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A shivver of vibrancy in a project to use QR codes as another way to egage people in remembering the combatants of the First World War

This morning I got a lengthy email from someone whose grandfather is featured in a 1918 photograph of RAF cadets I put up on Flickr, I also got a lengthy email from someone sharing a review on a book on the First World War on Amazon. Today, Dan Snow helped launch an initiative through the Imperial War Museum that aims to repeat what the IWM started to do in 1919 – campaign for people to share photographs, artefacts and stories of people who served, suffered, thrived or survived the First World War – this is at the ‘Who do you think you are’ exhibition at Olympia – I will try to get over on Saturday. And finally, a fascinating conversation with my brother in law on why a gallery curator is inviting people to feedback and respond to works of art through social media – and the curator’s philosophy of ‘openness’ and a desire to move away from the grand voice of the patron in favour of mutliple voices and interpretations. He particularly likes to describe the value of ‘dirt’ to challenge perceptions and permit the points of view of anyone, and called this dirt ‘soil’ that would nurture fresh and vibrant ideas – he’s Italian, speaks with an accent and chooses his words carefully (he is a tutor in fine art and art history). We got into discussions on learning and why as a student he’d have to queue up early in Bologna in order to hear Umberto Eco. This enthusiastic, reflective discussion continued as he prepares supper and I help – eager to pick up some cullinary tips too.


Who’s that?

Tens of thousands of photographs from the First World War feature people who have no name. Who are they? Where did they come from? What was there story? Did they fight and die or fight and survive? Help identify these people and tell their story and in many cases remember a person as more than just a name on a memorial – they had parents and siblings, they went to the local school and played cricket for the local club … bring them to life in the 100th anniversary years of the Great War, that war that H G Wells said ‘would end all war’.

There are six photographs in this set which show the entire ‘cadet squadron’ and their commander. These embedded them in Hastings in 1918 and could offer more clues and of course more faces to ‘play’ with. I doubt any of this group saw service as the influenza epidemic and dreadful weather made completing training by November 1919 difficult … but the Royal Flying Corps barracks here had been used for a few years and indeed the younger brother of Jack Wilson had signed up age 17 and was flying bombers over Belgium at the time of this picture. I think I need to indicate that multiple connections can be made a) geographically to the wide ranging UK locations these cadets came from and b) their links to combatants in the RAF or other services at this time including those who die c) for some, the schools they had just left – so Jack Wilson who left school at 14 and came from the Iron and Steel town of Consett finds himself in the mess-room with boys straight out of Harrow and a Cambridge undergraduate …d) those who remained in the RAF and go on to serve, potentially in a senior capacity by the time of the Second World War i.e. the picture becomes a way to explore people, places, history, society, education, class, military history e) the Charlie Chaplin films being shown … the coming of radio e) even bringing it as close as I can to the present day as Jack Wilson lived into his 97th year and went to an RFC/RAF reunion in 1992, attended the 75th commemoration of the Battle of Passchendaele and on watching the First Iraq War on TV remarked ‘That’s Nothing Compared to Passchendaele’ … and said, ‘If I was a younger man I’d like to go out and have a go’ … and warned me, his 30 year old grandson that I might get called up!! So, not realising it the multliple threads perhaps make this, and therefore any picture like it, full of possibility ESPECIALLY because of the connectedness of Web 2.0. Very many thanks. Interest in this very much helps me to stick with it and fix it rather than going off on a tangent.

I need as I go through the necessary task of simplifying and magnifying the idea that works rather than thinking that adding more or coming up with new ideas will in any way help. I’ll work on what you suggest. The picture could fill the poster … ‘BE’ the poster with rollover and drop-down on faces. This offers the greatest opportunity, not least because already, since 2005 or so, when I first put these on Flickr, there have been contributions. Not least I recall being interviewed for research into memorialising the first world war based on a search stumbling upon this picture. Something I’d forgotten – that by tagging and ‘pushing’ an image on the Web it makes it ‘vulnerable’ to being picked up through serendipity and the more interest, clicks and comments, the brighter the light shone on it by the search engines … so it becomes self-fulfilling. Would it help or hinder to target this at secondary school GCSE students? This at least gives me some parameters and learning objectives to work from.

