Dr Ian Speller will give a talk on the Battle of Jutland and its importance in the context of the First World War and 1916. Shankill Road Library Thurs 29 September 2016 @ 6.30pm
On Tuesday 6 September from 1pm-2pm the former BBC Chief News Correspondent Kate Adie will be visiting the Ulster Museum to give a FREE lecture on “Women and the Legacy of the First World War”. When the First World War broke out, and a generation of men went off to fight, women emerged from the shadows of their domestic lives. Becoming a visible force in public life, they began to take up essential roles – from transport to policing, munitions to sport, entertainment and even politics. The talk will chart the move towards equal rights with men that began a century ago and consider what these women achieved for future generations. Places can be booked online at http://nmni.com/um/What-s-on/
Belfast City Council event with History Hub Ulster member Nigel Henderson. The lost lives of the Battle of the Somme Date: 21 Jun 2016 Time: 6.30pm - 9pm Venue: Banqueting Hall, Belfast City Hall Over 200,000 Irishmen fought in the Great War, and it’s estimated that up to 25,000 – 30,000 Irish soldiers from the Irish Divisions and others in British based Divisions died between 1914 and 1918. The most iconic Battle involving Irish soldiers was the Battle of the Somme, which began on 1 July 1916. Nigel Henderson and Philip Orr will deliver a presentation on some of those who lost their lives, focussing on the impact that this had on communities in Belfast. The presentation will also include poetry written in Ulster and in France during the period of the Battle of the Somme. The presentation will be followed by a dramatised reading of the Halfway House, which looks at two women who met in 1966, the 50th anniversary of the Easter Rising and the Battle of the Somme, hearing of the experiences of their fathers who were on different sides in 1916. Light refreshments will be served at 6.30pm. Booking is essential, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 028 90270 663 to register. http://www.belfastcity.gov.uk/events/Event-61893.aspx
Kabosh presents The Box, a new play by Carlo Gébler, which brings to life the archive of Olive Swanzy, a nurse from Newry who served during WW1. During her time serving in the war Olive kept a series of autograph books which the soldiers in her care contributed to with drawings, sketches, cartoons, stories and poems describing their experiences of and feelings about the war. Along with these contributions Olive also kept a record of her own experiences through a wealth of beautiful watercolours which document her time at war and her love of her native Newry. Together they form an incredible picture of real people during extraordinary times. This fascinating archive was left undisturbed in an attic in Olive’s former home in Rostrevor for decades until it was recently rescued from being destroyed and it’s worth and relevance realised. Kabosh, in partnership with Creative Centenaries, will bring this incredible archive and its stories to life in a multi-artform theatre production. Taking place at the Ulster Museum every Saturday and Sunday, 12pm and 3pm, from June 5th to 19th 2016 this will coincide with original items from the archive being on display as part of the Creative Centenaries exhibition running from June 3rd to September 18th. The Box is written by Carlo Gébler, directed by Paula McFetridge, designed by Elle Kent and features local actors; Gerard Jordan and the award winning Abigail McGibbon. Venue – Ulster Museum Dates – 5th to 19th June 2016 Days – Saturdays and Sundays Times – 12pm and 3pm Durations – 45 minutes Tickets - £5 – available online at www.nmni.com by phone on 028 9044 0000 or in person at the Museum Kabosh Artistic Director, Paula McFetridge says, ‘To uncover an archive like that of Olive Swanzy’s is a once in a lifetime find. To have someone share that with you is emotionally affirming. To be able to create theatre that tells the story of an incredible woman in extraordinary circumstances is an absolute pleasure. The Box gives an insight into the lives of real men and women whose lives were changed utterly’ Playwright of The Box, Carlo Gébler says ‘The Box is a short play about two veterans of the First World War, both Irish, Jeremiah, a British Army soldier and Olive, a nurse. The play explores the unexpected ways both were touched and crushed by the conflict, and the common cause they make post-war to help each other to manage their trauma. Theirs is the solidarity of the maimed: it is far from perfect but in the aftermath of a war, when it is the only kind going, each must take what the other has to offer and make do with that because there is nothing else available. As any veteran will tell you, in the absence of what you want, you take what you are given.’
