The In Flanders Fields Museum and the School of History/Gateways to the First World War, University of Kent present a fourth series of eight seminars on Thursday evening, free and open to all.
Ieper, Thursday 19 October 2017, 7.15pm
- Ieper venue and start times: Research Centre, Reading Room, In Flanders Fields Museum, Sint-Maartensplein 3, 8900 Ieper, 7.15 pm.
- Canterbury venue and start times: University of Kent, Canterbury, CT2 7NX, Darwin Lecture Theatre 1, 6pm.
Dr Emma Hanna (University of Kent)
Mind, Body & Soul: The Salvation Army and YMCA on the Western Front, 1914-1918
This talk will give an overview of the wartime work of two of the largest voluntary-aid organizations on the Western Front: the Salvation Army and the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA). In camps, huts and hospitals along the lines of communication, and often within the range of fire, hundreds of men and women travelled to France and Belgium to assist the Allied war effort. While each organization had its own mission and methodology, their primary aims converged – to care of the British servicemen’s physical, moral and spiritual well-being. With a particular focus on music, education and recreation, this talk will put the work of these organizations into the context of 1914-18, giving a comparative analysis of how the Salvation Army and YMCA operated to care for the minds, bodies and souls of millions of British servicemen.
Canterbury, Thursday 2 November 2017, 6pm
Lt-Col. Luc Moerman (former CO of the Belgian EOD Group)
The ‘iron harvest’ in Flanders’ Fields. A farmers’ perspective
World War I left Flanders’ Fields littered with duds threatening the local population even today. A classic rule of thumb is that one in three shells did not function resulting in an estimate of 300 million projectiles left in the ground after the Great War ended. Ever since 1919 the Explosive Ordnance Disposal Group, being the sole actor mandated to dispose of explosives, has been ‘harvesting’ this so-called ‘Iron Harvest’. As the result of the experience gained by its operators and the continuous evolution of the technologies used process, the unit at ‘Poelkapelle site’ acts as a benchmark for countries struggling with the same threat.
Ieper, Thursday 16 November 2017, 7.15pm
Natasha Silk (PhD student, University of Kent)
Canadian Memorialisation: a case study of the Canadian war memorial at St. Julien
The focus of this talk will be the ‘Brooding Soldier’, the Canadian war memorial at St. Julien. This paper will explore how Canada conducted its memorialisation process; considering how Canadian memorialisation of the war forms its own legacy separate from the British memory of the war. It will explore the prominent nation building myth that exists within Canadian memorials to the dead of the First World War, most impressively demonstrated at Vimy Ridge. However, the ‘Brooding Soldier’ occupies an alternative space within memorial practice as it is a depiction of grief.
Significantly, this memorial was designed by a veteran, and so the talk will use the memorial to consider how soldiers’ grief was or was not incorporated in the post war memorialisation practices. Through the exploration of the symbolism of the site for the Canadian Expeditionary Force, this talk will consider why certain sites were chosen for memorials, and in this particular case, how the site helped to forge a national identity for Canada in the post war era. It will then go on to consider the reactions to the memorial once it was built. By doing this, the paper will explore how the site came to be unique, and how the Commonwealth War Graves Commission made efforts to re-inscribe the memorial with meaning after it had been erected at St. Julien.
Canterbury, Thursday 30 November 2017, 6pm
Dirk Musschoot (Independent researcher and author)
The Birtley Belgians (Belgians in the ammunition factory of Birtley, County Durham, during World War I).
The Shell Crisis of 1915 forced the British to build new ammunition factories as soon as possible. One of those so called National Projectile Factories (NPF) was erected in Birtley in (then) County Durham. Because there were not enough British men to man all those factories, Belgian refugees and handicapped Belgian soldiers came in sight. As kind of an experiment the ammunition factory of Birtley became fully manned with Belgians - some 4000. With their wives and children they were 6000. The Belgians lived in Elisabethville, a village erected especially for them next to the factory. After the War the Belgians disappeared as quickly as they came but their legacy still lives on.
