REFLECTIONS ON WAR

bridging the generations

 
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World War I resulted in 17 million deaths and 20 million wounded ranking it among the deadliest conflicts in human history.

 

Introduction

This webpage describes a project that I am currently working on entitled Reflections on War. I wish to exhibit it during 2018 which will be the centenary of the end of World War I. If you have any contacts who may be interested in exhibiting this work then please get in touch with me via my contact page. As the project is still ongoing there is opportunity to discuss the most appropriate way to present the work for a particular venue.

So  what is the project all about?

The project  commemorates those who served in World War I through their descendants and challenges the viewer to reflect on how their life is built on the sacrifices made by others.

How have you done that?

Through portrait photography I have presented living descendants alongside their ancestors who served in World War I. In addition the descendants have shared some of their family history and thoughts in relation to what their ancestor did for them in the Great War.

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Who are the people that you have photographed?

They are volunteers who have heard about my project and wanted to take part in it. I intend to include at least 12 subjects - plus of course 12 ancestors. Subjects are diverse in terms of age, gender and occupation. Their ancestors are also diverse in terms of their War contribution. The project is intended to provide a variety of stories and reflections.

What information about the subjects do you present?

Here's some examples to show some of the information - there is more available.

My grandfather Thomas Cawthorne, was born in Barnard Castle in County Durham in 1886 and died in Sunderland in 1962
His family came from Barnard Castle and he was one of eight children. Their father was a shopkeeper and their mother was a milliner. Thomas trained as a confectioner making sweetmeats and pastries - and was an amateur boxer in his spare time.
Moving to Sunderland, he married Kitty and started a family of his own just before the outbreak of World War 1.

The photograph shows Thomas in the uniform of the Durham Light Infantry but it was with the West Yorkshire regiment that he saw action at the battle of Passchendaele in 1917, one of the muddiest and bloodiest battles of the First World war. One of his duties was to instruct in the throwing of hand grenades - and the family subsequently kept a defused one at home at a momento.

Corporal Thomas Cawthorne "served with honour and was disabled in the Great War”, being honourably discharged on 16 April 1918. Returning home to Sunderland, and suffering from the effects of gas, he was hospitalised to aid his recovery. The Royal Infirmary - as it was known then - was located at the end of his street and he would often climb over the fence and spend the evenings at home!

After the war, Thomas had a change of career and found work in the local shipyards training to be a technical draughtsman. Learning the skills needed to produce drawings to enable the construction of ships. My mother told me that in their house they had a plan chest full of his drawings together with all the equipment needed to make them
His health never fully recovered from his experience in the war but he and Kitty had seven children including my mother Kathleen.

My name is Michael Shiel and I was born in Sunderland.
I trained as an Architect and now live in both London and Cumbria.
Like my grandfather, my work included the production of technical drawings and some of the equipment he used is also familiar to me.

He would be surprised to to learn that drawings are now no longer produced by hand but with computers instead. He would also be disappointed to hear that no more ships are built in Sunderland.

Looking at his photograph now I see a man who, like so many, would have been proud to wear the uniform but would have no idea of what was about to happen to them.

 

My name is Ian Carradice. I was born on 10 July 1953 when Arthur, my father was working for the railways in Tebay, along with his father and brother. My first home was 2 Chapel Terrace, Tebay, but we later moved to Preston, then Liverpool. I went to University at Liverpool (BA 1973) then St Andrews (PhD 1980). In 1977, before completing my Doctorate, I was appointed to the British Museum, London, as a curator in the Department of Coins and Medals. I worked there until 1989 when I returned to St Andrews (by now with a wife and three young children). At St Andrews I taught Museum Studies in the School of Art History, becoming Professor in 1999 and Head of School 2002-6. I was also Director of Museum Collections at the University and I supervised the establishment of a new University Museum (MUSA) in 2008. In 2012 I took early retirement and moved back to Tebay for a new life as a sheep farmer (having bought Intake Farm in 2009).

You mentioned personal reflections - again give me an example

Each of the subject was asked to reflect and write a letter to their ancestor - here's a couple of examples:

This is my grandfather, Tom Carradice. 

