‘a fascinating…extraordinary exhibition’, The Sunday Telegraph
By Fran Stovold, Exhibition Project Manager
To mark the Centenary of the First World War, Whitgift presents a major new exhibition: Remembering 1916 – Life on the Western Front. This landmark show is packed with personal accounts, original artefacts, documents and archive footage reflecting the shared experience of British, French and German men and women both at home and at the front.
The collections on display are drawn mainly from private collectors but also include loans from museums and galleries from across the United Kingdom and the prestigious Musée de la Grande Guerre in France. Visitors will be able to view numerous rare and unique items, many of which have not been shown in public before. Key items to look out for include original first issues of British trench newspaper, The Wipers Times, a German Field Wagon, rare French uniforms, souvenirs taken from German Zeppelins and an original white feather given to a Quaker conscientious objector.
A particular highlight of the exhibition are the number of detailed recreated scenes including reconstruction of a British trench at dawn, showing soldiers preparing to ‘go over the top’, and a German machine gun emplacement at night, both from the Battle of the Somme. Notably, the Somme saw the first use of tanks in the War and visitors will have the rare opportunity to see original tank tracks from the very first use, at the Battle of Flers-Courcelette. The Exhibition will also find its way beneath the main gallery space, with a display on tunnelling illuminating the tactic of going underground to listen to the enemy and to lay explosives. In stark contrast to the trench scenes, visitors will also be able to view a series of contemporary rooms, providing a snapshot of what life was like back on the Home Front.
For art lovers, Remembering 1916 showcases a range of contemporary artwork including a stunning collection of oil pastel portrait prints of allied soldiers by Swiss artist Eugene Burnand, a series of graphic political cartoons by Dutch artist Louis Raemaekers, and a rare collection of recruitment and home front posters from Britain, France and Germany.
Of the many stories, the Exhibition will outline Whitgift’s extraordinary double connection with the career of the infamous German Flying Ace, Manfred von Richthofen, also known as the Red Baron; in particular, his fierce dogfight with Second Lieutenant Lionel Morris, a former Whitgift pupil. Von Richthofen shot down Morris’ plane, mortally wounding Morris. This was the Red Baron’s first official ‘kill’ of the War. To mark this event, Whitgift has commissioned a painting depicting the height of the battle, by leading aviation painter Alex Hamilton, GAvA. Remarkably, another former pupil, George Walter Barber of the Australian Medical Corps, conducted the third autopsy on von Richthofen. Barber’s conclusions changed the interpretation of the events surrounding von Richthofen’s death.
The Exhibition draws to a close with a reflective Remembrance section which acknowledges the 251 former Whitgift students and masters who died during the War with a display of sculpted poppies, one for each life lost.
For families and younger visitors, our flying fox, Reynard will guide them round the displays and a range of hands-on activities. A free Family Activity Pack is available at the Ticketing & Information Desk.
Visitors will also be able to step back into the time before the war and sample refreshments in our Edwardian Café and then browse the Remembering 1916 exhibition shop which is stocked with specially commissioned items and souvenirs to suit all pockets.
Remembering 1916 is open daily between 10am – 5pm from Saturday 12 March. For further details please see www.remembering1916.co.uk