Keeping WW1 Memories Alive

Profile picture for user GASML

Member for

14 years 8 months

Posts: 650

Just seen the sad news on the passing of 'Smiler Marshall', see the thread "one of the last true heroes passes on". Sadly the numbers of people with direct knowledge of the First World War grow inevitably fewer. Maybe its time, before its too late. to amass as much remaining knowledge as possible. What personal - first, second or third-hand, memories do you have, of the people and their flying machines, aircraft still effectively in the first decade of powered flight? What would you most like to see as a lasting memorial to these heroes?
Attachment Size
Farnborough_pc.jpg 17.41 KB
Original post
Profile picture for user Dave Homewood

Member for

15 years 7 months

Posts: 5,504

Not enough has been done in the past 90 years in recording personal stories and histories of World War One veterans. I don't know if that is the case overseas, but I suspect it may be the same as here. I've certainly not seen many autobiographies of WWI vets compared with WWII, etc. Here in New Zealand it was only when we started getting down to the last handful of WWI vets still alive that people started to really interview them. Yes, the odd interview had been done in the 1950's-80's, mainly for radio, but not much and not really in depth or very personal. Our last few WWI soldiers (all of whom are now dead) are much more well known now because of media attention and historians tapping into their knowledge, and I think they've ignited a lot of interest in the past decade. This year alone a swag of new books about New Zealanders in WWI have been released, many of which are very revisionist and prove old facts and figures to be quite wrong. I have also been enjoying and recording a great series off National Radio that they put together of a reading from a New Zealand soldier's autobiography, "Ways and Byways of a Singing Kiwi" by Ernest McKinley. He was a tenor singer in the Kiwi Concert Party, regarded as one of the best on the Western Front. He described his own job and life as both an entertainer and a singer very well, and also wrote about what he saw on the battlefronts he visited. Jolly interesting and a really great way to keep the memory alive. The series was made this year, the book written in 1938. So that's one way to do it if you can find as good a source material. But then, there isn't a lot about like it. I think in the early days we can attribute the media to glorifying many of the heroes which no doubt put many ordinary people off talking or writing about their own experiences. It wasn't all Biggles and Boys Own, but that's the stuff people wanted to read. I think we can also lay more blame on the hippy generation for this lack of recording of personal memories. After the war the vets never wanted to speak of the horror they saw. Later in life it is natural for anyone to start talking about such things though, especially to granchildren. But when that generation got to that age, there was so much antiwar stuff around, the hippies completely disrespected their memories. I am not prowar, and I like the idea of peace, which is what the hippies stood for, but it makes me sick to the bone to think that in the 1960's and 1970's those idiots used to protest and jeer and carry on during ANZAC services when these veterans were trying to come to terms with their own experience and to remember their cobbers. I'm told there was often violence and tussles, young idiot hippies supposedly anti-violence, fighting with men 40 and 50 years their senior and a ton better than they would ever amount to be. I don't know if this happened outside NZ, I suspect perhaps in Aussie too as they too were in Vietnam. So yes, there are reasons why these stories haven't been told, but I really think things are being readdressed now. As I say, many more books, plus just look how many WWI films are in the pipeline - films always generate interest. And there are more and more replica aircraft and even tanks being built that bring it to life for we younger ones. The airshows at Omaka are doing a huge service for remembrance here in New Zealand, as is Cambridge's Armistace Day commemorations, something not done elsewhere in NZ. The Auckland War Memorial Museum has a really excellent display now about WWI, and I really think that the IWM's one at Lambeth was great when I was there. People are interested more now, and I am also certain that the public and the media are finally realising that the next generation, WWII, are important in terms of recording stuff. They at least are generally very ready to talk and remember and record, compared to their forebears, so when they're gone we'll have a much better record. Lt's hope so.
Profile picture for user The Blue Max

Member for

14 years 6 months

Posts: 2,104

I think the keeping of these aircraft flying, whether they are originals or replica's to represent types no longer with us is a very fitting memorial to these men. But also continuining to educate todays generation of what the First World War was all about and how these machine's were opperated is very important to. There does seem to be a constant obsesion with all things WWII. Maybe a little more attention to earlier times would not go amiss, certainly at the moment the movie makers are paying more attention to this era and this can only be good new's for bringing it to the publics eye's
Profile picture for user Dave Homewood

Member for

15 years 7 months

Posts: 5,504

There does seem to be a constant obsesion with all things WWII
Because WWII is much more accessable to the public, we can feel a personal connection to it because so much has been recorded on a personal nature, and we all know someone who was there who can tell us about it - this has made the public very aware of the conflict and what it means. It also helps that WWII was captured on film with sound, we live in an audiovisual world and that makes it real and connects that era with us. There was no film or sound recordings or very few personal accounts written about, say, the Napoleonic Wars, so people have no connection. You have to be some stuffy, pompous historian who likes facts and figures rather than stories and experiences to think anything of that war in most people's eyes. We do have more of a connection with WWI, but nowhere near as with WWII. Basically the best way for an average Joe to learn anything about WWI or the Napoleanic era and still feel that personal connection that really brings it home, really tugs the heartstrings, etc, is through dramatic recreation like Sharpe or Gallipoli or The Lighthorsemen, etc. Even though it's real, you don't get it from 16-frame-per-second Charlie Chaplin-like film from the day. Do you see what I mean?
Profile picture for user The Blue Max

