in which several empires grappled for world power and influence, leading to a major reorganisation of the international political situation in the years following the war. Britain’s part in this, its attempts to safeguard its place on the world stage and the consequences of this are as important as any European outcomes. A central aim of the ‘Away from the Western Front’ project will be to understand what made the conflict a World War.
Lyn Edmonds, a Trustee of the Away from the Western Front charity said: “Access to the heritage of the First World War away from the Western Front can be problematic for many people in this country. This is partly due to geography as the campaigns took place far away and partly due to subsequent histories in these areas, many of which underwent great social and political change after the First World War. This project is a great opportunity to improve public knowledge of these campaigns during the centenary period.”
The project will offer contrasting perspectives on the campaigns and provide fresh opportunities to engage with and learn about the common heritage of involvement in this global event. People from a very wide spectrum of communities were involved in the campaigns away from the Western Front, both fighting for and against the Allies and we will work with many of them in the project, including Iranian, Iraqi and Turkish communities in the UK.
Several local and regional partners have already been identified in Devon, Lancashire, Berkshire, Sussex and London. Local museums and National Trust properties in these areas will work with community groups, youth groups and schools with funding from the grant to research the lives and stories of those who served in these far away campaigns. Those stories will be 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.
On 21st and 22nd October, the Centre was very pleased to support a pair of events in partnership with Leeds City Museum. The events, which were held as part of Black History Month, were designed to examine histories and perspectives that are often overlooked.
On the Friday, a study day, entitled ‘Global Perspectives on World War One, was held at the museum. Papers were presented from a variety of speakers on a wide range of topics including how Black Soldiers and the wider African and Caribbean communities helped Britain during two World Wars, the life of Leeds Pal, Private Jogendra Sen, Chinese Perspectives on the Great War and female nurses’ relationships with non-white soldiers.
Staff from the National Archives, provided insights into the material that they hold on West Africa and South Asia and discussed the challenges of researching this area of the war and the value of examining the war through the themes loyalty and dissent.
On the Saturday, the museum opened its magnificent Broderick Hall for a community day called ‘Peoples’ Pathways: Soldiers from Overseas in World War One’. This event was largely performance-based, with music, spoken word and interactive talks.
Community historian Jahan Mahmood brought items from his travelling military museum and gave an illuminating talk on Muslim perspectives on the war. Russell Smith performed a monologue in character as Walter Tull, footballer and British Army officer and the event was rounded off with a beautiful performance of the World War One inspired Sacred Songs by Alchemy and SAA UK.
The topics were intentionally varied but nevertheless a few connecting themes emerged. One was the sheer range of stories that can be told about the war; so many that it’s possible to see the First World War not as one conflict, but many. It is important to reflect on these multiple ways of seeing history, not least because it confirms the value in having so many people take the time to explore the aspect of the war that most interests them.
Another theme to emerge was the depth of history required to even begin exploring the war. Most of the sessions examined histories with connections to the histories of empire and colonialism. Any thorough reflection of the global First World War must necessarily begin with the history of the European empires and the patterns of movement and control that developed way before 1914. So too is the history of Black and Asian people in Britain. This is also a long-term history and one that supports the view that the First World War is but a moment in a far longer set of stories about how people, willingly or otherwise, come together and find themselves sharing a common, albeit distinctive, histories.
Community event explores why time stood still for over 1,000 Germans and Austrians in a Yorkshire village during the First World War
People from South Leeds, Rothwell, Lofthouse, Outwood and Wakefield are invited to discover what went on in the now vanished Lofthouse Park between 1900 and 1919. Historical documents and a guided neighbourhood walk will reveal why and how the park was turned from an aerodrome and place of popular entertainment to an internment and prisoner-of-war camp for German and Austrian civilians and officers in World War One.
Visitors to the event will be given the opportunity to find out about ‘enemy aliens’, individual internees, life in the camp and the odd escape, based on ongoing research of In the Wrong Place at the Wrong Time, a Centre for Hidden Histories funded project that brings together historians, descendants, residents, students and pupils from Britain and Germany.
The camp itself is not the only focus of the day, as project leader Claudia Sternberg (Legacies of War, University of Leeds) explains:
‘We will bring to life the experiences of Lofthouse Park Camp, but would like to know much more about the local communities at the time, whether they had dealings with the camp or not.