He was born in December 1896 and brought up in Sedbergh, where his father, James Carradice, was a woollen mill worker. Tom had four brothers and four sisters. Tom and two of his brothers, Edward and Isaac, served in World War 1.

I never asked Grandad, who died when I was 12, about his early life, but his brother Isaac told me that life was hard. Their father had a reputation as a heavy drinker and when once I asked Isaac about him he just said “we don’t talk about those times”. However hard their upbringing might have been, in later life the siblings were all very close friends and perhaps they always had been..........

Dear Grandad,

You may be surprised that your youngest grandchild is now back in Tebay. Whenever I drive into the village I first see the house where Grandma was born, then the house where you both lived for most of your lives and then the house where I lived as a baby with my brother and parents. The Cross Keys, where your wedding reception was held, is still here, and so is the bench across the road where you used to sit in retirement with your two pals, Jack and Tommy. I’ve had a busy and rewarding life so far, but I’m thankful that I didn’t have to risk my life in a world war like you and Dad did. One of my daughters, however, did serve in Iraq with the RAF, so wars still go on! It’s a pity that I didn’t have more time with you, so I was not able to ask you more about your life, but the little I know of you will not be forgotten by your family, 

When I look at this photo of you I see a young man, only about 21 years of age but already in his 3rd year of the ‘Great War’. By the end of the War more than 49000 men of the Royal Artillery had been killed. I wonder how many friends you had already lost by the time this photo was taken? How did you get through this most horrific of wars? You once told me that the men were all ordered to present for duty every day clean shaven and smart, even though you might have had to use cold water (or no water). In old age, Grandad, you would still shave and dress smart, with a jacket and tie, just to spend your day sitting on a bench in Tebay. Did the discipline of daily life in the army, including the care of your equipment, and, in your case, the horses to which you were so devoted, provide a purpose to life and something other than the horrors of war to focus on? Perhaps this was the key to survival. So there you sit, looking calm and assured, a cigarette in your left hand, as if to say “I’m still here, in one piece”. 

 

Adam Hogg Buckle born 1st May 1894 in Kirkby Stephen and son of John and Mary Buckle. He was 1 of 12 children. They grew up at Blue Grass, Stainmore. His parents were farmers.

Before the war he lived a simple life working on the farm using horses to work the land. This resulted in him eventually working with horses during the war. He was single when he left for war.

 He enlisted on 20 November 2015. He became No. 570 in the 28th (Reserve) Battalion of the Northumberland Fusiliers. After basic training he was compulsorily transfered to Machine Gun Corps No. 30910. As a farmer and with a knowledge of horses he was posted to the transport section of 182 Company as a driver........

 

 

 

'Dear Great Grandad,

We are your Great Grandchildren Joe and Charlie. We think what you did in the war was very valiant and we understand that we wouldn’t be here today without brave and valiant people like you.

We wonder if you would be disappointed with life today as WW1 was supposed to be the war to end all of wars, but sadly there is still fighting. Did you agree with the war? You fought with many brave men. Did you take comfort from your companions?

You probably had to kill many men. If you hadn’t killed them, would they have killed you?

We think it must have been catastrophic to be made to leave your home and family and go to war. You must have felt great depression and traumawith all you witnessed.

Thank you for fighting for us all. We hope that you were proud of your war efforts as you have helped give us the future we have today and we can’t thank you enough.

We are very proud of you.

Love

Joe and Charlie Kirkland

 

Tell  me more about what you want to do with this project

I have more volunteers to photograph and research with the intention of creating enough subject matter for a strong visual and written piece of work that is worthy of sharing. I believe that in the right environment and strongly presented it could arrest and absorb the viewer and leave them wiser owing to the very personal insight into those that served and their direct descendants accentuated with the portrait photography.

I am therefore seeking a partner who would be able to work with me in presenting and marketing this work in a suitable environment.

If you are interested in supporting me or have any suggestions that I could follow up then please get in touch via my contact page.

Many thanks

Steve Crook