Dates for your diaries for October and November

There are already several events with a First World War connection that are going on this autumn.  If you know of something locally or elsewhere in the country that you think might be of interest, please let us know and we’ll try to publicise it.  Here are some we know of already:

  • Saturday 7th October at the museum 11.00-4.00. This is a drop-in event for everyone in the family.  Food historians Jan and Richard Crouch will introduce you to the delights of First World War cooking with samples for those brave (or adventurous) enough to try them. They will be on hand to answer your questions and at 11.00 and 2.30, they’ll give short talks on food issues during the war.  You can also try your hand at felting to create flowers – poppies, marguerites, and cornflowers – to put onto a scene depicting a field before and after a First World War battle.  All the materials are provided and staff from the Education team will be on hand to guide you.   Everyone is welcome.
  • On Saturday 14th October the Western Front Association Durham Branch is holding the next in its series of First World War Conference and Exhibition meetings at Cornerstones, Chester-le-Street. I’ve found previous meetings very informative and interesting – a great opportunity to hear good speakers and see what groups in the county are doing to commemorate the First World War.  For more information about the programme and booking, go to durham-wfa.com.  

  • November 4th at the museum 11.00-12.30. In this half-day workshop, photographic artist Lee Karen Stow will share thoughts and tips on how you can create and sustain a personal photography project or a long-term body of work. Learn how to turn your chosen theme or passion into an individual visual narrative that expresses what you truly love about life or what you want to say about it. She’ll also look at ways to share your work, exhibit it and how to get your work seen.

    For photographers with moderate to advanced level of experience.

    Places are limited so booking required, ring Reception on 01833 690606 or email info@thebowesmuseum.org.uk.  The cost of £15 includes the afternoon talk (see below).

  • November 4th at the museum 2.30-4.00. Lee Karen Stow will reflect on the poppy as a symbol of suffering during war since it was first used to commemorate the First World War.  Two women on separate continents came up with idea of the poppy, and it is instantly recognisable today. This is the last talk in the 2017 programme.  The usual charge of £3 applies (free for Friends, holders of an annual museum pass and people attending the morning’s photography workshop).

  • November 12th Remembrance Sunday service and wreath-laying in Barnard Castle. Afterwards we invite you to the museum to see the collaborative piece of collage artwork created in October.

  • November 15th at the Prior’s Hall, Durham Cathedral, Durham University is hosting ‘Centenary Reflections on the Church in the Furnace: Can the Church of England learn from the British Army?’ by The Venerable Stephen Robbins CB, Honorary Canon of Salisbury Cathedral and a former Chaplain-General of the British Army. The talk marks the centenary of the end of the Battle of Passchendaele and discusses whether the Church can learn from the recent pastoral experience of army chaplains. More information about the lecture and booking is available at durham.ac.uk.

Women and War

By Judith Phillips

Alison Mounter, who has done a lot of work for our project in organising talks and events, recently visited the National Memorial Arboretum. Her account of her visit will be included in a future newsletter. In the meantime you might like to look into this event at the Arboretum. If anyone goes, I’d be delighted to have a report on the talks.

On 26th and 27th September the National Memorial Arboretum will hold a two-day symposium to coincide with its on-going World War I centenary events and activities.

The symposium’s diverse programme of seminars, interactive workshops and site tours, aimed at academics, students and historians, will examine the social changes wrought by the conflict helping to create a greater understanding of how these changes came about.

As well as examining the changing role of women during the conflict – focussing on the care of the wounded on both the Western and Home fronts, other themes will consider the Home Front at a more local level. Topics to be explored by a wealth of speakers include the female vote, food crises, attitudes towards conscientious objectors, the changing role of the country estate house as convalesce homes, and the development of female labour in traditionally male roles.

The programme will also offer opportunities to explore their galleries and to participate in workshops and guided tours of the 150-acre site.
For more information visit www.thenma.org.uk.

The First World War and artists

By Judith Phillips

Partly because The Bowes Museum is renowned for its fine art collections, I have been thinking about how artists were involved in and responded to the First World War.  I recently saw an exhibition of work by some British artists working in the inter-war period.  And, of course, that means that many of them were of military age during the war.  Not all the short biographies in the catalogue gave information about the war years but I was struck by how many men saw active service, and several of them suffered significant physical damage.

