Until very recently, the contribution of people from the former colonies to the two world wars has largely been relegated to the sub-text of mainstream coverage. Whose Remembrance? is an AHRC-funded Imperial War Museum project, funded through the Connected Communities programme, which aims to help restore this unfairly forgotten history to its rightful place in our consciousness – an investigation into the state of research into the experiences of the peoples of Britain’s former empire in the wars and its availability to 21st-century British audiences and communities. Find out more in a feature on the AHRC website.
The AHRC’s Connected Communities Festival gets underway in Cardiff this week. Among the many community research showcases and activities, research into the First World War will be the focus for reflection and community participation.
On Tuesday 1st July in the Motorpoint Arena, there will be a World War One ‘Antiques Roadshow’ Event which invites the public to bring along their memorabilia. You can drop in from 10am until 4pm.
A screening of Whose Remembrance?, a film exploring how the peoples of the former British Empire were affected by the two World Wars, will be shown at 1.45pm on Tuesday 1st July in the Motorpoint arena. If you can’t make the screening, a stall at Motorpoint Arena on both days will showcase the findings of the film:
The former colonies were an inextricable part of the British war effort in both wars. But what do we really know of the story of military service and of the home fronts experienced in Africa, India and the Caribbean? What do the present minority communities in the UK – for whom this a part of their heritage – know of this piece of history?
Another stand in the Motorpoint arena on both days will also showcase the five new World War One Engagement Centres, with representatives from each centre keen to talk about their specific research themes and plans for the commemorations ahead. And, a session on Cultures of Commemoration will explore the role of the centres and of commemoration at this time. This session will begin at 11am on Tuesday 1st July in the Motorpoint Arena.
The Festival gives us an opportunity to explore what commemoration means for individuals, organisations and places in
Wales and across the UK. We are keen to hear what Festival participants have to say about the possibilities of academic and public research collaborations on the FWW.
To encourage discussion, the Centres will bring some recent examples of commemoration, including Joanne Sayner’s 4-minute AHRC film produced by children, ‘Why Commemorate the FWW?’; work with four regimental museums in Northern Ireland; cross-community work based in part on Cymru1914 for Wales and potentially similar work on Ireland; and a Nottingham project on green spaces.
Last month, Suzanne Bardgett, Head of Research at the Imperial War Museums, came to the AHRC to share their plans for researching the First World War in this important year, and to share a film, the outcome of an AHRC-funded project.
Whose Remembrance? began as a scoping study under the Connected Communities programme which explored the colonial experience of the two World Wars. The findings were so compelling that the project later received follow on funding for dissemination, and the film is both a part of and a celebration of that.
The film, Bargett explained, is about doing history, rather than about the history itself. It is clear that colonial troops and labourers were often exploited for the war effort, but the film is upbeat because it shows how researchers are dynamically uncovering, reflecting on, and sharing their stories.
As is clear from much of the coverage and stories shared on this blog and elsewhere, there is no one war experience or narrative. The First World War was different for all nationalities and individuals. There is to date no feature film in the UK about colonial war service, despite the many other films that spring to mind (from Oh! What a Lovely War  to War Horse ). The colonial story has often been overlooked, but Whose Remembrance? seeks to change that.
The film hopes to inform teachers and policy-makers, and to inspire other projects addressing the experience of colonial subjects in times of conflict. Already, it has been shown at the UK’s House of Commons, to school groups, and as far afield as New Zealand and Bangladesh – themselves both former British colonies. Now, you can watch and share the film in full via Youtube.