WW1 & the story of the North East

Organised by Bridge North East, a network of organisations connecting expertise and experience for children & young people, the Teachers conference Wednesday 2nd April 2014 at Hartlepool’s Maritime Exprience provided an excellent opportunity to find out the range of art and culture experiences  on offer based on WW1.   John Grundy, introduced the sessions, there were plenty of them including a whistle stop tour of the Heugh Gun Battery.

The tench at the Heugh

The trench at the Heugh

The Museum of Hartlepool, part of the Maritime Experience will be remembering WW1 with a special exhibition ‘Voices of the Bombardment’. Also on offer to schools specific to WW1  are a series of educational workshops, based on a heap of the archival material including the iconic clock capturing the time of the bombardment.  An inspiring pitch by Jo from Durham County Record Office, urged participants to use the resources on offer.  An earlier conversation with her brought to light a project exploring the life of a WW1 U-boat officer and the kind of research that made connections with the human aspect of the war and efforts in reconciliation.  The Time Bandits,  lead by John Sadler and his more than competent WW1 Nurse, Silvie Fisch, really did bring history to life with their personal accounts and fascinating insights.

Mail Art15

The event culminated in some poetry read by Denise Robertson and her personal memories of family and friends effected by the war.  Denise read Wilfred Owen’s famous poem Dulce et Decorum Est.

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned out backs,
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots,
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame, all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of gas-shells dropping softly behind.

Gas! GAS! Quick, boys!–An ecstasy of fumbling
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time,
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime.–
Dim through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

In all my dreams before my helpless sight
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams, you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,

His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin,
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs
Bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,–
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.

Death pennies in the collection at the Museum of Hartlepool

Death pennies in the collection at the Museum of Hartlepool

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