Image courtesy and copyright Imperial War Museum
As the remembrance weekend approaches, the UK’s museums are again planning their contributions to the solemn ceremonies taking place at war memorials across the country on the weekend of November 11 and 12 2006.
During the remembrance weekend people will be commemorating soldiers that fell as long ago as 1914 in France and as recently as last week in Afghanistan and Iraq, but for many museums 2006 has been a time to remember the battle that really cemented the idea of remembrance in the consciousness of the nation.
The first day of the Battle of the Somme on July 1 1916 was the bloodiest day in British military history and saw British forces suffer nearly 60,000 casualties (one third of them killed). By the end of this murderous battle of attrition in November 1916 the total number of casualties included 419,654 British and Empire soldiers (125,000 of them dead) 200,000 French and 500,000 German combatants.
To try and make sense of this carnage the ongoing exhibition at the National Army Museum in Chelsea, The Battle of the Somme, offers the chance to hear from generals, their critics, those who survived and those who died. The exhibition asks you to make up your own mind and asks: Where over 300,000 lie dead, where do you stand?
8th Battalion, the Seaforth Highlanders manning a shallow trench in the shattered landscape in front of Martinpuich, 25 August 1916. © NAM
Also marking the 90th anniversary of the battle, the Imperial War Museum launched a web-based exhibition of the battle in July 2006. The online exhibition The Battle of the Somme features key items from the museum’s extensive WWI collection that highlight facts about the battle as well as personal stories from those involved.
To mark Armistice weekend the Imperial War Museum will be hosting a range of events and family activities as well as observing two minutes silence across each its branches on Saturday and Sunday at 11am.
Perhaps the most intriguing event during the IWM’s remembrance weekend is a screening of a new film called Poppies.
Starring Paul McGann as a writer who, in the process of writing a play about the death of his grandfather in the Battle of the Somme, becomes obsessed with trying to stage his play, whilst also coming to terms with loss and remembrance.
© Jon Pratty/24 Hour Museum
The film premieres at IWM North (Manchester) on Friday November 10 at 7pm (tickets £6 - booking on 0161 836 4007) and there will also be a screening at IWM London on November 11 at 2pm (tickets £7.00 - booking and ticket information 020 7416 5439).
Both screenings will be followed by a question and answer session with cast members including Paul McGann, Gary Kemp and director Barry Bliss.
There will be further remembrance activities across all the IWM sites including a Remembrance Day Service on the quarterdeck of will be offering free entrance to all visitors with a wreath-laying ceremony and a service of remembrance at 12.15pm.
The remembrance process will be brought to its logical conclusion at 2pm on the same day when Baroness Shirley Williams will give The Movement for the Abolition of War’s annual lecture at the IWM in Lambeth.
Help create a personalised poppy at the IWM as part of Steel Harvest, an art installation representing soldiers who fell at the Battle of the Somme in 1916. © Imperial War Museum
At the National Maritime Museum, the Victoria Cross display in the E-Library which opened on August 23 will remain on show until the end of Remembrance Sunday on November 12.
Remembrance is not only about serving soldiers who died during wars and other conflicts, and the National Railway Museum, will be bringing this home by remembering the railway men and women who served in the last two world wars.
The London, Brighton & South Coast Railway locomotive, Remembrance, was built in commemoration of the 532 men of the company who lost their lives in the Great War 1914-1919.
A model of the locomotive is currently on display at the museum together with the Rolls of Honour for the North Eastern Railway (NER) 1914-1919 and the London & North Eastern Railway 1939-1945. Formerly housed at the NER headquarters building in York, the rolls were transferred to the NRM this year.
At 11am from November 6 - 17 a member of staff will turn the pages of the Rolls of Honour in remembrance of all the railway men and women who served in the two World Wars.
© Jon Pratty/24 Hour Museum
At Hertford Museum a touring exhibition devised by tells the story of Jack Halstead – a Great War survivor who kept an illustrated diary. Pages and illustrations from the diary are accompanied by objects from the First World War together with objects relating to the Hertford War Memorial.
There will also be a performance called One Man’s War by Lee Wilkinson and the Haileybury Players on Friday November 17 and Saturday November 18. Tickets are priced at £5 and performances begin at 7.30pm. Contact the museum on 01992 582686 for more details.
At the Royal Armouries Museum in Leeds, Peter Spafford, the museum’s writer in residence, has been busy working on two performance events in commemoration of Armistice Day.
Only Water Between has been devised in response to a poignant box of letters and memorabilia, which has recently come into the possession of the museum. A moving tribute to the survival of love in times of conflict, the performance will premiere on the afternoon of November 11.
The Royal Armouries in Leeds is hosting a series of performances that explore remembrance themes over the weekend of November 11/12. © Royal Armouries
VC Calvert is a short performance based on the life of Sergeant Laurence Calvert, who was awarded the Victoria Cross in 1918.
Devised in collaboration with pupils from Cockburn High School in South Leeds, where Sergeant Calvert was a pupil, the play will premiere at the school assembly on Friday November 10 before featuring at the museum on Saturday November 11.
An annual Armistice Day Service also takes place at the museum on November 11 at 11am led by the 4th Battalion, The Yorkshire Regiment.
In Scotland Glasgow University Chapel, built as a lasting memorial to the dead of WWI, will be home to a small exhibition of original documents and artefacts of former staff members and students who served during WWI.
Lance Corporal Andrew Shaw. © Glasgow University Archive Services
Last year, the University launched the Roll of Honour website to record the details of alumni and staff members who are known to have served in the First World War.
Running until November 15, the exhibition has been developed by the Hunterian Museum, in partnership with the University’s Archive Services and the University Chapel. It focuses on three men who feature on the website: Archibald Allan Bowman (1883-1936), Arthur Lang (1892-1916) and Andrew Shaw (1892-1916).
Among the poignant items featured are the medals, letters and shell battered cigarette box and matchbox holder of Gorbals born Andrew McFarlane Shaw, who enlisted in the 8th Battalion Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders and lost his life aged just 24.
A podcast describing the personal effects of Lance Corporal Andrew Shaw can be found on the Hunterian Museum and Art Gallery's website
For more information about the many war memorials scattered around the cities, towns and villages of the UK see The UK National Inventory of War Memorials website. For futher information about the Remembrance Weekend see the Royal British Legion website.