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Step by step prompts to contribute detail to a First World War Memoir

The desire is to encourage the sharing of multiple journeys taken by recruits from home to recruiting office, to training and entrainment, then their stops and movements across the fronts where they served. The desire is to start to see the scale of movement of people and of course reflect on how in ended for nearly 3/4 of a million leaving a chunk out of the male population that took the best part of a century to disappear. This is a time when despite the trains a considerable amount of movement was on foot. Going into the line as shown here a soldier may carry his kit and provisions for four or five miles, the best part of it through communications trenches, along duckboards and following tapes around shellholes to captured pillboxes. Here a detail is missing from a story – who is this officer who gave his photograph to a corporal who was heading home to Blighty to train as a pilot in the Royal Flying Corps. Is this the way to capture the interest of people – the narrative, a puzzle to solve, empathy or surprise at the conditions and the endurance of the men. One question that coninually vexes me – should I aim this squarely at Secondary School history students (GCSE and A’Level), or propose something that might appeal to ‘the general public’ – wherein lies the problem – the vagueness of the audience.


In Flanders Fields Museum – Smart ID bracelet

Though my expectations were heightened I nonetheless see this as an early trend in wearable technology used by museums. Next step greater personalisation, a memory stick and more.

Not so smart for me as the Museum staff assumed I was French so gave me an ID band that triggered the exhibit audio in French – good for language learning?

Haig was no hero

Fig.1. In Flanders Fields

It was fashionable to demonise the British leaders of the First World War in the 1960s and it was Alan Clarke who coined the sentence, ‘Lions lead by Donkeys. The media contunies to mock them still in the 1980s with the likes of ‘Blackadder Goes Forth’ then along came revisionist and social historians to say that they were a product of their time and did the best of a bad job. Ghandi came from this era – he didn’t need to send hundreds of thousands to war and likely maiming and death.

Haig wad a product of the times: unable to get in otherwise he chose Brasenose College, Oxford that didn’t require academic credentials – Haig had none. Because Haig went to Oxford he didn’t require to take any exams to get into Sandhurst. There’s a pattern forming here. And he didn’t complete all his exams at Sandhurst, but as he played polo and knew the King he got through.

Soldiers on the ground reaaly did think that their leaders were clueless idiots. I don’t need to take my grandfather’s word for it, though you can hear the genuine anger in his voice when he talks about it, not least concerning the conditions around Ypres in the second half of 1917 and the suffering of his friends, many of whom died a horrible death.

Much had changed in a hundred years – let’s hope it continues to move in a direction that respects life, inclusivity and both moral and ethical guidelines that see that people are rewarded on merit, not by birth or deviousness.

My rapidly growing reading list is largelly thanks to Niall Ferguson who in ‘The Pity of War’ who cites everybody under the sun.

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