Canterbury, Thursday 11 January 2018, 6pm
Prof. Wim Coudenys (University of Leuven)
Brest-Litovsk: Treason, or a Lost Opportunity?
The treaty of Brest-Litovsk of March 1918 was perceived as treason to the Allied cause and once and for all established the idea that the Bolsheviks had excluded themselves from (Western) civilization. From the Bolsheviks’ point of view, however, peace was necessary if they wanted to remain in power. For nearly 5 months, the negotiations were constantly on the brink of collapse, to the utter joy of the Allies. Moreover, the messages coming from Russia were confusing: the military reassured their Western colleagues that the Bolsheviks would soon be ousted, whereas the Bolsheviks invited the Allies to join the negotiations and reach an overall peace agreement. Neither the Allies nor the Central Powers were interested and continued to pursue their own wartime goals. In my presentation, I will be focusing on the 5 months between November 1917 and March 1918, when the outcome of the negotiations, and hence the fate of the Bolsheviks, were still in limbo. Brest-Litovsk not only brought this uncertainty to an end, but also established the image of the Bolsheviks as traitors and pariahs of the international world order.
Ieper, Thursday 25 January 2018, 7.15pm
Dr Glyn Prysor and Andrew Featherston (Commonwealth War Graves Commission)
Guardians of the Fallen – Experiences of IWGC staff in post First World War Belgium
After the end of the Great War, the task of burying the dead and building war cemeteries began. Ieper became home to many of the gardeners and staff of the IWGC (now the Commonwealth War Graves Commission). This talk explores their experiences, from the conditions in which they worked, to the way they saw their task. It highlights how their everyday lives changed over the years, and shows how these ‘guardians of the fallen’ give us a fascinating perspective on Ieper during the reconstruction.
Canterbury, Thursday 8 February 2018, 6pm
Prof. Marnix Beyen (University of Antwerp)
"You who never stopped defending the poor poilus of the frontline". Parisian soldiers approaching their their député during the First World War.
The historiographical shift towards everyday practices of citizens and soldiers during the First World War has given a place of prominence to 'ordinary' people's letters as historical sources. A type of letters that hitherto was neglected by historians, however, are those that were written by soldiers from the front to the members of Parliament of their local constituency. As I will try to show in this lecture, the intermediary position of the members of parliament between state and society makes these letters into a source of extraordinary value. They not only offer us a largely unfiltered view of the life at and behind the frontline, but tell us also much about the soldiers' continuous concern for their kinship at the homefront, as well as about their political views and their expectations for the future. The focus of this lecture will be on Parisian soldiers, because the French electoral system created a particularly strong proximity between constituents and their députés in the French capital - and hence also an extremely large amount of letters are preserved.
Ieper, Thursday 22 February 2018, 7.15pm
Professor Peter Doyle (University of the South Bank)
Disputed Earth - Geology and Trench Warfare on the Western Front
The Great War. As the trench lines snaked across Europe they cut through varied terrain. Every aspect of the ground conditions had a material effect on the war, from the health and well-being of the men, the ability of the trenches to protect their occupants and stop attacks, and the capability of the trenches to aid in the assault. With the enduring imagery of the war presenting men mired in seemingly bottomless mud, facing hills, ridges and high ground to be taken at all cost, the significance of geology to its outcome was stark. To assist in this war, military engineers enlisted geologists – who helped drain the trenches, to map out and combat the diversity of unsuitable ground, design and build dug-outs and pill-boxes; supply water and other resources; and to improve the lot of the frontline soldier. Not surprisingly, geology had a significant role in this defensive war; but arguably it had an even greater one in planning the offence, influencing the effects of artillery fire, naturally, but also in providing a means of undermining the enemy, of controlling the flow of poisonous gas, or in permitting the use of tanks.This talk examines the significance of geology to, and the role of geologists in, the Great War. Using examples from the author’s new book Disputed Earth (Uniform Press, 2017) it takes examples of the significance of the science to the outcome of the war in British sector in Flanders and northern France.