One female artist served in the Land Army but there was no information about the other women.  Of the men, 21 enlisted and saw active service, mainly on the Western Front.  Two served as ambulance drivers, two registered as conscientious objectors, two were exempted on grounds of ill-health and two were official war artists.

Two paintings in particular struck me.  One was by David Jagger and was entitled ‘The Conscientious Objector, 1917’.  The catalogue entry notes that the picture is probably a self-portrait.  Jagger was exempted from military service because of ill-health and, although a strong pacifist, he was not a conscientious objector.  As you will know from Megan Leyland’s talk earlier this month, conscientious objectors were frequently viewed with suspicion and contempt.  The catalogue prints the Daily Telegraph comment when the painting was shown at the Royal Academy in 1917: ‘Jagger’s “Conscientious Objector” need not have been named.  There he is to the life, with his haggard cheeks, dogged, argumentative face, and pink comforter.’

As this portrait is in a private collection, it does not appear on the Art UK website (www.artuk.org) but, looking at David Jagger’s works on this site, I immediately noticed a portrait of Charles Jagger in what looked like First World War army uniform.  A closer inspection of the picture showed it was painted in 1917, and I think it must be the artist’s brother (and he survived the war).  The painting is held by Museums Sheffield, so I’ll view it with keener interest on my next visit to Sheffield.

The other painting that really took my attention for its First World War connections was completely different. ‘Why War?’ was painted by Charles Spencelayh in 1939 and is in the Harris Museum and Gallery, Preston.  An image is available to view on Art UK, as are two First World War portraits of Vernon Spencelayh – another example of an artist’s brother?  An old man sits in his old-fashioned parlour gazing into space.  His medals from an earlier conflict are pinned to his jacket and the death of Nelson is shown in an engraving on the wall, but the gas mask on the table and the newspaper referring to Neville Chamberlain’s meeting with Hitler in 1938 bring us immediately to the Second World War that had its beginnings in the aftermath of the First World War.

The exhibition ‘True to Life: British Realist Painting in the 1920s & 1930s’ is at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art (Two)in Edinburgh until 29th October.

Professor Dibble’s talk on British composers and their response to war was very popular.  Perhaps we should arrange a talk on artists’ responses to the war?  Please let us know what you think.

Book Group Meeting 15/8/17

By Jane Wilson

Our August meeting started with the recommendation of ‘It’s Only Me’ by David Raw, a biography of the Reverend Theodore Hardy, a military chaplain in WW1. The book follows Hardy through childhood, University years, ordination into the Church of England, family and work life, and then primarily his service as a military chaplain. He was renowned for remaining up and close to the soldiers in the regiments he served, and as well as discovering how he supported those in the trenches, the book also details the incidents that earned him a Military Cross, the Distinguished Service Order and a Victoria Cross. These awards made him the most decorated non-combatant in the First World War.

By coincidence, the second book we talked about was ‘Life After Tragedy – Essays on Faith and the First World War, evoked by Geoffrey Studdert Kennedy’ (a contemporary and influencer of Theodore Hardy). The combined essays study WW1 from a theological point of view, and are contributions from people connected with Worcester Cathedral, where Kennedy first preached to the troops. The essays cover topics such as commemoration, war memorials, poetry in war time, social reform and humanitarianism. Each essay also links views on faith in today’s world and societies. A quote from Jay Winter of Yale University in his review of the book states ‘Essential reading for anyone trying to understand the earthquake that was the Great War’.

Africa was our next port of call, with a book suggestion written by Owen Sheers called ‘The Dust Diaries’. Sheers writes about an obscure relative, Arthur Cripps, a poet, Anglican priest and missionary to Southern Rhodesia at the beginning of the 20th century. Cripps is a witness to WW1 fighting in East Africa, and a supporter of the native peoples. In his book, Sheers traces his relatives travels and influence in Africa, whilst looking at contemporary issues facing modern day Zimbabwe.

For a change, our next recommendation was a DVD rather than a book, and was a documentary by Dan Snow, ‘Battle of the Somme’. Taking as its focus the 1917 silent film about the Battle of Ancre and the increasing use of tanks, Snow looks at the history of the Battle of Ancre using the newly restored film to help understand the battle, the film that was made at the time, and the development of capturing live WW1 action at the time.

