On April the 11th, communities from in and around the National Park came together for the ‘WW1 Commemorative Showcase’; a collaborative Park-wide Heritage presentation of community service, spirit and sacrifice.
The joint showcase which is part of an ongoing project, has been an opportunity for a wide range of community heritage groups and societies to display their research; to come together to remember those involved in the Great War and to look at each communities wartime experience and it’s lasting legacy. These poignant discoveries, gleaning what places were like, how communities coped with the abscences and dealt with the shortages have been archived into a full colour commemorative booklet telling some of the stories of the sacrifices made and the people that lived in this beautiful but challenging rural landscape. To find out more please play our short film!
Set within the perfect venue of Gartmore Village Hall, guests from all corners of the park and beyond were welcomed to the showcase by Director Carol Hemfrey from the Community Partnership (and Project Co-ordinator for the Drymen Heritage group). Armed with mugs of tea and home made Anzac ‘soldiers’ biscuits, guests had a chance to look around the community WW1 exhibition and meet with the heritage groups central to the project’s success so far.
Service – The Patriotic Response
Opening the programme, historian and Director of the Centre for Battlefield Archaeology at Glasgow University, Dr Tony Pollard, began with his moving presentation of a regular talk that he gives in the university’s chapel, the topic of which was the Battle of Neuve Chapelle, fought in March 1915, and during which the university lost five of its people. We learnt from Tony that in order for him and his team to more fully understand the experience of these individuals, who fought in several regiments, he had to use some basic research to make informed speculations about how and where on the battlefield these men died. His hope was that this exercise has helped to bring these men further into focus, and whilst their loss might seem insignificant in the context of an allied death toll of around 3,500 during the battle, it was far from such in the domestic sphere of the university community.
Sacrifice – The Ultimate Recognition & Rememberance
It is very difficult to comprehend the scale and impact of the Great War as a whole. From the kindly donated and loaned diaries, dead man’s pennies, uniforms, postcards and medals to the the contents of suitcases treasured and hidden safely away in attics, our communities have each gone about their research in their own way and the WW1 Commemorative Showcase has demonstrated that there are many different ways and approaches that the Great War can be studied!
Behind every name lies a story! Ann Galliard, Chair of Historic Kilmun gave a presentation featuring ‘Local Heroes’ and has been studying the names of those men listed on the Kilmun War Memorial. Her approach to research has been to find out more about the individuals and the people that they were, rather than just focussing on the statistics.
Spirit – Life goes on!
In the early 20th Century, much of some community’s ‘spirit’ relied heavily on the women folk. If anyone can bring to life the more practical contribution to the Great War ‘home front’ effort it was Joyce Meader, official hand knitter for the ‘Great War Society’. With replica pieces knitted from the original knitting patterns of the time, gussetless long johns, arm slings, field dressings and balaclavas on display we learnt of the important and demanding role of the teams of thousands of women and children ‘knitters’ who provided ‘home comforts’ and knitted medical accessories for the men serving on the front line. In 1914 the ‘Stirlingshire Observer’ reported that its local armies of ‘British Red Cross’ volunteers had been knitting endlessly producing an estimated 6405 garments.
WW1 Commemorative Menu
During the day, guests had a chance to enjoy a delicious WW1 inspired menu especially designed by pupils from Arrochar Primary School; a competition launched for children to learn more about their local food heritage and communities during the Great War. Rowena and her catering team from ‘The Coach House’ Luss, were very excited to work on the joint WW1 project. From the empty plates and bowls we hazard a guess that guests enjoyed the ‘perfect potato pie’ and home made ‘bread and butter pudding’.
The War hasn’t finished yet!
Bringing the day to a close, Dr Tony Pollard had some excellent advice to give to all our community heritage groups taking part so far and to encourage more people to get involved;
“Today has been a splendid exhibition and I have been gratified to see how people have thus far engaged with the centenary of the Great War. Granted that we still have a long way to go until November 2018, but events like the sea of poppies at the Tower of London, the illumination of Glasgow City Chambers and numerous local community projects, such as those highlighted at today’s ‘WW1 Commemorative Showcase’ event, have maintained a momentum and at present there is no sign of war weariness. Another important reason for this continued interest and enthusiasm is the wealth of insights into the experience of individuals that have so far come to light. And that really is the key; yes, the Great War was fought on an industrial scale and swallowed up millions of lives, but beyond the almost incomprehensible numbers and the over-simplistic picture of mud and barbed wire, it was a war fought by individuals, by people with their own stories”
With the final words of Joyce Meader;
“We still have three years to go, the war hasn’t finished yet! We must go on!” …and that is what we intend to do.
Further details about our joint travelling showcase, and joint WW1 Commemorative Booklet will be coming soon.
Special thanks and acknowledgements
With a very special thanks to all heritage groups taking part so far, we would also like to acknowledge the support received from the Heritage Lottery fund to allow the Community Partnership to play the role of enabler and catalyst which is seen as an important part in assisting the heritage groups to access relevant material, provide a platform and networking opportunities. If you would like to get involved please get in touch.