‘This Heritage Open Day is an opportunity for anyone to come and share knowledge, stories and documents relating to the local area in the first two decades of the 20th century. Perhaps people living around Park Avenue, Park Square and Park View or working for Peter Duffy Ltd. have even found objects that could be dated back to the time of the camp.’
The event is free and open to all. It will take place on Sunday, 11 September 2016, at Lofthouse Gate Working Men’s Club (12 Canal Lane, Lofthouse, Wakefield, WF3 3HN), from 11-16.00.
In addition to looking at documents on display and going on a walk led by independent historian David Stowe (11.30 and 14.00), visitors can try their hand at reconstructing Lofthouse Park Camp in a mapping workshop at 12.00. A short creative presentation by Heritage Corner’s Joe Williams and Leah Francis at 15.00 puts Lofthouse Park Camp in the wider context of civilian internment during the First World War, which affected tens of thousands of families in Britain, Germany and beyond.
The venue and guided walks are child-friendly and fully accessible. Pre-booking is only required for groups, but signing up for the walk on the day is appreciated. Children’s activities are offered throughout the day and refreshments are available.
2016 sees the centenary of the Sykes-Picot Agreement, the secret agreement by which the Entente powers, chiefly Britain and France, organised their intentions for the Middle East once the Ottoman Empire fell.
It was a significant moment in international relations and the development of the postwar system and is of particular interest at the moment, not just because of the centenary, but also the huge ramifications that it has had on the present day, in the Middle East and beyond.
The Centre intends to use the moment of the centenary to explore and discuss Sykes-Picot, the fall of the Ottoman Empire and the long term impact of the First World War on a region that isn’t always associated with that conflict in the wider public imagination.
The Centre’s first public activities will take place in York on the 26th April. There are three linked events taking place, you can book for all three, or for each one individually.
The morning workshop will draw on the King’s Book of York Heroesand local research current, recent and future, focusing on the Middle East. The afternoon will lead on from this to more general discussions of World War One and the Middle East, including Yorkshire’s involvement and implications for today. Famous Yorkies such as Sir Mark Sykes, Gertrude Bell, and even Lawrence of Arabia and Bridlington will attend. ISIS will no doubt be mentioned!
There will be exhibitions throughout the day, along with lots of sources familiar and unfamiliar. We hope the day will generate enthusiasm and interest to follow up these ideas so it has a lasting legacy.
Details are still being confirmed, and may well be changed. Draft programmes are below.
9am: set up exhibits
9.30-10.30: Coffee & Registration: Network and view exhibits
10.30-12.30 (with break): Introduction: Themes of today and of the BABITME conference
The King’s Book of York Heroes.
What is it?
What has been done with it so far? Research from Fulford, Bishopthorpe, Copmanthorpe
What remains to be done? Digitisaton? A digital database? Linking with other data sources?
12.30: Lunch (free if booked). Network and view exhibits
1.30-5.30 (with breaks): Several themes such as the following
Middle East and the decline of the Ottoman Empire, 1900-1920
What happened? Different perspectives (Ottoman, German, Russian, French)
Sykes-Picot (16 May 1916)
Yorkshire links with the Middle East
The East Riding Yeomanry in Egypt and Palestine
Gertrude Bell, Mark Sykes, Wass Reader (a Hull soldier writes home)
Possible future research.
Yorkshire Quakers, pacifism, and the Middle East
Presentations from the Rowntree Society (York)
Contribution from Cyril Pearce (world-renowned expert on the history of pacifism – see below)
Prospects and sources for future research
The evening lecture (7.30) relates to pacifism in World War One and is hosted by the Yorkshire Philosophical Society (details here). The speaker, Cyril Pearce, is world-renowned. Workshop attendees will be entitled to attend this lecture without charge.
All events are in central York. Morning and afternoon workshops are at Clements Hall, just 800 yards from York Railway station – turn right as you come out of the station, curve left and go over the bridge, cross in front of Micklegate Bar, then walk 200 yards along Nunnery Lane, turn right along Dale Street, and Clements Hall is at the end on your left. If you are parking, park in Nunnery Lane car park (fees apply).The evening event is in the Yorkshire Museum (see details below).
The entire day links with the themes of the “Borders and Beyond in the Middle East” (BABITME) conference in York in mid-June (details here). Those attending on 26 April will be entitled to free and reduced-fee tickets to BABITME (normal price £100).
We hope that you will decide to stay for the entire day on April 26th, but booking will be possible for each session separately.