Last weekend saw the first of the BBC’s flagship World War One at Home live events at Woolwich Barracks in London. These WW1 ‘roadshow’ events are happening across the country throughout the summer, and are giving a local and hands on flavour to the commemorative activities run by the BBC, supported by AHRC researchers.
On Friday 27th June, I saw the preparations first hand, along with local schoolchildren who were trialling the variety of activities on a sunny afternoon away from the classroom. The weekend coincided fittingly not only with Armed Forces Day, but with the centenary of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife – the action which precipitated the war in Europe.
The activities planned for this and other live events are highly interactive. You can step into a news bus and present your own report from the front line, explore the grizzly world of trench medicine, or prepare for active combat with obstacle courses and drill training. For a less active afternoon, you could explore the archives to explore your family history, or attend short ‘briefings’ on historical topics.
The events are supported by partner organisations, such as the Royal Pigeon Racing Association who are demonstrating the effectiveness of pigeons as communicators during the war with releases sending messages to nearby pigeon lofts. The British Postal Museum and Archive were also present, explaining how 12.5 million letters reached the front each week from friends and family at home. There was also a focus on wartime communications in practical hands on morse code demonstrations, and the opportunity to produce a newspaper.
The Royal College of Pathologists also presented a historical and medical innovations experience of frontline medicine. Grusomely titled ‘Blood and Bugs’, infected members of the public moved through a dank hut to find a cure (if there was one) for their infection. There were also spies moving around the camp collections information from various points, a scale trench, and a recruitment station issuing war time identification cards.
Over the weekend, thousands of members of the public experienced this and more. If you missed this event in Woolwich, there are still plenty of opportunities to interact with history and find out more about how your area was impacted by the war. Find a BBC World War One at Home Live Event near you.