Blogging breached the guidelines a bunch of us followed in 2002 – now anything comes and goes on e-folded origami paper we call a blog

Fig. 1 Blogging brings like minds together – through their fingertips

I did a search in my own blog knowing that somewhere I cited an academic who described blogging as ‘whatever you can do on electronic paper’.

Chatting about this at dinner my 14 year old son trumped my conversation with his mother as I tried to define a blog and what can go into one with one word ‘anything’.

For me there has been a slow shift from text (the weblog-cum-dairy journal thingey), to adding pictures (which have become photo / image galleries, photostreams of Flickr and concept boards of Pinterest), to adding video … to adding ‘anything’ – apps, interactivity, grabs, mashups, music …

My starting place is here.

This ‘eportofolio, writers journal, aggregating, dumping ground, place for reflection and course work’.

You see, is it a blog at all? This platform, I’m glad, has its design roots in a Bulletin board.

The limitations of our OU Student Blog platform works in its favour.

I can only put in two search terms. In Google I might write a sentence and get a million links, in my wordpress blog it might offer have the contents.

Less is more.

Here I search ‘blog paper’ and get 112 posts that contain both words.

I’ll spin through these an add a unique tag. My starting place.

But to study blogging would be like researching the flotsam and jetsam that floats across our oceans – after a tsunami.


Starting with a book published in 2006 ‘Use of Blogs’ I want to read a paper ‘Bloggers vs. Journalists’ published in 2005. A search finds richer, more up to date content. Do I even bother with this first paper? (ironic that we even call them papers).

I can’t read everything so how do I select?

  • Toggle through the abstract, check out the authors, see where else such and such a paper has been cited.
  • Prioritize.
  • Use RefWorks rather than my habit to date of downloading papers that MIGHT be of interest.

Whilst storage space is so inexpensive it is virtually free there is no need to clutter my hard drive, Dropbox or Google Docs space.

Which makes me think of one of my other favourite metaphors – kicking autumn leaves into the breeze. That or drowning in info overload, or as the Robert de Nero character in Brazil, Archibald ‘Harry’ Tuttle, who vanishes in a pile of discarded paper … my mind wanders. We do. It does.

I stumble in the OU Library as I find I am offered everything under the sun. I am used to being offered academic papers only. So far all I’m getting are scanned images of articles in newspapers on blogging. All feels very inside out.

Where’s the ‘turn off the printed stuff’ button?

I fear that just as I have never desired to be a journalist, preferring the free form of your own diary, letters, and of course blogging and forums online, I will struggle to write within the parameters of an academic paper. I’m managing assignment here, so I guess I’m learning to split the two. A useful lesson to have learnt.


Is this a research methodology?

I am looking at a book on blogging, ‘Use of Blogs’ (Bruns & Jacobs, 2006). I have it open on p.31 Notes (i.e. references) for the chapter Journalists and News Bloggers.

As I pick through these articles, papers and reviews written between 2002 and 2005 I find several of the authors, a decade on, are big names in the Journalism/Blogger debate. It’s as if I am looking at a tray of seedlings.

It strikes me as easier to start in 2006 with 27 starting points when the field of debate was narrow, rather than coming in from 2013 and finding myself parachuting into a mature Amazonian jungle of mixed up printed and digital, journalism and blog content.

Courtesy of the OU Library and RefWorks I have nailed this article after a decade of searching:

Druckerman, P (1999) Ellen Levy Has Got The Write Project For the Internet Age — It’s a Year of Scribbling Down Almost Everything; Ah, Yes, It Was a Raisin Bagel, New York, N.Y., United States, New York, N.Y.

Reading this around 23rd /24th September 1999 prompted me to start blogging

Then I’d been reading blogs for a few months but had a mental block with uploading HTML files and then along came the first ‘ready made’ DIY blogging platforms.

The last 12 years makes amusing reading – particularly the battle between journalists and bloggers. And who has won? Is there a difference anymore? Journalists blog and bloggers are journalists and entire newspapers are more blog-like from The Huffington Post to the FT … which within three years will close all its print operations.

