Next of Kin Opens at Final Venue

The Next of Kin exhibition opened at its final venue Orkney Museum on 18 February 2017.

Orkney’s strategic role in the First World War makes this a particularly fitting home for the exhibition, joining a wealth of other events taking place in the islands to commemorate the conflict. In 2016 Orkney hosted the national commemoration of the Battle of Jutland, the key naval engagement of the Great War, and Poppies: Weeping Window was installed at St Magnus Cathedral, part of the UK-wide tour of this emotive artwork by 14-18 NOW. Find out more about Orkney’s role in First World War commemorations on the Orkney Islands Council website.

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Caldale Air Station from the Tom Kent Collection. Copyright: Orkney Library & Archive

At Orkney Museum the core Next of Kin displays from National Museums Scotland’s collections have been joined by two fascinating local stories told through objects from the museum’s own collections. The first story recalls the kindness experienced by servicemen at the home of the Clouston family at Caldale Farm near Kirkwall. A Royal Navy air station was constructed near the farm, coming into service in July 1916.

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Airship sheds at Caldale Air Station. Wind screens sheltered the airships when they were pulled from their sheds. From the Tom Kent Collection. Copyright: Orkney Library & Archive

Caldale Naval Air Station provided cover for shipping around Scapa Flow and into the North Sea. It was equipped with three Sea Scout Pusher or Submarine Scout Pusher, non-rigid airships, as well as kite balloons that were moored to ships to look out for U-boats and to direct gunfire. The high winds experienced in Orkney made flying dangerous; tragically, two of the three airships stationed at Caldale were lost with all six crew members in November and December 1917. After that the air station was used for providing kite balloons only.

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Home from Home, a pencil drawing from an autograph book depicting a serviceman resting in an accommodation hut at Caldale Air Station. Copyright: Orkney Library & Archive

The Clouston family welcomed the men into their home, treating them to local produce and giving them a taste of the family life they were missing far from home. Before they left Orkney the men signed a tablecloth for the family and their signatures were later beautifully embroidered, a labour of love which expresses how much this gift meant to the family. The men also wrote messages and made drawings in two autograph albums. These treasured possessions were donated to Orkney Museum by Miss Margaret Clouston.

The second local story concerns Able Seaman Stanley Cubiss from Keighley in Yorkshire who joined the Royal Naval College at Portsmouth at the age of 14. He was an Engine Room Artificer on the destroyer HMS Opal, stationed with the Grand Fleet in Scapa Flow, and had served at the Battle of Jutland in 1916.

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Stanley Cubiss in naval uniform. Copyright: Orkney Library & Archive

On the night of 12 January 1918 the ship was on Dark Night Patrol to the east of Orkney with the destroyer HMS Narbourgh and the cruiser HMS Boadicea, on the look-out for German submarines. A blizzard forced the destroyers to return to Scapa Flow and in poor visibility they ran into cliffs at South Ronaldsay. There was only one survivor from the two ships; 188 men, including Stanley, were lost.

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Memorial to HMS Opal and HMS Narbourgh at Windwick Bay, South Ronaldsay.          Copyright: Tom Muir

 

Stanley’s widow Florence (Flo) made the journey from Yorkshire to Orkney after the war to see where her husband died. The couple had married on 28 June 1917, less than seven months before Stanley’s death. A collection of objects kept by Flo until her death in 1971 was gifted to Scapa Flow Visitor Centre and Museum by Stanley’s nephew, Brigadier Malcolm Cubiss, together with a gold ring found by a diver at the wreck site in 2007. The inscription inside the ring reads: ‘To Stanley from Flo – 6 March 1916’.

The exhibition can be seen at Orkney Museum until 20 May.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Bringing the First World War to life for schools through the Next of Kin handling kit

In this guest blog post Learning Facilitator Francesca Purvis describes her use of the Next of Kin handling kit at Inverness Museum and Art Gallery, and the amazing feedback she received afterwards!

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Francesca Purvis shows a local family story case in the exhibition to a group from Daviot Primary School

Between September and November 2016 Inverness Museum and Art Gallery (IMAG) hosted the travelling exhibition Next of Kin. An incredibly poignant and beautiful exhibition, it tells the stories of individual Scots’ experiences of World War One. Each host museum had the opportunity to contribute two local stories from their own collection. The exhibition provided a wonderfully personal insight into the War and the people who lived through it.