The ongoing commemoration of the Great War reveals just how much this episode of our history continues to interest and influence our understanding of the past. However, the Great War continues to be studied primarily as a land-based conflict despite the Royal Navy’s crucial role. Ask someone about Jutland and they will probably look perplexed. Much remains to be done to put the navy back into the public memory of the war, and my own research is working towards this. It considers the personal experience of British sailors during the war as expressed in their diaries, particularly the collection held by the National Museum Royal Navy Portsmouth. This blog will give a brief insight into my findings so far. The poignant image of the Great War is of young men rushing to the colours full of patriotic fervour. Surprisingly, little research has been done on sailors’ displays of war enthusiasm. This is especially interesting as many sailors were not volunteers: the navy was a career in those days where men joined at a young age. Yet sailors’ diaries reveal excitement and celebrations amongst seamen when war was declared. Ships left port cheered by other vessels, and men proudly recorded their first encounters with German ships. Further, diaries repeatedly refer to the “long awaited scrap” with the enemy. When they did meet, British sailors boasted of the Germans’ poor gunnery in comparison to their own and clearly there was a distinct belief in the Royal Navy’s superiority, which reflects the latent imperialistic sentiment in British society at the time. Yet, not all were caught up with war fever; Walter Dennis recorded that he knew of a number of sailors who were relieved to get posted overseas away from any real action. However, prolonged warfare, understandably, had a noticeable effect upon sailors. Despite the distancing effect of technology, sailors remained part of the killing machine which some enthusiastically embraced, becoming numb to the brutalities of war.  Interestingly few historians have considered this. One sailor - known as Wood - recorded shelling Turkish forts at Gallipoli as “amusing”. This is further demonstrated by the practice of collecting war souvenirs. Seamen often served in support of the army which allowed them ready access to items such as helmets, rifles and bullets. The impact of curios has been widely considered amongst soldiers but, again, sailors have so far been overlooked. Their obvious engagement in this practice suggests a desire for immediacy, which was not an option for soldiers. It would be interesting to compare the diaries of artillerymen serving at the front, and see whether they encountered similar experiences. Yet, despite sailors’ interaction with killing, not all became numb to the brutalities. Witnessing the sinking of ships or even hearing about losses was traumatic. For example Walter Dennis recorded being ‘rather concerned’ as to the fate of one of his friends lost at sea. Sailors were acutely aware that if their ships were sunk then death was likely, which made moments such as these particularly sobering. It is not surprising that some succumbed to psychological stresses, or in their words had ‘a tile loose’. Sailors had to develop their own coping mechanisms to deal with the stress of everyday life; these were similar to those developed by soldiers, such as humour. Reflecting on battles many became flippant about the dangers experienced. One diarist, Henry Welch, recalled: ‘One shell burst on the water’s edge… Ye gods! it was lovely – only a trifle further and there would have been a few gaps among us.’ Coping with pressure was essential. It is clear that personal histories of the Great War continue to find a receptive audience as more people become interested in their own history. The opportunity is there for the navy to make up lost ground. The NMRNP’s on-going project, Hear My Story, is a step in the right direction and forms a new twentieth century exhibition collating personal memories and public interaction.  