To be used in learning and to be a genre to study blogging needs to be part of formative assessment

A blog therefore becomes ‘an active demonstration of learning’ with cumulative feedback. I’ve only received ONE Tutor comment in my OU blog and that was to say why was I blogging and not getting on with my TMA. This person had their head so stuffed inside primary school education of the 1960s it made me feel like tossing my cap in the air.

Why MAODE students blog (Kerawella et al, 2009) depends on their perceptions of, and for:

  1. an audience
  2. community
  3. the utility of and need for comments
  4. presentational style of the blog content
  5. overarching factors related to the technological context
  6. the pedagogical context of the course

Cited x30


‘Bloggers vs. journalist: The next 100 year War?’ 2011, Public Relations Tactics, 18, 4, p. 17, Business Source Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 18 February 2013.

Bruns, A. Jacobs, J. (2006) Use of Blogs.

Kerawalla, L, Minocha, S, Kirkup, G, & Conole, G (2009) ‘An empirically grounded framework to guide blogging in higher education’, Journal Of Computer Assisted Learning, 25, 1, pp. 31-42, Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 18 February 2013.

Rosen, J. (2007) ‘Web Users Open the Gates’, Washington Post, The, n.d., UK & Ireland Reference Centre, EBSCOhost, viewed 18 February 2013.

Why you need to make time to see and understand ‘digital memory’ at the Design Museum

Fig.1. Enthralled at the Design Museum

Learning, memory and inspiration fascinate me. This exhibition sponsored by Sworovski intrigued me enough online to pay a visit. The online notes and video clips were enough to get me there – the actual experience drew me in. On their own these items that designers created on the theme of  ‘digital memory’ may confuse and not draw you in – listen to the designer talk about their experience of dealing with the topic, their journey and inspiration and very quickly a kind of magic takes place – you are let in on their world, you see into their mind, their construction of this piece. Most work, that is something like 11/16 pieces. If I come away from a visit to a gallery or museum and find ONE thing to inspire me I am pleased. Here I felt, eventually, overwhelmed. Rather like the first time I stepped into the Bodleian Library – millions of minds just a fingertip touch away.

Never have I walked through a museum and series of exhibits before and criss-crossed back and forth recording everything. I came away with over 400 pics … all on the iPad. I expect to frame a picture on an A5 sized pad now. And it fits into a bag far more easily than an SLR camera.

I should now create a visual narrative, more Flickr, Tumblr, Instagram or Pinterest than this WordPress layout. No doubt I will in time migrate some of the pictures to all of these platforms where I have a presence as ‘my mind bursts’.

Even the shop deserved a photo journey – though I supposed what I am meant to do is buy stuff. Perhaps we should be able to download eBooks to whatever device we pull out as an alternative to the hard copy?

More, much more to follow

All images in Picasa so could link and share – or spread to my Google+ circles.

The word that tickles the back of my head is ‘augmented learning’.


Using Facebook, Linkedin and Twitter for e-learning, life long learning and social learning

Engage, enquire, listen, take an interest, seek out like-minds, involve, share … respond, reciprocate, develop.

This has NOTHING to do with pushing products or services, this is about developing thoughts, acquiring leads into new avenues of enquiry, dropping hints and serendipity.

Increasinly however these three are functioning in the same way, however different they look.

Like ink drops in a tank of water

The visualised option is YouTube, Flickr and Tumblr (I’m yet to develop content for Pinterest)

Blogs are more sedate, more inclined to asynchronicity, whereas with Facebook I find at various times of the day (depends on the person) the messages become synchronous.

An iPad and iPhone (or any similar device) is crucial. With some people the more immediate the response the great the level of engagement, like one hand being placed on top of another the thoughts come thick and fast.

With many ways into social media I’ve opted for a paid service. Content Wisdom. For a monthly sub I get to dip into a catalogue of video based, lecture-like presentations as well as joining a regular webinar.

Join me on Linkedin, I’m active in various e-learning groups.

