By Judith Phillips
You will have noticed that we haven’t sent out a project newsletter for a few weeks but we’re now up and running again. Apologies for the break which was largely due to the Easter school holidays which meant I was away (and my time was fully occupied!). Remember, the newsletter is a great way to publicise any WWI-related event or activity you are organising or that you hear about in your community – just send us the details. And I’m also very happy to receive any other contributions – a story about one of your relatives, perhaps, or a write-up of your experience researching a person, place, event or theme that relates to WWI, especially in the area covered by the project. While I was away I came across a couple of interesting connections.
I’m a regular member of the WWI Bookgroup which meets in the museum Café on the third Tuesday of the month – you’d be very welcome if you’d like to drop in. So, while I was away I took advantage of access to a different library. Among the books I looked at was The Beauty and the Sorrow: An Intimate History of the First World War, edited by Peter Englund, which I have since recommended in a book group meeting. Englund uses letters and memoirs of about twenty people caught up in the war – different ages, genders, countries, backgrounds and experiences – to create a chronological view of the war with short explanations to give each entry a context. I’d like to share two entries in particular. You can find my piece on the second entry here.
In May 1918 an American Army field surgeon called Harvey Cushing attended the funeral in Wimereux of John McCrae, another surgeon, but much more famous as the author of the 1915 poem ‘In Flanders Fields’, one of the most popular poems written during the war. But it was the entry of a week earlier that really caught my eye. Cushing mentions visiting a friend in hospital in Lady Ridley’s private hospital in London. The friend is Micky Bell-Irving who had a leg amputated following an aeroplane accident. Cushing is very distressed to realise that Micky is so heavily drugged to combat pain that he doesn’t recognise his visitor.
You’ll find an entry for Michael Bell-Irving on our project Roll of Honour as he appears on a manuscript Roll of Honour for Rokeby.