‘Englanders and Huns; The Culture Clash Which Led to the First World War’ by James Hawes concentrates on the cultural clash between England and Germany, starting in the middle 19th century and leading up to and into the First World War. Hawes looks at how words and pictures can inform ideas and opinions of one population about another, and looks at how cartoons, books, newspapers and magazine articles can create stereotypes of a nation. It provides an alternative way of looking at the beginning of the conflict rather than the more usual political or military view.

Sebastian Barry’s ‘A Long Long Way’ is a novel about WW1, set alongside the political turmoil seen in Ireland at the same time. The central character, Willie Dunne, volunteers to fight as a member of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers and the book follows the conflict he experiences in Europe as well as the build up to conflict back home in the Easter Rising in 1916.

‘The Forgotten Soldier’  by Charlie Connelly was an account of a very ordinary London lad who was killed, aged 19, on 4 November 1918 – just a week before the Armistice.  Somehow we all felt that his death, so close to the end of the war, was that much more poignant, even though we couldn’t really explain our reaction.  Edward Connelly was the author’s great-uncle, who was astonished to discover that his father hadn’t even known about his uncle – he hadn’t been mentioned by the family.  Charlie Connelly tried to find out about his great-uncle but actually found it very difficult, so he supplements his account with memories recorded by soldiers in the same battles, same areas, same places.  As his own form of remembrance he walked from London to Edward Connelly’s grave in the New British Cemetery at Harlebeke where a chance encounter gave him an insight into Edward’s last days.

We finished off our meeting with one of our members talking about some recent work she has undertaken for a visitor to a Bowes Museum Open Day. She had been translating from French various pieces of information relating to a Belgian soldier who ended up in England during the war. For a short time, Pierre Louis Vermote was found work in a munitions factory in Birtley, before spending a period of time in Winterton Lunatic Asylum near Sedgefield, dying there in 1918. Our book group would be interested in hearing more about Pierre Vermote from anyone who knows more information – please get in touch at libraryandarchives@thebowesmuseum.org.uk

Our next Book Group meeting will be on Tuesday 19th September at 2.30 and we look forward to welcoming new members.

 

A commemorative visit

Did you see the article in the Teesdale Mercury (30th August 2017) about a commemorative visit to First World War cemeteries and memorials in northern France and Belgium?  Colin Young, Mike Jones and Mike Bell combined commemorating some of their relatives with visiting the graves and memorials of four of the five Smith brothers of Barnard Castle.  You can read about the Smith brothers in their entries on the project’s Roll of Honour (www.thebowesmuseumww1.org.uk) and they have featured in stories in June 2015 and September 2016 that you can also find on the project website.

If you’ve made a commemorative trip or have information or a story about Teesdale people in the war, please get in touch – we’d love to hear from you. (Email: libraryandarchives@thebowesmuseum.org.uk, tel: 01833 690606 ext. 208 answerphone)

Here’s Colin’s full account of their trip.

Barnard Castle’s Band of Brothers

By Colin Young

We’d planned the trip for some time. Mike Jones of Barnard Castle, Mike Bell of Eggleston, and myself, Colin Young of Darlington, intended to spend 5 days in Belgium and France in April 2017, visiting the Battle of Waterloo site of 1815 and the Somme and Passchendaele battlefields of WW1.

The original plan was to spend a day at Waterloo just south of Brussels, 2 days at Arras (The Somme) in Northern France and 2 days at Ypres (Passchendaele) in Belgium. During the trip, we were going to visit the grave of my great Uncle George who is buried at Ypres, and see the inscription of a relative (John Archibald McIver) of Mike Jones’s wife who is remembered on the Menin Gate at Ypres. His body was never found.

We had all heard the story of the 6 Smith brothers from Barnard Castle. Frederick 21, Robert 22, George Henry 26, Alfred 32 and John William 37 who were all tragically killed in WW1. The sixth brother Wilfred was brought back after an intervention by the townsfolk of Barnard Castle and Queen Mary, a real-life Saving Private Ryan story. It seemed an ideal opportunity, if possible, to combine our planned trip with a visit to see the graves of any of the Smith brothers who might be in the area we were visiting.

We had no idea where the 5 Smith brothers had fought, were killed, were buried or commemorated, so we contacted Judith Phillips at The Bowes Museum.  Judith has been heading a project to document and remember the sacrifices made by the men and woman of Teesdale during WW1. Judith gave us details of the cemeteries and memorials to the brothers, in Belgium and France, and we amended our route to visit 4 of the brothers. The 5th brother, Private Alfred Smith (Durham Light Infantry), was buried at Terlincthun cemetery at Wimille in north east France but unfortunately there wasn’t enough time to visit him during our trip.

