Lives of the First World War

Lives of the First World WarTo help commemorate the First World War, the Imperial War Museum (IWM) has launched a digital memorial to record the life of every person who served in uniform or worked on the home front during World War One.

During the next five years the “Lives of the First World War” will become the permanent digital memorial to over 8 million men and women. This memorial is still a work in progress; not all of the records are yet online and more will be added over the coming months.

Over the coming months, millions of additional new records will be added to Lives of the First World War – from the Royal Flying Corp/Royal Air Force, the Royal Navy, the Canadian Expeditionary Force, the Australian and New Zealand Imperial Forces along with the records of almost 17,000 conscientious objectors. IWM is also seeking to include the Indian Army, Home Front workers and all others who made a contribution from across the British Empire.

Lives of the First World War will continue to evolve over the First World War Centenary and new functionality will be added so that people can easily share and discuss who they are remembering online.

The “Lives of the First World War” is a project that anyone can contribute to by adding to the records, perhaps by uploading a picture, sharing a family story or connecting to official records that will help build up a picture of what happened to someone who served during the war.

You might recall I wrote about my great uncle who served in the RAMC during the war. His name was Harry Jefferson and I found a record for that name. The record has no other details against it so I wasn’t sure if it was the right Harry Jefferson. We have a medal with his name on the edge which my grandfather (Harry’s brother) gave to me when I was a child. I had given the medal to my dad and he kept it with his own service medal.

A couple of weeks ago my Mum and I had a little trip down memory lane by way of looking through dad’s bedside box of trinkets and cufflinks etc. I found a medal but not the one I was expecting to find (which I hope will turn up eventually). Luckily, the medal I found was Harry’s British War Medal, 1914-18 which has his service number, rank and name engraved on the side.

I was therefore able to establish that the digital memorial record I had found was his. I will be taking part in the project by adding the few things I know about him to his individual memorial record.

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The National Memorial Arboretum

My contributions to a conversation in Amfortas’ Tavern:

Royal Airforce Memorial

I visited the National Memorial Arboretum today and the Eagle in the attached photo was quite stunning against the skyline inviting closer inspection. When I got up close I found that it was the centrepiece of Royal Air force Association Memorial Garden.

It is a wonderful piece of artwork, a fitting memorial for those who served in The Royal Air Force. The crosses beneath have been placed there by friends, family and colleagues of those who served. Unfortunately the drizzly weather dulls the shine of the eagle against the sky… I thought you might enjoy it anyway.

Shot at Dawn

Another of the memorials I visited was the one I mentioned to you recently; ‘Shot at Dawn’. I have posted about it giving more detail of what the memorial represents.

When I set off to visit The National Memorial Arboretum this morning I didn’t realise that it was Memorial Day in the United States. It was only later when I got back home and read Ginnie’s post at Vision & Verb that I realised I had picked a perfect day to visit the Arboretum. The Arboretum is a centre of remembrance to honor the fallen and recognises their service and sacrifice for their country.

The site covers over 150 acres and there are currently around 300 memorials. Far too much to see in one day. I picked one of the self guided First World War Centenary trails that had been launched earlier this year:
History enthusiasts will enjoy the more detailed Shot at Dawn Trail (2km), created to provide a deeper understanding of many of the trees and memorials connected to WW1 by fascinating stories and symbolism.

The ‘Shot at Dawn’ memorial is very moving and requires a few minutes silent contemplation. The memorial is situated on the eastern edge of the arboretum where dawn strikes first.

I was sitting on a bench when I took this this photograph. Right behind the bench were six trees placed where the firing squad would have been. The six trees facing the posts represent the firing squad, all aiming for the medallion around the statues neck and none of them knowing who had the fatal bullet. It must have been very traumatic for them too, having to shoot one of their own.

The full conversation can by viewed here.

Poppies and Remembrance

Poppies and RemembranceI recently received the spring edition of the National Trust magazine.  The front cover carried a faded black and white image of a building in the background contrasting with bright red poppies in the foreground.  The building is Dunham Massey and one of the features in the magazine explains how the house is being transformed back into the Stamford Military Hospital it was in 1917-19.

This is one of a series of nationwide and international events that will be taking place during 2014-18 to commemorate the centenary of World War One. The series of events are being led by the Imperial War Museum, which has a dedicated website entitled 1914.org.

The events will serve to remind us of those who sacrificed their lives so that we can enjoy the freedoms we have today as well as reminding us to be grateful for their sacrifice.

The poppy fields as described by the ‘War Poets’ are a poignant reminder to me of the lives that were lost in both World War One and World War Two and also the lives lost in more recent wars.

Poppies to me are a simile of the lives that were lost.  They are vibrant, standing strong and bold yet fragile and defeated by a heavy downfall or a spring breeze.   They remind me of the fragility of peace and freedom and how easily our freedom can be lost.

The 1914 website points out that “one hundred years on we are all in some way connected to the First World War, either through our own family history, the heritage of our local communities or because of its long-term impact on society and the world we live in today.”

Reflection on World War One serves as a reminder of what might have been if the outcome of that war had been different…

A Family History Tragedy

A Family History Tragedy

You might recall that one of my interests is genealogy and researching my family tree.  I shared the mystery regarding my maternal grandmother’s family.  I will now share a tragedy that took place in my paternal line.

My grandfather’s brother served in the Royal Army Medical Corps during WW1, serving some time in Egypt.  Within his line of duty, he treated casualties from both sides. It is difficult to comprehend the atrocities he would have encountered and been forced to deal with on a daily basis. He became friends with one of his German patients, who out of gratitude gave him his field binoculars.

During WW2 whilst carrying out his duties as a member of the home guard he was shot in the face with blanks which blinded him for a time.  In 1942 he shot his wife before shooting himself; my aunt still remembers the day the news came to the rest of the family.  There was an inquest which concluded that his being shot in the face had caused blood clots which led to the actions he took.

Unlike his brother, my grandfather didn’t serve in WW1 although he did try to join the Navy on two occasions.  On the first occasion he did join up and received the ‘King’s shilling’ only to be told by his mother to take it back.  The second time he tried to join up his boss persuaded him against it.  He was in a reserved occupation and therefore not obliged to sign up and take part in the conflict.

Some years ago the German field binoculars were passed on to me along with a pair of my grandfather’s binoculars.  The binoculars that belonged to my great uncle are a poignant reminder of the futility of war and the consequences of power and greed but most importantly they remind me of man’s humanity to his fellow men.

When I went to get the binoculars out of the cupboard to take the photograph to go with this post I got both pairs of binoculars out and it was only then that I realised that the second pair were English Army issue from WW1 and that they must have belonged to my great uncle before my grandfather.