[interlude] “Journey’s End”

This film might be of interest. It deals with a British army unit in France in the run-up to Germany’s spring offensive in March 1918. I have not seen it yet myself and the trailer looks a bit over-blown, but I feel like I must see it. Here in Dublin it is only being shown in the IFI, possibly just for one week, but it is probably getting a wider release in the UK.

[interlude] The uses of history

People sometimes think that history is forgotten and of no relevance to the present day. Yesterday however in the Irish parliament politicians argued about the democratic credentials of Lenin and Kerensky, almost a 100 years after the Russian Revolution‘s progress saw the rise of one and the fall of another.

image sources:

Alexander Kerensky (Wikipedia)

Vladimir Lenin, painted by Isaak Brodsky (Wikipedia)

Read the bizarre parliamentary debate here.

[interlude] Bovington Tank Museum

I recently visited the Tank Museum in Bovington, Dorset. As the name suggests, this is a museum of tanks from their origins in the First World War to the present day. The museum has the British prototype tank, Little Willie, and other First World War vehicles.

As well as British tanks, the museum also has a Renault FT from 1918, the first tank to look like a tank (with a rotating turret above the chassis).

There is an interesting First World War exhibit, including an atmospheric mock-up of a trench.

The German machine-gunners are quite striking when unexpectedly encountered.

The trench exhibit includes a modelled tank attack on a German position.

A tank museum is a bit niche but I think anyone with a passing interest in military history and armoured vehicles would find plenty to interest them at the Tank Museum.

More pictures (mostly of vehicles from the Second World War and Cold War).

[interlude] We’re Here Because We’re Here

The 1st of July was the 100th anniversary of the disastrous first day of the Battle of the Somme, when nearly 20,000 British troops were killed and another 38,500 injured. On the day across the UK at railway stations and other public places people encountered men dressed in First World War uniforms, standing or sitting silent. Sometimes they marched off somewhere else, perhaps taking a train along the way. If approached the soldiers did not speak but instead handed their questioner a card giving the name and age of a soldier killed on the first day of the Somme. Occasionally they would break into song, singing “We’re here because we’re here because we’re here because we’re here” to the tune of Auld Lang’s Lyne, a soldiers’ song from the Great War.

This was a commemorative artwork, we’re here because we’re here, created by Jeremy Deller in collaboration with Rufus Norris, under the auspices of 14-18 NOW, a programme of First World War related arts events. Living in Dublin I did not see any of the ghost soldiers myself (though they were to be seen in various locations in Northern Ireland, where the British Army has a complicated relationship to the local community). The work strikes me as deeply moving, the presence of the uniformed men reminding us of the war’s cost in ended or blighted lives.
What makes this a particularly successful piece of commemorative art is that it does not tell the observer what to think. I suspect that encountering the ghost soldiers would be equally poignant whether you thought the dead of the Somme were heroes who died for our freedom or men who died pointless deaths in a war that served only the elite.
People have posted their own photographs of the soldiers on Twitter with the hashtag #wearehere . Did any readers see them in the flesh themselves?

see also:

we’re here because we’re here

Artists behind ‘ghost soldiers’ project revealed (BBC)

#Wearehere: Somme tribute revealed as Jeremy Deller work (Guardian)

image sources:

Newcastle Upon Tyne (BBC)

Belfast (BBC)

London (we’re here because we’re here)