A new project aims to raise awareness of the men and women from Britain and its former empire who served in the 'often overlooked' First World War campaigns in Salonika, Egypt, Palestine, Syria, Mesopotamia and Africa.
Understanding what made the 1914-18 conflict a world war will be a central aim for Away from the Western Front - a registered charity launched with a grant of £99,500 from the UK's Heritage Lottery Fund.
Partner organisations will research the stories of specific soldiers, their families and regiments, drawing on the heritage of the diverse ethnic communities now living in Britain to reflect the experience of all sides.
Themes will include the political and social impact of the Great War on the Middle East. A website will be developed as a long-term digital archive for public access and learning.
While battlefields of France and Flanders have remained the main focus for European centenary commemorations, Away from the Western Front notes that the campaigns elsewhere 'allow us to place the war in a global context, in which several empires grappled for world power and influence, leading to a major reorganisation of the international political situation in the years following the war. Britain’s part in this, its attempts to safeguard its place on the world stage and the consequences of this are as important as any European outcomes.'
Professor Eugene Rogan, of Oxford University, comments: "As a historian of the modern Middle East and author of a recent study of the Great War in its extra-European fronts, I believe this project stands to add greatly to the public understanding of the First World War and its global impact."
In London, Islington Council’s Heritage Team will work with 'Away from the Western Front' to explore the Finsbury Rifles’ 1916-18 campaign in Egypt, Palestine and Syria. They will also be commemorating Lance Corporal John (Jock) Christie VC. He was decorated for an attack on 22 December 1917 at Fejja, Palestine. Christie, a parcels clerk at Euston Station, joined the Finsbury Rifles in September 1914. He is one of seven railwaymen known to have won the Victoria Cross, Britain's highest gallantry award.
Eight partners, including museums, National Trust properties and an academic institution, have already been identified to research individual aspects of the campaigns with their local communities.
Media such as art, drama or film will be used to promote awareness. There will also be a creative writing competition, a national music event and a website to showcase projects.
Lyn Edmonds, a Trustee of Away from the Western Front, said: "We are thrilled to have received support from the Heritage Lottery Fund for this project. Access to the heritage of the First World War away from the Western Front can be problematic for many people in this country. This is partly due to geography as the campaigns took place far away and partly due to subsequent histories in these areas, many of which underwent great social and political change after the First World War.
"This project is a great opportunity to improve public knowledge of these campaigns during the centenary period."
In addition to the Heritage Lottery Fund award, 'Away from the Western Front', is being supported by grants from the Centre for Hidden Histories at the University of Nottingham and the British Institute for the Study of Iraq (Gertrude Bell Memorial). The latter will enable British students taking part in one of the regional projects to meet Iraqi students of the same age to exchange opinions.
For more information about how you can get involved, contact trustee Mrs Lyn Edmonds: firstname.lastname@example.org and follow @aftwf1418 on Twitter
Source: Away From the Western Front
Images courtesy of Imperial War Museums © IWM (Q 54756) - Sinai; Centenary News - Finsbury War Memorial
Posted by: CN Editorial Team