Thursday, August 13, 2015

In the Trenches

The Staffordshire Regiment Museum is at Whittington Barracks just outside the centre of Lichfield on the A 51 road to Tamworth.  It is a museum I'd never visited before but they had a WWI exhibition that we wanted to see. 

In the Museum was this wonderful tapestry made with lots of crochet poppies.

There is also a knitted pigeon.  This represents the pigeon known as 'Cher Ami' or 'dear friend' a male name for what was found later to be a female homing pigeon who saved the lives of 194 American soldiers.  Here is a link to the full story.  Cher Ami was the last pigeon to be sent with a request for help in October 1918 from the Lost Brigade at the Battle of Argonne and was awarded the Croix de Guerre for her bravery.  Despite being badly wounded she got her message back to the division headquarters.

The trench is a reconstruction of a hundred metre section of a British trench.  It was built in 2000 but updated and added to for the centenary of the commencement of WW1 last year.  

The trench is named after Lance Corporal William Coltman, VC in memory of him and all the Staffordshire men who served in the war.


There are several re-enactments, educational tours and experiences planned through this year in the trench but when we visited there was just us two.  

 Of course it was lacking the mud

 and the damp and the vermin

 and the smells

 and the danger

 and the fear

It  lacked the cold and bleakness of winter, the autumn fogs, the cool of spring and the searing heat of summer.  It lacked the smell of woodbines, the sound of the voices of the men as they went about their duties or rested before heading for the front but it did have the sound of sniper fire and the constant boom of the heavy guns.  I thought of Private Baldrick's poem in Blackadder 4 - Boom, Boom, Boom ........

 How dreadful it must have been, how brave they all were and how afraid they must have felt - all the time. 

This was quite a splendid reconstruction of how the trenches must have looked when first created but no one could or would want to recreate the appalling conditions experienced as the war progressed.

I did climb up the ladder to look at 'no man's land' and the German front line.  

There is also a Sap or mine adit.  Many miners were recruited to dig tunnels under ground towards the enemy lines.  If you have read Sebastian Faulks' novel 'Birdsong' you will have read about the mines and the tunnels running close to those of the enemy.

In the bright sunshine of an ordinary August afternoon it was sometimes hard to imagine how truly awful it must have been.

For everyone

28 comments:

  1. Interesting post Rosie, thanks for sharing your day out at the exhibition with us. Much appreciated.

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    1. Thanks, Ian - glad you enjoyed it:)

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  2. That trench reconstruction is fantastic! I get bored of world war things (I'd had enough after 3 whole years studying it for history in high school) but this looks really interesting and worth a trip! I love the knitted pigeon too.

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    1. School sometimes has a lot to answer for - we seemed to spend ages on the War of spanish Succession and the War of Jenkin's Ear - soon as we turned to the Industrial Revolution I became engaged again:)

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  3. Boom Boom Boom is one of my favourite poems! The last ever scene in Blackadder still reduces me to tears. That exhibition looks fab and something my hubby would certainly enjoy. I LOVE the pigeon and poppies. xxx

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    1. Oh, I know - gets me every time - saw Tony Robinson on a programme about Blackadder recently and he started to recite 'Boom' then said 'I've forgotten the words' - made me smile:)

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  4. That looks fab. I think I might have to go. Thanks, Rosie. x

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    1. Well worth a visit - I guess it would be even better when they have the costumed volunteers in:)

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  5. That was very interesting. As you say, it all looks very clean but at least it gives us an idea of what it was like. It's a good trip for local schools. x

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    1. Yes, I expect the costumed re-enactors bring it to life especially for the school groups:)

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  6. A fascinating and moving place and blog post too. You can only imagine the horror and terror and even then I don't suppose that we are even a quarter of the way there to what it was really like. A reminder of how thankful we should be to those who served and fought. xx

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    1. We should indeed be thankful I always feel so sorry for those young men and women whose lives were lost or changed so much by both wars but particularly WWI - I watched the new film of Testament of Youth recently - so much lost potential, so much given up:)

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  7. A wonderful post Rosie. As you say it all looks pristine, but was not what was experienced in real life...still I found it fascinating because it is to scale and helps to give us some idea of what life was like. There can't be many people who don't remember the last episode of Blackadder...very moving.

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    1. Thanks, that last episode was very moving - it is a wonderful reconstruction and we can get a good idea of how the trenches worked and add in the rest in our imagination:)

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  8. A lovely post. And that tapestry is so colorful and bright.
    Amalia
    xo

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    1. Thanks, Amalia - it is a very striking tapestry isn't it?:)

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  9. This looks really interesting but you are right in saying that nothing can give people any idea of the reality of the trenches.

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    1. I can't imagine the privations, the dirt and the horror of it all and those who experienced it and survived would want to forget but probably never would:)

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  10. What a wonderful museum! It is wonderful that you remind us that the recreations cannot aptly show the fear, the mud, the privations, etc etc. But to have these recreations is wonderful to see, and I would love to visit there someday. Loved the tapestry with all the crocheted poppies, and Cher Ami. I've read about Cher Ami and am so happy she is represented in the museum. Great post!

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    1. Thank you Marie, so glad you enjoyed reading about the museum, nice to know that you knew about Cher Ami too:)

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  11. Great post Rosie but as you say nothing like the reality of the trenches once they were in use. I get a great sense of claustrophobia looking at the trenches and imagining how many people/bodies were trapped there. I would imagine that the German trenches were as equally appalling. x

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    1. I imagine so too, I can't begin imagine how those soldiers felt after weeks and weeks spent in the trenches and then having to fight for their lives too:)

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  12. Fascinating and most interesting. All very clean and tidy though (and no rats) or being knee deep in water but it does help you to understand what it must have been like. Love the story about the humble pigeon and what a difference she made.

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    1. I can't bear to think of the animals who suffered and lost their lives during the war. It is good that they got some recognition isn't it? The re-creation of the trenches and tunnels do give some idea of what it would have been like but we can never really know:)

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  13. Hello. I found this post you shared today quite fascinating. I have never seen anything like this in regard to the war, unless you count the scenes they shared on Downton Abbey a few seasons back. It's very educational and at the same time quite somber. I enjoyed the story about the pigeon, too. Have a great week.

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    1. Thank you Lily's Mom glad you enjoyed the post. The story of cher Ami is wonderful isn't it?:)

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  14. Great post & amazing museum. I'll add it to my to-visit list. As I began reading, I noticed how clean the trench was, and loved the way you've mentioned all the missing elements, smells, sounds etc.

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    1. You do have to fill in a lot of the gaps but it is still interesting, I expect when they have people in there telling their stories it comes alive - except for the mud - no way people would want to experience that, you just could recreate that. It's a small museum but well worth a visit:)

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