The amended plan was to visit Private Robert Smith (Durham Light Infantry) who was buried at Dernancourt cemetery in France, Corporal George Henry Smith (Durham Light Infantry) whose name was inscribed on the Thiepval Monument in France (his body was never found), Private Frederick Smith (Durham Light Infantry) whose name is inscribed on the Menin Gate at Ypres in Belgium (his body was never found) and Sergeant John William Stout (West Yorks Regiment) whose name is inscribed on the memorial at Tyne Cot cemetery in Belgium (his body was never found).

Following a fascinating visit to the site of the Battle of Waterloo we spent our first night in Arras, northern France.

The next morning, we set off in the cold and rain to travel 30 miles south to find the grave of Robert in Dernancourt Cemetery. Robert is buried in a beautifully tended Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) cemetery overlooking the gently rolling green fields of the Somme region of Hauts-de-France. We placed a cross and poppy on his grave and made a brass rubbing of the gravestone which is inscribed with the crest of the Durham Light Infantry and the words ‘6/3433 Private R Smith, Durham Light Infantry, 19th September 1916’. We spoke to several of the local groundsmen who are employed by the CWGC to tend the graves. One of them in halting English told us stories of the troops from Australia, New Zealand and UK who had fought in the area. As we left we thanked him for his time and he replied, “No, it us for us to thank your soldiers for what they have done for us”.  Very moving.

We left Dernancourt and headed for the Thiepval Monument a few miles to the north to find George whose name is inscribed there alongside over 72,000 UK and South African soldiers who fought in the area and whose bodies were never found. The scale of the monument is staggering and was built to honour the sacrifices made by French, UK and South African soldiers in the Somme region. To the rear of the monument is a graveyard with equal numbers of 300 French and 300 UK and South African soldiers who endured equal hardships. George was in the Durham Light Infantry and his name is inscribed on an “Addenda” panel on the rear wall of the monument indicating that his name may have been added some time after the main walls were inscribed. We made a brass rubbing of the inscription and placed a cross and poppy alongside it.

On the 3rd day we visited the Vimy Ridge memorial which is dedicated to the Canadian forces who fought and took the ridge from the Germans who had held it for 2 years. The Canadians lost 3500 men in 4 days. We also explored the underground tunnel under Arras used to hide 24,000 Allied troops prior to the battle of Arras. We spoke to a Canadian student who was spending 6 months at Vimy Ridge as an unpaid guide. She said with great conviction, “ None of these monuments you see here or in other parts of The Somme glorify war, they stand to remember the sacrifice of brave young men”.

Late in the afternoon we headed back to Belgium to the town of Ypres (known to the British Tommies as Wipers) for our last night. We watched the ceremony at 8 pm at the Menin Gate where every night the traffic into the town is stopped and the crowds gather to watch the Last Post ceremony and laying of wreaths.

On the final morning, we returned to the Menin Gate and found the inscription to Frederick which reads ‘Smith F 25205’. We took a brass rubbing of the inscription and placed a cross and poppy alongside it.

We found John Archibald McIver’s inscription on the Menin Gate and my Great Uncle George’s grave in the Reservoir cemetery, took brass rubbings and left crosses and poppies.

Finally, we headed for Tyne Cot cemetery which is near Zonnebeke, 5 miles from Ypres, to find John. Tyne Cot is the largest CWGC cemetery in the world and contains the graves of nearly 12,000 soldiers. On the memorial wall to the rear of the cemetery are inscribed the names of 35,000 soldiers whose bodies were never found. The graveyard overlooks the fields of Passchendaele, the scene of terrible carnage during WW1. The sheer size of the graveyard is awe inspiring, the graves seem to go on for ever. We found John’s name inscribed alongside hundreds of his fallen comrades in the West Yorkshire Regiment. John’s inscription reads Stout J. W. (John’s surname was his mother’s maiden name as she was unmarried when he was born, but he is still a Smith brother). As we were unable to visit Alfred at Terlincthun we left a cross and poppy for both John and Alfred alongside John’s inscription as a mark of respect to both brothers. We took a brass rubbing of John’s inscription.

Mission accomplished we headed back to Zeebrugge to catch the overnight ferry to Hull and back home after a thought provoking, emotional and humbling but satisfying trip.