Another interesting project is the AHRC funded Gateways project which provides centres to encourage public interest through organised lectures and study days. These projects show that there was much more to the Great War than mud, blood and the trenches. It is time to put the navy back in the picture and, as the diaries of Dennis, Fletcher, Welch and Wood show, each diary tells its own unique story, and there are many more to be uncovered. Simon Smith read History at the University of Portsmouth followed by an MA in The History of War, Culture and Society. He is currently doing a PhD on Sailors and the Royal Navy c.1870-1939 as part of the University of Portsmouth's Port Towns and Urban Cultures project. Originally published for the NACBS here: http://www.nacbs.org/blog/never-mind-the-trenches-experiences-of-british-sailors-during-the-first-world-war-by-simon-smith/ The NMRNP holds approximately 200 diaries in its collection. Other comprehensive diary collections include the Imperial War Museum which has just re-opened with a new WW1 exhibition. For more information see Christopher McKee, Sober Men and True: Sailor Lives in the Royal Navy, 1900-1945, (London: Harvard University Press, 2002) and Brian Lavery, Able Seamen: the lower deck of the Royal Navy, 1850-1939, (London: Conway, 2011). RNM 1984/467: Diary of Wood. RNM 1980/115: Diary of Edwin Fletcher; RNM 1984/467: Diary of Wood; RNM 1980/82: Diary of W Dawson; Diary of Walter Dennis. RNM 1984/467: Diary of Wood. Diary of Walter Dennis. Diary digitized by McMaster University, Ontario Canada and available at http://pw20c.mcmaster.ca. See Edgar Jones, “The Psychology of Killing: The Combat Experience of British Soldiers during the First World War”, Journal of Contemporary History, 41, 2, (2006), 233; Joanna Bourke, An intimate history of killing: face to face killing in twentieth-century warfare, (London: Granta Books, 1999), 7. RNM 1984/467: Diary of Wood. Diary of Walter Dennis; RNM 1984/467: Diary of Wood. See Jones, “Psychology”, and Bourke, An intimate history, for further information of the study of soldiers. The Imperial War Museum does hold artillerymen’s diaries but these have not yet been considered. Diary of Walter Dennis. Diary of Walter Dennis. DOC: Diary of Henry Welch. See http://www.nmrn.org.uk/explore/hms-hear-my-story for further information on this project. The Arts and Humanities Research Council – see www.kent.ac.uk/ww1 for further information on this project.
On Saturday 19th March, participants of North Belfast Remembers set sail glass bottles with LED lights and details of individual men and women from North Belfast who served in the First World War. Adults and children across North Belfast took part in workshops to tell the stories of First World War servicemen from their areas. The adults have researched a serviceman and written a letter to a local child about his life. Each child received a letter and designed their glass bottle to represent his story. This memorial event was the culmination of the project when the participants released their letters in painted glass bottles into the water at the Titanic Pump House near HMS Caroline. Members of the public were invited to bring their ancestor’s story and write a message for a bottle which was provided on site and was thrown into Alexandra Dock. The sea of lights was a poignant reminder of those who died in the First World War. Adult groups taking part were: The Hubb Community Resource Centre on the Shore Road, Survivors of Trauma Centre from Cliftonville, Alexandra Presbyterian Church on the York Road, Dalariada Community Organisation, ACT North Belfast and Brantwood History Group from Skegoneill Avenue. Children’s groups taking part were the Hammer Youth Centre and Clonard Youth, the Church of God Boys Brigade on the Shankill, The Hubb Community Resource Centre on the Shore Road and Ardoyne Youth Club. This project has been funded by Belfast City Council and Community Relations Council.