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Daviot Primary School pupils look at the Hubbard family display case

I was lucky enough to run the school workshops in IMAG and had a fantastic time doing so. National Museums Scotland provided the most fantastic learning resources, including two large trunks filled with fascinating objects relating to the exhibition. My workshops were all working with school children, from Primary 3 all the way up to 6th year. Having to select which objects to show the children was difficult- the choice was amazing and I wish I could have shown them all!

But eventually I selected two large albums filled with original wartime postcards for the children to peruse, and two stereoviewers and their accompanying pictures- beautifully intricate viewers used to create 3D images, a favourite wartime pastime and a hit with the children! I chose these objects as I think they really help to give an idea of what life was like for people living through the war, and how important communication through writing and pictures was in keeping up morale.

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A pupil tries on a replica gas mask

Depending on the size of the class (sometimes we would have to split in two) I would take the children up into the gallery and give them an overview of the exhibition. We would discuss the two local men’s stories and they had the opportunity to pass around various objects including an identification disc, a replica gas mask and a periscope. World War One was one of the first wars where poisonous gas was used as a method of attack, and I think trying on the bulky mask helped them to step into the shoes of a soldier.

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Pupils working on their wartime postcards

The periscope also proved popular, and I think it’s rudimental design really struck home how far technology has advanced since the War. After the exhibition tour the children had the chance to design their own War time postcards, using the exhibition as inspiration. I was so impressed by the variety and thought that was put into them, with some extremely touching messages and beautiful designs. I received some really lovely feedback from the schools, mentioning how much the children had enjoyed themselves and that they hoped to return. This included the amazing thank you card below from Kinlochbervie school.

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Pupils watching the exhibition archive newsreel film

Discover the Scottish story of the First World War through Next of Kin apps

On Wednesday 26 October two Next of Kin project apps were made available on iTunes following the launch of a new National Strategy at the National Museum of Scotland.

The Next of Kin: Great War Stories across Scotland home screen

Next of Kin: Great War Stories across Scotland home screen

With the launch of these two apps, First World War content contributed by all Next of Kin tour partners is now available to online audiences across the UK and abroad. Great War Stories across Scotland is a treasure trove of personal stories and artefacts that reveals the stories of 43 Scottish families whose lives were changed forever by the conflict.

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Object screen showing the map used by Flo Cubiss to locate the Orkney wreck site where her husband had died

Users are able to explore the family stories by selecting an area on the interactive map or exploring by common themes. High quality images of related artefacts can be zoomed into and rotated, and first hand accounts contained in letters and diaries can be read in transcripts.

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Autograph book selection screen

The second app, Nurse Mellor’s Autograph Books, provides access to the digitised autograph books of Scottish nurse Florence Mellor, who worked at War Hospitals in Fife and Craiglockhart. Through the satirical sketches, poetry and messages contributed by wounded soldiers in her care, the app gives a personal insight into the lives of nurses and their patients in Scottish War Hospitals during the First World War.

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Satirical sketch in one of Nurse Mellor’s autograph books

Users can explore 86 pages of Nurse Mellor’s three autograph books as well as a copy of The Hydra, the hospital magazine at Craiglockhart. Like Great War Stories across Scotland, high quality images can be magnified and transcripts of handwritten text are provided.

Further information and links to download the apps can be found on the Next of Kin website here.

 

 

Telling the Highland story of the First World War

Scottish communities answered their country’s call across the length and breadth of the country and the human cost was felt keenly in lowly populated areas of the Highlands. Inverness Museum and Art Gallery are providing an insight into these impacts through a Next of Kin display telling the front line experiences of a local veteran and the medical recovery of a volunteer from the Western Isles, alongside some powerful artistic interpretations from a mental health community group.

Murdo MacRae, patient at Oldmills Military Hospital, Aberdeen, 1915. Image courtesy of Flora Page, Murdo’s grandniece

Murdo MacRae, patient at Oldmills Military Hospital, Aberdeen, 1915. Image courtesy of Flora Page, Murdo’s grandniece

Murdo MacRae was a 16-year-old apprentice tailor when he enlisted in the Seaforth Highlanders to fight on the Western Front. MacRae received a potentially fatal liver wound during the Second Battle of Ypres but was saved by pioneering abdominal surgery administered at a field hospital.