Join me on Twitter ‘jj27vv’ where I am making various lists to follow conversations on e-learning

Don’t come find me on Facebook! Friends, family and face-to-face contact first is my rule here.

WordPress. 16 blogs and rising, by My Mind Bursts is the main outlet and at last approaching 1,000 entries which are usefully themed on e-learning (post graduate theory and e-learning for business) and creativity (writing and producing fiction, and creative problem solving)

Too busy to blog? I can’t be, it’s my job.

I should be emptying the contents of my OU Student mind into this … and here (www.mymindbursts.com) while doing a DR Who-like Confidential at the OU Business School.

On my second read of A New Culture of Learning. At this rate I’ll have highlighted in chapter by chapter. It is WORTH the quick read.

The day has been spent gathering intelligence (content), then understanding how best to spread the good word via platforms I felt I was reasonably familiar with: Linked In, Facebook, Twitter and Flickr for example. There’s a new side to it when you are here to converse and join in 24/7.

Coming to it from the Masters in Open and Distance Education I feel as if I am stepping over a stream, not chasm … there is no great divide. Indeed, I can see that for some, and perhaps in time the edges that distinguish them will blur into Social Media Education – that these platforms are part of the mix, like the words written here, that form each of our experiences with the learning process.

Coming out of a webinar an hour ago (from Boston), I won’t forget this message:

You need to be spending 1/3 of your time reading blogs, 1/3 of your time leaving comments on other people’s blogs and 1/3 of your time writing your own blog if you want to develop an ‘audience.’

Does anyone who thinks they blog seriously do that here?

I’m always struck by how our expectations are at first that as soon as we post something there will be thousands out of the hundreds of millions of people out there to read our staff; they will, but you have to play the game.

The above doesn’t give much time for tagging. Maybe I’d adjust the above therefore to 30-30-30-10 with 10% of your time given over to thoughtful tagging.


Tearing my hair out over Social Media – the MMC Fix at Learning Technologies 2011

The cost is always the thing, but Adobe shine.

For the creative industries and creative they are unsurpassable. They are like the Avid from TV and complement all things MAC for designers, art directors, photographers and video directors.

I hear my name in this mix.

When I assess a new e-learning tool I find myself giving several a go. There are blogs in Diaryland, Edublogs, WordPress and the OU. I have a presence on YouTube, Flickr, Tumblr, in LiveJournal and Blogger. I’ve tried eportfolio systems MyStuff (OU), Mahara and PebblePad.

Beyond PowerPoint I’ve used the Google.doc equivalent Articulate, Captivate and Lectora. And others that may have swept in and out of my life and consciousness untagger, unblogged and unloved.

(The tearing my hair out guy courtesy of MMCLearning whose seminar I attended at Learning Technologies. Give me a moment in my life and I’ll doi their Diploam in Digital Marketing.)

I have in front of me the Adobe eLearning Suite 2 on a 30 day trial.

To do this justice I’m thinking to myself 45-90 mins a day.

Will this underline February 2011?

I favour big and established brands like Adobe and can make Adobe Photoshop sing thanks to a training CD-rom I used. DIY learning or self-taught can work.

Now that I’ve declared my interest I guess I should load it up and make a start.

Twelve years I was learning Dreamweaver … before that Avid off-line editing.

Tomorrow something else.

I’m sure.

I could stop blogging.

(I’ve given up TV)


Frank Cottrell-Boyce reflected on what an advantage he gopt doing year 6 over in primary school because he was too young for Secondary School.

Frank Cottrell-Boyce reflected on what an advantage he got doing Year 6 over in primary school because he was too young for Secondary School.

It is extraordinary how empowering it is to feel on top of a subject.

I had thought as I did H807 (Innovations in e-learning) that it would be good to do again, that it was all happening too fast, not just re-learning how to study, but knowing how best to function in this online environment.

As it turns out there is overlap between H807 and H808 (The e-learning professional); for the most part I am grateful. On the other hand I wonder if I couldn’t have done this MA in a year and done 20-30 hours a week instead.

Still, this is a chance for me to make choices about the plethora of tools and platforms available. This is the problem, having hundreds of software packages and Apps that may or may not make a contribution to a piece of work I may, or may not, at some stage prepare (probably not) and deliver.

