Campaigns ‘Away from the Western Front’ explored with help from the National Lottery

Away from the Western Front, a registered charity, is delighted to announce that it has received a grant of £99,500 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for its dynamic First World War centenary project which will explore the heritage of the men and women from Britain and its former Empire who served in the often overlooked campaigns of Salonika, Egypt, Palestine, Syria, Mesopotamia and Africa.

The Western Front has remained the main focus for European commemoration of the First World War but the campaigns which took place away from the Western Front allow us to place the war in a global context, in which several empires grappled for world power and influence, leading to a major reorganisation of the international political situation in the years following the war. Britain’s part in this, its attempts to safeguard its place on the world stage and the consequences of this are as important as any European outcomes. A central aim of the ‘Away from the Western Front’ project will be to understand what made the conflict a World War.

Professor Eugene Rogan [Professor of Modern Middle Eastern History, University of Oxford] said: “As a historian of the modern Middle East at Oxford University and author of a recent study of the Great War in its extra-European fronts, I believe this project stands to add greatly to the public understanding of the First World War and its global impact.”

Behind the global impact were thousands of personal experiences and thanks to National Lottery players this project will enable people to research and tell stories of specific soldiers, their families and regiments from all sides of the conflicts, including the diverse ethnic communities who are now living in Britain.

Lyn Edmonds, a Trustee of the charity said: “We are thrilled to have received support from the Heritage Lottery Fund for this project. Access to the heritage of the First World War away from the Western Front can be problematic for many people in this country. This is partly due to geography as the campaigns took place far away and partly due to subsequent histories in these areas, many of which underwent great social and political change after the First World War. This project is a great opportunity to improve public knowledge of these campaigns during the centenary period.”

The project will offer contrasting perspectives on the campaigns and provide fresh opportunities to engage with and learn about the common heritage of involvement in this global event. People from a very wide spectrum of communities were involved in the campaigns away from the Western Front, both fighting for and against the Allies and we will work with many of them in the project, including Iranian, Iraqi and Turkish communities in the UK.

Several local and regional partners have already been identified in Devon, Lancashire, Berkshire, Sussex and London. Local museums and National Trust properties in these areas will work with community groups, youth groups and schools with funding from the grant to research the lives and stories of those who served in these far away campaigns. Those stories will be brought to life through engaging creative outputs, drama, film, art and music, specifically designed to raise public awareness of the First World War away from the Western Front.

The project will look at the political and social impact of the war on the Middle East. It will also look at themes such as medicine, humanitarian aid and the link between faith and war.

In addition to the HLF award, the project is being supported by grants from the Centre for Hidden Histories at the University of Nottingham and the British Institute for the Study of Iraq (Gertrude Bell Memorial). The latter will enable British students taking part in one of our regional projects to meet Iraqi students of the same age to meet and exchange opinions.

The local, regional and national outputs from this project will be presented on a dedicated website offering a long-term digital archive designed for public access and learning.

An Indian soldier exchanging coins with a man of the Greek Labour Corps at Salonika. THE MACEDONIAN CAMPAIGN, 1915-1918 © IWM (Q 13716)

Author: Andy Hutt

Andy's interest in the campaign comes from his grandfather, Arthur, who served in Salonika as a sapper with the Royal Engineers from 1916-1918. Opinions expressed in these posts are personal and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Society.

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