4.Needlepoint Union Jack design created by Murdo MacRae during his therapeutic recovery sessions at Oldmills Hospital. © Inverness Museum and Art Gallery

Needlepoint Union Jack design created by Murdo MacRae during his therapeutic recovery sessions at Oldmills Hospital. © Inverness Museum and Art Gallery

He went on to recuperate at Oldmill Military Hospital in Aberdeen, where he participated in a ground-breaking programme of occupational therapy. A needlepoint Union Jack design from one of these sessions is on display, alongside a decorative plate MacRae collected as a souvenir.

Lance-Corporal George Garden pictured in a postcard supplement to The Post Sunday Special, 19 September 1915. Image courtesy of Graham Taylor, Garden’s grandnephew.

Lance-Corporal George Garden pictured in a postcard supplement to The Post Sunday Special, 19 September 1915. Image courtesy of Graham Taylor, Garden’s grandnephew.

The museum’s other local story covers the amazing military career of Inverness born George Garden. Garden served in India before travelling to the Western Front. In the same battle that Murdo MacRae was wounded, Garden successfully fought off German soldiers attempting to seize his machine gun using a forester’s axe. The Distinguished Conduct Medal and Russian Order of St George Medal awarded for this act of bravery are on display, alongside Garden’s Regular Army Certificate of Service describing him as having ‘an attractive personality’.

Regular Army Certificate of Service for Sergeant George Garden, with final assessments of conduct and character from his Commanding Officer. © Inverness Museum and Art Gallery

Regular Army Certificate of Service for Sergeant George Garden, with final assessments of conduct and character from his Commanding Officer. © Inverness Museum and Art Gallery

Earlier in the summer Inverness Museum worked with members of HUG (Action for Mental Health) to provide new perspectives on their First World War collections. Participants looked at items such as George Garden’s gallantry medals and discussed themes like conscientious objection, PTSD, family bereavement and recovery with writer John Glenday and artist Eleanor White. Their ideas were translated into creative writing, poetry and artwork which are now on display in the museum’s Community Gallery throughout the Next of Kin exhibition.

Poem alongside artwork responding to the story of George Garden, on display in Inverness Museum's Community Gallery

Poem alongside artwork responding to the story of George Garden, on display in Inverness Museum’s Community Gallery

A series of lunchtime lectures over the next few months will explore a range of fascinating topics relating to the exhibition, including the role of Highland women. School engagement workshops will also take place, offering local schools the opportunity to explore the Next of Kin handling collection. Further details can be found on the Next of Kin and Inverness Museum and Art Gallery website.

Attendees at Inverness Museum and Art Gallery Next of Kin exhibition opening, 21 September 2016

Attendees at Inverness Museum and Art Gallery Next of Kin exhibition opening, 21 September 2016

 

Next of Kin and the Gallipoli 100 Education Project

Low Parks Museum combined their role-play workshops with creative outreach sessions exploring the Gallipoli campaign.

In addition to Next of Kin, Low Parks Museum have taken part in the Gallipoli 100 Education Project, an international HLF initiative to engage young people in education with the personal experiences and events of this controversial campaign on the Turkish coast. Following immersive role-play activities looking at recruitment and training at the museum, outreach workshops with an Arts tutor were arranged to take place in each participating South Lanarkshire school.

Reprinted copy of 'Comic Life', originally printed 31 July 1915

Reprinted copy of ‘Comic Life’, originally printed 31 July 1915

Using original comics in the Next of Kin handling resource as inspiration, groups were asked to create a comic strip adventure based The Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) and the Lanarkshire Yeomanry experiences of the Gallipoli campaign. Before and long after the war, comics were a key source of entertainment for children and so their one-sided interpretations of the conflict were hugely influential. The examples in the handling collection typify the portrayal of brave and honourable British Forces against a cowardly and dishonest Germany.

Reprinted copy of 'Lot O' Fun', originally printed on 14 November 1914

Reprinted copy of ‘Lot O’ Fun’, originally printed on 14 November 1914

Low Parks Museum provided additional source material, including rare photographs, many of which have never been on public display, featuring The Cameronians shortly before, during and after Gallipoli. The end comic strip creations covered the full breadth of the campaign, from recruitment and training right through to after the evacuation of the peninsula.