I’m surprised how on a second or third go with Skype, Google Docs and Skype that you can feel at home with them and share what they do with others.

I translated a swimming coach’s CV on sports credentials from Catalan to English using Google Docs this morning. Extraordinary.

I already upload to Flickr and Facebook, and YouTube.

I blog anything between 1,000 and 10,000 words a day. I walk around with the means to photograph anything, video anything or record notes on anything all of which can be easily uploaded to a myriad of mostly free platforms.

And if people want me on a mobile device that easy for them to set up.

But what is the contents of my mind worth?

Flickr for learning and the First World War

Dear Great War Archive Flickr Group,

How would any of you answer this?

I am a lecturer in the Department of Information Studies, University College London, and specialise in the digitization of cultural and heritage material.

I’m currently carrying out a small study regarding non-institutional digitization: that is, digital resources such as online museums or Flickr groups created by amateurs, enthusiasts and specialists. The study aims to look at the range of material created by amateur enthusiasts, the motivation for doing so, and the level of interaction these resources have with their intended audience.

The pool of those being ‘interviewed’ given that is it only on Flickr and is self-selecting means that it can never be selective. So this is a piece of qualitative research? There are no objective criteria to be met? Is Flickr paying for this research? Who knows.

I’m really interested in the way that people are using Flickr as a platform to share images of their collections. I wondered whether you could spare the time to answer a few questions about your activities?

Any responses I get from this brief survey – I’m looking to survey fifty or so Flickr users creating high quality resources that are not part of any established memory institution – would be kept anonymous, although you would be credited in acknowledgements, should the results be written up. I aim to present the results at an academic conference such as Digital Humanities, or Museums and the Web, but depending on the quality of the results I may also write up the results for an academic journal.

So we .. I have done all the work for you?

I’ve attached a few brief questions below, and it should take about 10 minutes for you to respond. Please let me know if you have any questions about this. I’m really impressed by the Flickr group you contribute to, and I’d really like to include it in the survey!

It might take 10 mins. But I’ve given it 60.

I’d appreciate your response by the 1st of June 2009, responses can be sent to my email (m.terras@ucl.ac.uk) or via my user account on flickr (enthusiast_digitization).

Best wishes,

Dr Melissa Terras
Senior Lecturer in Electronic Communication
Department of Information Studies
University College London

Questions for Flickr Users:

Part A. Motivation

1. Can you tell us a little about your collection. Presumably, this existed prior to contributing your items to the Flickr group? Has your collection grown alongside your activity with Flickr?
2. What motivated you to contribute to your chosen Flickr group?
3. Is your Flickr group entirely your own, or are you part of a team or wider community? Did you set up the group yourself, or join an existing one?

Part B. Creation and Maintenance

4. Can you describe how long it took to create the images you uploaded to Flickr? What tools and techniques did you use, ie for scanning, or photography of objects?
5. How much time do you spend contributing items to Flickr?
6. Were you aware of any standards (for example for photography, or cataloguing, or copyright clearance) that are used in creating digital resources?

Part C. Interaction with User Community

7. Do you know who looks at the images you contribute to Flickr? Do you have an established audience?
8. Are you aware of any usage statistics, such as the number of “hits” you get per day?
9. Do you engage with other members of the Flickr community creating and uploading similar images?
10. How often are you contacted by people interested in your resource?
11. Are you aware of your resource ever having been used in research – for example to provide dates or historical detail for historians?

Part D. Interaction with Memory Institutions

12. Have you every been contacted by an established museum, library or archive regarding the images you contribute to Flickr? If so, could you tell us a little about this interaction?

Part E. Any Further Comments?