Member for

14 years 6 months

Posts: 2,104

I think the show at Omaka looked absolutely fantastic, it appeared to show off the Aircraft in not only an educational way but also an enternaining way, somthing that the late Cole Palen has left as a legacy at Old Rhinebeck. All the new WW1 replica's that are apearing are great, the more the merrier!! I know that Steve and i hope that when we get the BE2 flying we can use it to educate, and entertain, the public and let them know a bit more about the flying machine's and men of WW1.
Profile picture for user Andy in Beds

Member for

16 years

Posts: 2,778

There were loads of memoirs of The Great War published between the wars and more than a few were about flying. Sadly, many of these are now forgotten and rather swamped by the thousands of books on the Second World War. There was an attempt some years ago to get a load of them re-published, I think by Greenhill Books. Sadly, again I don't think they sold terribly well. The Great War was the hinge-pin of the twentieth century, nothing that came after it was ever quite like life before it. It's ramifications are still rumbling across time like a thunderstorm that has passed but One can hear in the distance. Lest we forget. Andy. PS. Try "The Wind in the Wires" by Duncan Grinnel-Milne. He flew BE2C's on 16 Sqn, was shot down and taken POW and later escaped to fly SE's with 56 Sqn. An excellent read. Oh, and Hugh Dowding was his CO. on 16 Sqn.
Profile picture for user gbwez1

Member for

19 years 9 months

Posts: 119

< Not enough has been done in the past 90 years in recording personal stories and histories of World War One veterans. > Sorry to hear that's the case in New Zealand. Until the numbers of WW1 veterans really thinned out in the early 1990s, the Imperial War Museum and lesser-known (but excellent) Liddle Collection housed at the Univeristy of Leeds did oustanding work in collecting the personal histories of thousands of WW1 veterans.
Profile picture for user minter

Member for

15 years 2 months

Posts: 64

Am reading Boy Soldiers of WW1 by richard van emden, and i recommend it, very good.When i was a boy my father took me to see a local ww1 veteran who went through the somme and paschendaelle,and i regret i didnt really take much notice,i would now though
Profile picture for user GASML

Member for

14 years 8 months

Posts: 650

Am reading Boy Soldiers of WW1 by richard van emden, and i recommend it, very good.When i was a boy my father took me to see a local ww1 veteran who went through the somme and paschendaelle,and i regret i didnt really take much notice,i would now though
Sadly, wasn't that the case for so many of us. In the 1970s as a teenager, I flew a number of times with a pilot who originally trained with the RNAS. How I wish I'd quizzed him a bit more thoroughly! As 'Blue Max' said earlier, one of our hopes when we get the BE-2 replica airworthy, is to integrate it in an entertaining way in displays, to remind us all of the very different lives people led, not to mention the challenges of flying and maintaining the aeroplanes at the time. If anyone has any information or memories, particularly appertaining to BEs we'd be delighted to hear of them.
Profile picture for user SteveYoung

Member for

19 years 9 months

Posts: 3,553

In answer to the question 'what would I most like to see as a lasting memorial to these heroes', I would say that any trip to the Flanders battlefields provides ample opportunities to remember and reflect. The attached pictures are of a preserved trench at Dixmuide, just inland from Niewpoort; for four years Belgian troops lived and died in this trench - the Germans did the same on the opposite bank of the river, just thirty yards away. It's almost impossible today to comprehend what these men - or in many cases, boys - went through... :( With regard to the fliers of that age, and keeping their memories alive, we have a pub here in St Ives called The Aviator, named in honour of Kenneth Wastell, a young RFC pilot whose eight months of service ended on 23rd March 1918, when he crashed into the spire of the nearby church. He was killed instantly. Today, he lies in Huntingdon cemetary, together with two other young RFC pilots who died within a couple of months of him. My research into Kenneth continues, and even last week I was contacted by a local lady who told me her late grandfather was the first on the scene of the crash... So the memories are still out there, and can still be captured. All three of these young RFC lads died 87 years ago, but in researching their stories, I'd like to think I'm keeping their memories alive. I would imagine that many cemetaries will contain young lads like Kenneth, who died young and who never lived to see the peace that they thought they could win. Every single one of them will have a story, sometimes it just takes a bit of effort to find it.
Attachment Size
Im001033.jpg 73.74 KB
Im001031.jpg 58.83 KB
Im001032.jpg 73.51 KB
Im001029.jpg 71.92 KB
Im001030.jpg 76.69 KB