Comic strip showing the voyage of troops of The Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) and Lanarkshire Yeomanry to Gallipoli, created by pupils at High Mill Primary School

Comic strip showing the voyage of troops of The Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) and Lanarkshire Yeomanry to Gallipoli, created by pupils at High Mill Primary School

Comic Strip depicting the preparations of troops for battle, created by pupils from Our Lady and St Anne's Primary School

Comic Strip depicting the preparations of troops for battle, created by pupils from Our Lady and St Anne’s Primary School

Comic strip portraying the evacuation of troops from the Gallipoli peninsula, created by pupils at Spittal Primary School

Comic strip portraying the evacuation of troops from the Gallipoli peninsula, created by pupils at Spittal Primary School

By researching original source material and encouraging creative interpretation, pupils have been given in insight into the hardship and emotional separation of the campaign:

“I learned how hard it must have been leaving your family and friends. A lot of people died because of disease.” (Pupil from Our Lady and St Anne’s Primary School, South Lanarkshire)

 

 

 

 

Identity in the First World War: Next of Kin learning workshops with Artemis Scotland

Artemis Scotland have delivered a series of interactive workshops at three Next of Kin tour venues exploring identity in the First World War. In this guest post, Managing Director Jackie Lee gives an insight into the immersive format of the sessions and the impact on school pupil participants.

Artemis Scotland Ltd is a visitor experience consultancy which specialises in formal and informal learning using costumed characters.

For Next of Kin we developed a site specific workshop based on local research for three venues, Dumfries Museum, Rozelle House in Ayr and Low Parks Museum in Hamilton. Each venue provided a different environment in terms of available spaces, but all had in common the use of the Next of Kin exhibition with additional material reflecting their own collections and stories relating to the First World War.

Colonel McCall interpreter talks to pupils at Rozelle House Galleries

Colonel McCall interpreter talks to pupils at Rozelle House Galleries

We took as the common thread linking venues, objects, stories and how the war has been remembered over the last century as question of identity. In advance teachers were told that the experience would be immersive and the atmosphere one of strict discipline.

St Cadoc's Primary pupils take part in drills

St Cadoc’s Primary pupils take part in drills

We looked at patterns of recruitment in each location and how the process gradually took away the individual identity of young men as they were formed, by the process of recruitment and training, into battalions for Kitchener’s New Army. Using ‘a retired Boer War Officer’ Colonel McCall, (who was based on a real person), emphasising the shortage of training officers, pupils were put first under a range of pressures and methods of propaganda to demonstrate why young men were so willing at least in the early stages of the war to join up. They were then taken through basic drill taught to the interpreter by a retired Sergeant Major, who had himself once guarded Rudolph Hess. The visible transformation in the appearance of the pupils as they changed from individuals into a battalion was quite remarkable leading many teachers to comment on how they wished drill was part of the contemporary school day as it once was!

VAD Nurse recruits Spittal Primary pupils at Low Parks Museum

VAD Nurse interpreter recruits Spittal Primary pupils at Low Parks Museum

A different approach was taken with regard to the impact of identity on women, particularly middle and upper middle class women. Pupils were taken under the wing of ‘matron’ who was recruiting Volunteer Aid Detachment (VAD) Nurses from the drawing rooms of the elite families of British Society. Pupils learnt that these girls, many of whom had never done a day’s work in their lives, were for the first time given an individual identity. Many flourished under a regime which was harsh and tasks which were tedious such as bandage rolling and washing patients. Pupils were given an opportunity to handle objects and consider materials such as enamel ware and sphagnum moss as a field dressing.

St Cadoc's Primary pupils take part in drills

St Cadoc’s Primary pupils take part in drills

Boys and girls were given both experiences together. A number of pupils were selected at random by the interpreters to assist the Colonel or Matron in their tasks. In some cases teachers expressed surprise at the abilities of pupils who were unexpectedly highly engaged in the activity, for example as a young man identified as possible officer material who would have to take the drill forward once back in the classroom.

Spittal Primary pupils explore the Next of Kin exhibition

Spittal Primary pupils explore the Next of Kin exhibition

Pupils were brought back into the 21st century and guided into the exhibition. They were told how as the casualty numbers rose families faced the problem of how to hang on to the memory of their loved ones and government how best to remember the sacrifice and restore the identities of those who had been so submerged by the military experience. This of course in both cases was done through objects.   Pupils were encouraged to find one or two objects and/or stories which interested or “spoke to them”. Interpreters were available to interact and prompt exploration.