13. Is there anything else you would like to add regarding the creation, maintenance, or use of the material you contribute to Flickr?
Posted at 6:09PM, 19 May 2009 BST ( permalink )

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mymindbursts says:

From the age of 5 or 6 after Sunday Dinner my grandfather sitting with us children might start a story,’ Did I tell you about the time that …’ and so would begin some account of his experiences in the First World War: machine guns, prisoners, bombs & bullets … and aeroplanes. He was 67 perhaps …. and lived another 30 years. Between us, a brother & two sisters, I became the most interested in his accounts. My mother wrote them off, couldn’t stand it … clearly he had this ever present desire to relive, or recount his experiences. Age 13 I started keeping a diary and in time would have jotted down some of my grandfather’s stories. I had a life to lead, exams, and ultimately a university degree at Oxford. The First World War wasn’t history so I had to stick with the Tudors & Stuarts! I accepted this. A decade on I a, living in France and as part of a film crew on behalf of the French Ministry of Culture we are travelling to all the ‘tough’ urban district of towns … most of which happen to be along the old Western Front. The joke is that I am always interested in and photography war memorials. Abbeville, Verdun, Mountaban all made the First World War feel real. So I would share my experiences in France with my grandfather. INcreasingly frail when I was in town (my parents had long divorced) … and then my granny had died … he craved company. Technology first in the from of VHS let me indulge my grandfather further … he had books on planes, the trenches & all the rest … but he hadn’t see ‘All Quiet on the Western Front’ in 50 years. Working in Television Production I understood the value of getting his story down and chose to do this on a Sony Digital audio kit … transcribing these notes I went back to ask further questions. Yes, I should have got him on Broadcast Video … but he looked so old and frail and I had never planned to broadcast him. Anyway … as I grew up, as my comprehension of his world , let alone my own, become clearer how I had seen his war changed. I wrote a piece called ‘That’s Nothing Compared to Passchendeale’ in 1990 ? while sitting with him watching the First Gulf War. A lad from the Durham Light Infantry was interviewed in the desert which prompted this remark … he had signed up with the Durham Light Infantry in 1915. He also had something to say about the Tornadoes as he had transferred to the Royal Flying Corps. And I got in touch with Lyn MacDonald and he went on a trip to Passchendeale … and his medals came out (he has the Military Medal) and he shook hands with the King of Belgium … and photographs he had and those of his kid brother Billy who had joined the RFC age 16 and died in a crash in 1919 … and after his death … and with so much coming on line I found I could add even more detail to his recorded memoir by checking details of those who had served and died … and then researching their own family background. Slowly it all came painfully to life, the family members lost, the closeness of the community … the very different attitude to the ‘working class’ then … they were cannon fodder. My gradual loathing for Haig who cheated his way into Oxford and Sandhurst and weazeled his way into the affections of the Royal Family & as a result of this, not his ability ended up responsible for the death of millions …

Is the First World War more deeply a part of the British psyche than that of Canadians, Anz’s … those from South Africa?

At an MCG event in London I was invited to be the standard bearer in front of he Boy David. These people gave their lives, or their leg, or their face for others at home making a mint … or not.

Accounts of young lads being killed today astounds me … not just how young they sound, but how dumb. The army is putting the ignorant in danger … again 😦

Surely the sharpest minds should be the ones in the Front Line in a modern war? I’d love to know the average IQ of those being sacrificed.

Flickr is a service/software that sits on the shoulders of many others. I’ve been online since 1998 and blogging regularly since 1999. Flickr is easy, that is all. Though I WILL NOT pay anything for the privilege of loading images to this advertising infested homepage.

Perhaps I should be taking a closer look at the legalease that could very well have been written by a fellow Oxford alumni who specialises in Intellectual Property Law. Are we being hood winked?

My joy in Flickr is in part contributing, and sharing and letting the world know that what I do exists or existed … however, Flickr is fast becoming some kind of landfil for crap pics …

I’m careless about uploading more than one click of the same image and more than one enhanced image …

Having already put on line the 25000 memoir of my late grandfather I had fun putting in some pics of my own but am having even more fund linking his story to images others have collected … and pasting verbatim memories of his into the comment slot of pics of others.

It is very much about keeping his memory alive. Is this a human thing? Camp fire stories of warriors and their fights? For me it is an intellectual journey too … I simply cannot find a way to get over to others what these men, these boys, went through. So I have read everything … and ought to be taking an MA or reading for a doctoral thesis on some aspect of the Great War.