Public Call: North Belfast Remembers - Add your story to our Sea of Lights: Bring your ancestor’s story, write your message in a bottle, and add to a sea of lights to remember those who died in the First World War. On Saturday 19th March at 7pm, participants of North Belfast Remembers will set sail glass bottles with LED lights and details of individual men and women from North Belfast who served in the First World War. All members of the community are invited to attend. Bring your ancestor’s story and write your own message to place into bottles which will be provided on site and can be thrown into the channel. If you would like to write a letter for a bottle, please arrive at the Titanic Pump House at 6.30pm. The event will begin at 7pm. Members of the public will need to pay for car parking. Adults and children across North Belfast have been taking part in workshops to tell the stories of First World War servicemen from their areas. At workshops in North Belfast, the adults have researched a serviceman and written a letter to a local child about his life. Each child has received a letter and designed their glass bottle to represent his story. This memorial event is the culmination of the project when the participants release their letters in painted glass bottles into the water at the Titanic Pump House near HMS Caroline. The sea of lights will serve as a poignant reminder of those lost during the First World War.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC), supported by the World War One Centenary Committee in Northern Ireland, have announced details of Living Memory – a project to highlight and engage communities in Northern Ireland with the 2,700 war graves of the two world wars to be found there in 400 cemeteries and burial grounds. The Living Memory Project is designed to raise awareness of the 300,000 war graves and commemorations in the UK. In 2016, the CWGC, in partnership with Big Ideas Company, are asking the public to re-connect with the war dead buried in their own communities. CWGC wants the public to visit these sites, take a personal interest in those buried there, organise a commemoration of their own and ultimately, champion these places – tell their friends or other local community groups that these war graves must not be forgotten. Funding and a creative resource pack will be available from March 2016 for community groups in Northern Ireland wishing to participate in this initiative. The Rt Hon Jeffrey Donaldson MP is supporting the project and said: “As chairman of the Northern Ireland World War One Centenary Committee, I am delighted to be co-hosting this event at the Linen Hall Library to highlight the fact we have a significant number of war graves here in Northern Ireland, including many associated with those who died during the First World War. The CWGC has undertaken excellent work to preserve and maintain these graves and I believe it’s important to increase awareness of the graves and to encourage local people to visit during the current centenary period. The fact is that you don't have to travel to France or Belgium to visit a WW1 war grave. There may be one in your local cemetery." Mr Colin Kerr, CWGC Director of External Relations, explained: “Living Memory is about discovering, exploring and remembering those war graves to be found in cemeteries, churchyards and burial grounds here at home. “When people hear about the First World War, they think of the large, set-piece battles on the Western Front, and the cemeteries and memorials there that the CWGC maintains. But there are war graves and memorials literally on your doorstep – many lie in forgotten corners of graveyards. The CWGCs Living Memory initiative aids their rediscovery and remembrance. “Living Memory presents a unique opportunity for communities to work together to gain a fuller understanding of the war’s impact and the ongoing importance of remembrance.” Big Ideas Chief Executive, Virginia Crompton, said: “When you stand at the graveside of someone who lost their life in war some of the politics of the past fall away. The headstone brings you back to the individual, and their family. It’s a powerful reminder of the impact of war. The Living Memory project is an opportunity for us all to make a very simple and human gesture in remembering those who died in the two world wars and are buried near us. We are proud to be working with the CWGC to invite communities to take part.” Mr Ken Best was one of those who took part in a pilot of the Living Memory Project in November 2015. He said: “The opportunity to participate in the CWGC Living Memory Pilot was enthusiastically embraced by The Grammarians, the Association of Old Boys of Bangor Grammar School. The School has a long tradition of remembering the former pupils who served and died in both world wars. The Guided Walk to Bangor Cemetery in November 2015, to pay our respects at some of the war graves opened up a new dimension to remembering those who paid the ultimate sacrifice as well as bringing the knowledge about these graves in the town to the wider community.” To support the initiative, the CWGC is bringing a number of its unique archive documents to Northern Ireland for the very first time. The documents include details of how the CWGC commemorated a female typist, Sarah Hale, who died in the sinking of the SS Lusitania in 1915 and correspondence between CWGC Founder Fabian Ware and Belfast City Hall over the care of war graves.