VAD Nurse looks at objects with pupils at Rozelle House Galleries

VAD Nurse looks at objects with pupils at Rozelle House Galleries

Workshops ended with a discussion about the objects, which represented a personal memory for families and those which represented the state’s difficult task of remembrance and commemoration.

Jackie Lee of Artemis Scotland as the VAD Nurse, Mrs Monteith, and Dr Chris Lee of Artemis Scotland as Colonel McCall

Jackie Lee of Artemis Scotland as the VAD Nurse, Mrs Monteith, and Dr Chris Lee of Artemis Scotland as Colonel McCall

As the Next of Kin exhibition continues to tour, learning activities exploring individual experiences of the conflict will take place at partner museums. See the Next of Kin website to find out about the events programme at the current venue, Grampian Transport Museum.

You can also download the associated Next of Kin learning resource pack here, providing information about key objects and ideas for creative craft and role-play activities for use in your own First World War workshops.

Next of Kin commemorates the Battle of the Somme

Beginning on the 1 July 1916, the Battle of the Somme lasted for five months and ended with over one million dead or wounded on all sides. Next of Kin venues will be hosting a series of film screenings commemorating the anniversary of the battle, providing an insight into the experiences of soldiers on the front line.

During the battle both sides made extensive use of machine guns in defence and attack, like this British machine gun team firing near Ovillers in July. (©IWM Q 3996)

34th Division on the opening day of the Battle of the Somme. During 24 hours the British army lost almost 20,000 dead and 60,000 wounded. (©IWM Q 52)

Throughout the autumn of 1916, 20 million people flocked to see a silent film called ‘The Battle of the Somme’. At nearly half the population of Britain at the time, the film remains one of the most watched films in cinema history. Throughout the Somme 100 year anniversary the film will be screened at Next of Kin tour venues as part of the Imperial War Museum First World War Partnership, including Grampian Transport Museum and Perth Museum and Art Gallery.

Still from the 1916 film ‘The Battle of the Somme’. The cameramen captured as many faces as possible, often encouraging the men to turn and acknowledge the camera. (©IWM Q 079501)

Still from the 1916 film ‘The Battle of the Somme’. The cameramen captured as many faces as possible, often encouraging the men to turn and acknowledge the camera. (©IWM Q 079501)

The film consists of footage shot on behalf of the British Topical Committee for War Films, who had lobbied the War Office to allow cameramen into areas of the Western Front to see British soldiers in action. The pioneering movie focuses on how well equipped British soldiers were, the quality of weapons and the good treatment of the wounded and German prisoners. On a local level it had significant appeal because it featured and named particular regiments, offering the possibility that you could spot a loved one on screen. Screenings will include a contemporary orchestral soundtrack composed by Laura Rossi and an introduction from an Imperial War Museum film curator.

During the battle both sides made extensive use of machine guns in defence and attack, like this British machine gun team firing near Ovillers in July. (©IWM Q 3996)

During the battle both sides made extensive use of machine guns in defence and attack, like this British machine gun team firing near Ovillers in July. (©IWM Q 3996)

Grampian Transport Museum will be showing the film on the anniversary of the first day of the battle, Friday 1 July 2016. Screenings at 11am and then again at 2pm are open to all. Please email info@gtm.org.uk for more information.

Perth Museum and Art Gallery will be holding an evening screening at the museum as part of the opening of their Next of Kin exhibition on the anniversary of Armistice Day, Friday 11 November 2016. The next day the Perth and Kinross Remembers First World War Conference at St John’s Kirk will focus on the theme of the impact of the Great War, both abroad and at home on Perth and Kinross. The keynote lecture will be by renowned local historian and author, Trevor Royle. For bookings and enquiries contact localstudies@culturepk.org.uk.

short film produced by IWM  shares facts about the Battle of the Somme and images showing how the site has changed since 1916.

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Two pals remembered through the Next of Kin scarf

Barrie Duncan, Assistant Museums Officer at Low Parks Museum, introduces the scarf created by Next of Kin exhibition volunteers to commemorate two local pals who enlisted together:

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Commemorative scarf created by volunteers for the Next of Kin exhibition

Earlier this year, Low Parks Museum in Hamilton was host to the First World War partnership exhibition, Next of Kin, coordinated by National Museums Scotland. As part of this exhibition, a commemorative scarf was made by two volunteers from Hillhouse Parish Church. The hand-knitted scarf is a reference to the wartime effort by volunteers at home who would knit hats, scarfs, gloves and socks for the comfort of soldiers at the front.

