Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Glasgow's War goes live November 11th - Part Two

In my last post, I talked about the research that lies behind Glasgow's War. This post I'll cover some of the topics you can expect to hear and see in George Square this evening.

As well as Glasgow's War, we are projecting the names of all the Glaswegians who died serving in the First World War onto the Cenotaph throughout the evening.

The evening begins at 7pm with the beginning of the Cenotaph projection and the first showing of Glasgow's War. Each 27 minute performance will conclude with a lone piper in the Square, playing to commemorate all those Glaswegians who were part of that history.
The performances of Glasgow's War are every 45 minutes throughout the evening. (7pm, 7.45pm, 8.30pm, 9.15pm, 10pm, 10.45pm, 11.27pm). The projection on the Cenotaph will run continuously.

At the conclusion of the final performance just before midnight, the final name will be projected onto the Cenotaph and a bugler will play the Last Post in their memory. I hope people will be able to join us at some point during this evening.

But what is in "Glasgow's War" ?
The period 1914-1918 is a complex one, full of changes, opinions, activities and actions undertaken, battles, decisions, lives lost and people injured. Glasgow's history contains events of people of differing historical resonance. The battles of the war were fought by men from the whole of Britain, and battles such as the Somme have a national resonance.

Christmas 1914

Other wartime developments are national but have particular regional impact - the Battle of Loos is one with particular importance for Scotland, the formation and service of the Scottish Women's Hospital is another. Other national events have an additional local resonance for Glasgow in particular. The sinking of the Lusitania in May 1915, considered a national event, has a particular resonance for Glasgow then with the men at the John Brown shipyard who would have remembered building her with their own hands.

The Rent Strikes in 'Glasgow's War'

There are people who were enormously important to the city of Glasgow itself - names such as Mary Barbour, John Maclean, James Maxton are prominent for their particular areas of social activism during the First World War.

The piece seeks to provide a chronological overview of what Glasgow and the Glaswegian people would have known and saw as a city by taking you into their world through their own words. You will hear first hand accounts from soldiers of important battles such as Mons (1914), Neuve Chapelle and Loos (1915) and the Somme (1916) we hear views and opinions from local media. The account of the Battle of Jutland (1916) is drawn from the Glasgow Herald, which also acted as a first hand witness to events such as the arrival of the Belgian refugees in autumn 1914 & the rent strike protests of 1915.
You will hear from speeches and private letters by John Maclean and James Maxton to allow them to say why they took the stance they did.

The shell crisis impacted Glasgow as the call went out for women to go to work and the Royal Technical College (now Strathclyde University) trained women munitions workers. Mary Barbour sought to aid those hit by rent rises the influx of workers into the city generated. The city, already involved in building battleships, would go on to be part of the research, development & building of military aeroplanes and tanks.
Also mentioned in the piece is founding of Erskine Hospital, funded by enormously generous donations  in order to provide some kind of support and rehabilitation of injured Scottish soldiers. It was a unique relationship between the surgeon Sir William Macewen and the designers and labourers at Yarrow's shipyard that developed the Erskine limb.

The Royal Flying Corps

Sir David Henderson was a key force within the Royal Flying Corps and directly involved with the creation of the RAF on 1st April 1918.

Of special note to me, and I hope to others, is that some of the material I have included has actually come directly from original documents and required transcription.
Adverts focussing on typical summer activities of the Glasgow Fair just before war broke out is one.
James Maxton's letters was another item I transcribed from.
One account is an extract of being wounded during the Mesopotamian campaign in 1917. I have transcribed this by hand from a fragile notebook belonging to a Private who was in the Highland Light Infantry. It was originally a puzzle (the catalogue dates and dates in the notebook didn't match) so I sat with it for many hours to decipher the very faded handwriting in order to understand what he went through, and I share what I found here in this piece. This is particularly precious highly personal material and you hear it in this piece for the first time, read by one of my volunteers (thank you to Calum Stewart). It is my intention to transcribe as much of this book as possible and give the transcription to the RHF archive.

It is my sincere hope that people will come away wanting to know more about this history, wanting to explore it through their local archives. There is much digitised material online where you can find out more detail about the events and people who speak in the piece.
I can point you to the First World War Glasgow website as a starting place.

We look forward to seeing you in George Square this evening.