My greatest latest acquisition a full set of magazines published on the Great War in the 1930s in which each edition opens with an editorial from H.G.Wells.

Flickr? So far it works …. I have all my images on a disc and will share them with whatever site I like, on my own and with others. Things will move on.

I will find I am linking all of this into family trees & war grave info and census returns.

And perhaps a couple of bodies will be dug up, given a military burial and their names lifted from those of the missing.

Perhaps human kind will get the message – one hideous death through a bullet, a bomb or gas is enough.

We should be seeing more pictures of the horribly injured from WWI & WWII … and the current conflicts in the Middle-East. Death we do well, maimed young men we cry over.

Getting the images online is a pelarva: photo or scan, the manipulate to make black & white, sharpen, then upload for the web so you don’t blow the permitted bandwidth in one go.

Standard are irrelevant as the pictures I post I expect to be only of a quality to observe online, not download for print publication or posters. Copyright isn’t an issue yet as my sharing these images is part of singing this song. I would take issue with anyone claiming copyright to a picture they didn’t own. I have wallets and packets of photographs that I have been given … that have been handed down.

Stats matter becuase they satisfy my ego … they are of interest. In particular it is the linking of my grandfather’s verbatim words to images supplied by others that is ringing true.

A picture might be worth a thousand words … but a thousand words goes a long way to make an image a narrative, to put it into context and give it meaning and relevance.

Age 87 I took my grandfather to the Imperial War Museum where he was re-introduced to the Vicker’s Machine Gun. He had not been behind one in nearly 70 years. He crouched behind this gun in the armoury in his mack and flat cap as if he was 20 years old, his thumbs went to the locks, checked the sights, and fiddled about and then he placed the two enormous pads of his thumbs onto the triggers.

He was ready to kill, or guard, or save his skin and that of his mates … he was back in a recently captured Jerry pill box with those he had known for months in his unit clutching their guts and breathing their last. I wish I had filmed that!

I have in mind an installation that uses Flickr images of the Great War that might start to enthrall, intrigue and perhaps terrify visitors. A walk through maze with life size images, and smells and dummy limbs and rats, and lice … and mud up to the throat and bullets whizzing bombs going off while solders do diarrhea into their trousers and commit on the duckboards ..

I guess I am there from an historical research perspective ‘read in a subject until you can hear the people speak.’ I can smell them, touch them, speak to them … I an empathise with them.

My grandfather survived, his efforts set his daughter on a middle-class platform and I was born into a family of aspiring professionals & entrepreneurs. Indeed my grandfather had been the son of the chauffeur of some big family who owned breweries & the like … and lived to see his grandchildren living that lifestyle with domestic staff, a cook and groundsman, a chauffeur even, the Rolls on the gravel courtyard of the castle …

All of this, yet right to the moment of his death, he feared this moment, the potential loneliness leading up to it and certainly his growing incapacity.

With a few sips from a can of Newcastle Brown Ale Jack Wilson passed away in December 2nd 1992 age 96 years and 3 months. His parting words were no different to those his mates had used on the Western Front.

Okay, he didn’t call for his mother. He realised that was a non starter.

‘Bugger’ was his final word. Or as he put it ‘You Bugs.’

We are still yet to scatter his ashes …

Over the North Sea where he was training as a fighter pilot in 1919 I think.

Or a grain glued to every picture I have of him from this period.

Have I said enough?

My blog is 1.6 million words thick. Courtesy of Flickr I intended to illustrate it. I am starting with the 24+ entries and 25000 words of my late grandfather’s memoir. At some stage I will go out and film it. I have in mind an open cast mine in Canada as the spot to recreate Passchendeale.

The Imperial War Museum has the transcript of interviews I conducted. I have the digital cassettes that I have copied and should digitize.

On the 90th anniversary Grantham did a thing on the Machine Gun Corps and used chunks of Jack’s memoir and pictures I had supplied.

it will never be enough. Not until I own the rights to ‘All Quiet on the Western Front’ and make another movie of it to the standard of ‘Saving Private Ryan.’

Much, much more at http://www.jonathan.diaryland.com

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