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Captain James Lusk is commemorated on the scarf

The volunteers, Marion and Margaret, decided to create this scarf in the regimental colours of The Cameronians (Scottish Rifles), green, blue, and black, and used a thick, ribbed pleating to echo the pleats of a piper’s kilt. They also added the name ‘James Lusk’ to the scarf; Captain James Lusk featured in our display as part of the Next of Kin exhibition. James was a native of Strathaven, South Lanarkshire, and a manager in the famous iron and steel company David Colville & Sons. Tragically, James died on 28th December 1915 of serious wounds he had received on Christmas Day while handing out cigarettes to the men in his battalion.

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Captain James Lusk in the uniform of The Cameronians (Scottish Rifles), at Aveluy Wood, France, c. August 1915. © South Lanarkshire Council

While visiting The Cameronians displays at Low Parks Museum, Margaret had also seen the objects on display that tell the story of Alexander Harris and William Wilson, who were the subject of a previous Cameronians blog post. William and Alexander enlisted into the British Army in November 1914 and were both posted to the 10th Battalion Scottish Rifles. The 10th Battalion was a Service Battalion of The Cameronians (Scottish Rifles), raised as part of Lord Kitchener’s ‘New Army’. On enlistment Alexander was given the regimental number 17097 and William given 17098, suggesting they enlisted together.

William (left) and Alexander

William (left) and Alexander. © South Lanarkshire Council

In the photograph above William and Alexander are wearing ill-fitting scarlet jackets; uniform that was largely out of fashion by the time of the First World War. This suggests the image dates to late 1914 or early 1915, when the rapidly expanding army was faced with severe shortages of uniform and equipment resulting in new recruits being issued with old, obsolete uniform from stores. Alexander was killed on 27th January 1916 during a heavy German bombardment of British trenches to celebrate the anniversary of the Kaiser’s birthday. William survived the war following service in Salonika and a  transfer to the Army Reserve after becoming seriously ill with malaria.

The names of Alexander Harris and William Wilson were added to the scarf, fixed to the same piece of Douglas tartan cloth

The names of Alexander Harris and William Wilson were added to the scarf, fixed to the same piece of Douglas tartan cloth

Touched by the story of the two young pals, Margaret and Marion decided to add their names to the scarf. Margaret said that she had been struck by “how these young pals had enlisted together for Kitchener’s New Army, just like so many friends from every town, village and city throughout the country.  The story of two ordinary boys who would become soldiers,  signing up together with consecutive service numbers, just like so many others whose stories have been forgotten, and how they would have trained and fought together and for one of them to ultimately die and just how devastating this must have been to the other.”

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The scarf on display at Low Parks Museum

You can see the scarf on display at Low Parks Museum alongside the photograph of Alexander and William. We would like to thank Margaret and Marion for all their hard work.

People are continuing to be inspired by the Next of Kin exhibition as it tours. Information about the exhibition and its associated learning programme at the current venue Grampian Transport Museum can be found on the project website.

The Dickson brothers: Tragedy and survival at Jutland

31 May 2016 marks the centenary anniversary of the only full-scale clash between battleships during the First World War- the Battle of Jutland. The Next of Kin touring exhibition tells the story of two brothers Archibald  (Archie) and Robert Dickson, who both served in the battle but whose fates proved to be very different.

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Photograph of Archibald Dickson wearing his cadet uniform and cap. (© National Museums Scotland)

Archie Dickson was only 12 years old when he began his naval education at the Royal Naval College in Osborne. After two years he followed in his elder brother Robert’s footsteps by going to the Royal Naval College in Dartmouth. In January 1916 he was commissioned as a Midshipman on HMS Queen Mary at the age of just 16.

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Cap worn by Archibald Dickson as a naval cadet. (© National Museums Scotland)

Meanwhile Robert was serving in the Dardanelles campaign supporting the Allied landings at Gallipoli.  He wrote weekly letters to his father William Kirk Dickson and mother Kathleen at home in Edinburgh, several of which can be read here. On display in Next of Kin is a Turkish shrapnel shell Robert picked out of the sea near ‘ANZAC Beach’, Gallipoli in April 1915. He kept this ‘near miss’ as a souvenir.