National Museum of the Royal Navy launches an innovative digital project to map stories of the people at the Battle of Jutland The National Museum of the Royal Navy today launched an interactive map to create a record of the individuals involved in the Battle of Jutland. Following responses from descendants of Admirals Beatty and Jellicoe amongst others, the Museum is calling on the public to share, discover and remember stories of those connected with the battle. The platform has been made live in anticipation of the blockbuster exhibition ’36 Hours: Jutland 1916, The Battle that Won the War’ opening 12 May 2016 at the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. The site is at http://jutland.org.uk/ The interactive map will provide an innovative way of charting the impact of the Battle of Jutland. It will convey the ‘human’ story of the battle, highlighting its scale and significance to the First World War, by demonstrating the involvement of people from all over the British Isles and further afield. The project launched with over 6,000 entries from across Britain, already showing the national impact of The Battle of Jutland. To provide a comprehensive record the Museum is calling on members of the public to share more information. Nick Jellicoe, grandson of Admiral Sir John Jellicoe, commander of the British Grand Fleet, said: “This is one of those moments where engaging with the interactive map and what the museum is providing is a real opportunity to fill in some parts of a jigsaw, a family jigsaw you’ve never been able to solve. It’s nice to think about stories from your father, grand-father or great-grandfather, and be able to pass them on. Always one of my biggest regrets is that I never talked to my father more in detail about his father. I never did, and I hope other people don’t make the same mistake.” Nicholas Beatty, Grandson of Vice Admiral Sir David Beatty said of the project, “I am delighted to add my grandfather’s story to the Jutland Interactive Map, and am sure that the legacy of his and his brave fellow seamen will continue to live on and be better understood by current and future generations. I thoroughly recommend that all descendants whose relatives fought at Jutland do the same to ensure that those who fought to maintain our naval supremacy and retain the lines of supply to the United Kingdom, all giving so much, are never forgotten.” The Battle of Jutland was the defining naval battle of the First World War, fought over 36 hours from May 31st to June 1st 1916. It is often considered a German victory due to the number of British lives lost; the British lost 6,094 seamen and the Germans 2,551 during the battle. However these figures do not represent the impact upon the British and German fleets. At the end of the battle the British maintained numerical supremacy; only two dreadnoughts were damaged, leaving twenty-three dreadnoughts and four battlecruisers still able to fight, whilst the Germans had only ten dreadnoughts. The interactive map provides a platform for living history, and the data collected will offer a richer and more accurate history of the Royal Navy. All data is mapped and linked geographically providing a clear picture of those involved, where they served and where they came from. Memories of sailors can be shared within the messages section and icons with categories including sailors, memorials, places and schools provide key information through an immersive browsing experience. The map offers layers of information, integrating a historical overlay provided by the Scottish Archive, to show the country as it was in 1916. Public response via a social media campaign has already been strong and contributed to the 6,000 entries already documented. Entries have also been assembled in collaboration with Trevor Penfold at the Imperial War Museum, and further research has been compiled by a team of 12 volunteers at the National Museum of the Royal Navy and Portsmouth Grammar School, and Karen O’Rawe of History Hub Ulster. Portsdown U3A has kindly granted access to their research project, in conjunction with a team from Portsmouth University and funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund. The NMRN will also partner with The Royal Hospital School, Marine Archaeologist Anthony Firth and Nick Jellicoe, the grandson of Admiral Sir John Jellicoe, 1st Earl of Jellicoe. If one of your ancestors was Irish, involved in the War at Sea and you would like to be considered to attend the Commemoration of The Irish Sailor event on 31st May at HMS Caroline, don't forget to fill in the form at http://historyhubulster.co.uk/irishsailor/
Dr Innes McCartney is a nautical archaeologist, explorer, historian and author. Over the last 25 years he has specialised in the discovery of and investigation into twentieth century shipwrecks including the wrecks of the Battle of Jutland and many British and German submarines. He has appeared regularly on documentaries such as Time Team Special and is a popular speaker at conferences. The talk will give an overview of the Battle of Jutland and then reveal how the 25 ships sunk have been discovered in recent years and what they tell us. The shipwrecks offer an entirely new way of looking at the battle. Not only are they the extant memorials to the 8,500 sailors who died, they are also remarkable untapped archaeological resources. This is no truer than when looking that remains of the ships which sunk with few witnesses, or behind walls of smoke. In those cases the wrecks offer much new information about the battle which was previously unknown. This talk will show how investigations of the wrecks are changing historical perspectives on the battle. The talk will take place on Thursday 26th May at 6.30pm in PRONI. Refreshments will be available from 6pm BOOKING IS ESSENTIAL: Please click here Organised by History Hub Ulster and the Royal Navy, this event is part of Belfast City Council’s Civic Events programme of commemorations and is being funded by the Council and OFMDFM. For further information on these events, please visit www.belfastcity.gov.uk/centenaries