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Turkish shrapnel shell kept by Robert as a souvenir. (© National Museums Scotland)

By 1916 Robert and Archie were serving on ships based at Scapa Flow in the Orkney Isles and the Firth of Forth. Both were in action at Jutland, near Denmark, on 31 May. This was a clash between the two most powerful fleets in the world and the stakes were high. A major defeat for the Royal Navy would have meant disaster for the British empire.

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Photograph showing shell damage to a Queen Elizabeth battleship. © Imperial War Museum (Q 23212)

When the German fleet emerged from its base in the Baltic Sea, the British steamed out to intercept them from their bases in Orkney and along the east coast of Scotland. HMS Queen Mary took two direct hits from the German Navy and her magazine subsequently exploded. All but nine of the crew of 1,275 on board were killed. Archie was among the dead.

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Service medal sent to Dickson’s father as Archibald’s next of kin. (© National Museums Scotland)

The British suffered greater ship losses in the battle that followed, but the action ended when the German ships turned away and returned to base. The German fleet never came out again to challenge for dominance of the North Sea.

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Admiral John Jellicoe’s flagship HMS Iron Duke steaming off the British coast. © Imperial War Museum (Q 075209)

Writing home days after the battle, Robert (Bertie) asked his parents to remain hopeful that Archie had survived. His  letters are held at the National Library of Scotland and some can be read here.

Despite Robert’s experiences he stayed in the Navy and served in the Second World War. This story contributed by his grandson to the BBC archive WW2 People’s War tells of Robert’s experiences as Captain of HMS Manxman during  operations near Malta.

Next of Kin and vehicle displays at Grampian Transport Museum

The official opening of Next of Kin at Grampian Transport Museum took place on Sunday 10 April. Their two fascinating stories of local families are joined by a variety of striking First World War related vehicles.

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Grampian Transport Museum’s Next of Kin display, with a cinema room on the right

With the core of Grampian Transport Museum’s collection made up of vehicles, the museum relied on loans from the local community to source their family stories from the Aberdeen and Grampian region. In the end they decided on two personal accounts that reflect the hardship of the front lines, the anxiety felt at home and the power of the conflict to bring people together.

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Frank Fleming in the uniform of the 1st Aberdeen Volunteer Artillery before the conflict

Colonel Frank Fleming was in command of the 255th Brigade Royal Field Artillery of the 51st Highland Division when he was posted missing in action during a rapid German advance on the Western Front in April 1918.  His family at home in Aberdeenshire had an agonising wait for definite news of his death or capture. Finally in mid-May came confirmation that he was wounded and a prisoner of war at Beeskow camp in Germany. His story will be told for the first time through personal effects from the camp and correspondence from the Front.

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Calendar used by Fleming during captivity to keep the date, since prisoners were denied access to this information

Canadian Lieutenant James Humprey’s story will also be told for the first time. Humphrey was wounded in action and evacuated to a hospital in London where he met Violet Harvey and was invited to spend Christmas with her family in Aberdeenshire. Back at the front Humphrey was awarded the Military Cross for gallantry. He kept in touch with Violet’s family and they married in 1937.  Personal artefacts on display include a photograph from his stay in hospital and a newspaper account of his Military Cross award.

Newspaper image of James Humphrey

Newspaper image of Humphrey and Violet

Grampian Transport Museum have a number of vehicles with strong connections to the conflict, the largest being the appropriately named ‘Goliath’ McLaren Showman’s Locomotive. This massive engine spent the earlier part of its life pulling heavy machinery on the Western Front.

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Goliath locomotive on display next to the exhibition

The museum’s sentinel steam waggon, the subject of an earlier post, was used by its Inverurie carrier from 1916 to transport schoolchildren on picnic outings, building morale in the local community. On 15 July outings will be recreated on the museum circuit to commemorate the  centenary of these trips.

Sentinel steam waggon in operation after being restored to working order

Sentinel steam waggon in operation after being restored to working order

Details about this event and others, including a screening of the 1916 film ‘The Battle of the Somme’, can be found on the Next of Kin website here.  The variety of historic talks and handling activities promise to give a fascinating insight into the local  impact of the conflict and the personal experiences of families and serving troops. Next of Kin is on display at Grampian Transport Museum until 31 August 2016.

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Scots in the Great War Living History Society at the exhibition opening