Newarke museum commemorates end to First World War

By Ollie Heppenstall

Commemorating the conclusion of the First World War, The Newarke Houses Museum is hosting the final of three exhibitions in their latest series.

Running until February 24, 2019, from the Trenches to the Twenties was organised by the Leicester Remembers project and focuses on the breaking of the Hindenburg line and the Spring 1918 offensive.

You can also explore the worldwide Spanish Influenza epidemic, the 1918 general election and the Britain to which millions of soldiers would be returning.

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The exhibition features a ceremonial tunic from WWI

Museum Curator Philip French, who organised the exhibitions as part of the Leicester Remembers project, said: “The Leicester Remembers project was set up in 2014 at the start of the centenary commemorations, and they’ve been handling a great deal of the commemoration projects since then.

“They’ve all been successful so far, we’ve had a school come in so far and around 350 visitors last weekend, which we’re really pleased with. BBC Radio Leicester have been in too”

Within the third exhibition, a series of talks examine the part played by two battalions of the Leicestershire Regiment in the crossing of the St Quentin canal and seizure of the Ricqueval bridge as well as the part played by women in the Great War.

Mr French, added: “The first exhibition was based around mobilisation, mobilisation of not only the armed forces but also the workforce, while our second exhibition mainly honed in on the Somme campaign.

“Something else we’ve looked at is trying to dispel the myth of the First World War being the main instance of women getting into the workforce in huge numbers – that was already the case in Leicestershire mainly due to the huge amount of footwear and clothing that were made as part of the war effort, and made by an overwhelmingly high number of women.”

Philip French’s role as curator was to do the majority of the research and pitch it to the Royal Tigers Association.

He said: “The Royal Tigers association are an organisation set up for the benefit of former members of the Leicestershire Regiment. The exhibition’s all about creating a narrative that’s not only accurate but is a little bit different, hence why there’s such an emphasis on the immediate post-war period.”

Second World War commemorations have not been ruled out of the exhibition either.

Mr French, said: “There’s nothing set in stone yet, but something probably will happen – provided the research is right and the design of the exhibition works.”

The museum is open 11am until 4pm on Sundays and 10am until 4pm every other day and is located at The Newarke, Leicester, LE2 7BY.

 

Bosworth ghost walk to take place

by Ollie Heppenstall

A ghost walk on the site of the last major battle, of the Wars of the Roses is set to take place tonight.

Bosworth Field, near Nuneaton, was the scene of the last major engagement between the Houses of York and Lancaster and where Richard III met his end.

Paranormal activity such as light anomalies and feeling sensations of being pushed and grabbed have been confirmed in the area through the use of ghost detection equipment, along with the feeling of being followed and watched.

The walk, over 1.2 miles, is led by both a medium and a historian, and ghost detection equipment will be available throughout. Suitable shoes and clothing must be worn.

For more information, email bosworth@leics.gov.uk or call on 01455 290429.

 

Blood on the snow: a century since Russia’s revolution

Famine, bloodshed, dynastic overthrow and political upheaval. Russia’s revolution is as brutal and painful a subject now as it was then, writes Ollie Heppenstall.

In 1917, one of modern history’s watershed moments brought a country to its knees, an empire crashing down, and sent shockwaves through Europe’s ruling elite. Imperial Russia, an empire that had stood for over 300 years, and ruled by one of the most famous royal families in history, the Romanov dynasty, was plunged into the chaos of a revolution and civil war that would last for 6 long, painful years.

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Power to the people: the streets of Russia, circa 1917

Russia’s revolution was not unexpected. After suffering for years under repressive, reactionary rule by the Romanov family under the last Tsar, Nicholas the second, and his father Alexander the third, alongside a distinct lack of social reforms and the curtailing by Nicholas of the parliament introduced in 1905, coupled with disaster after disaster in the First World War at the hands of Imperial Germany and Austria-Hungary, the mood on the streets of St Petersburg and Moscow was one of bitterness, grief and fury.

After a revolution in February of 1917, which had resulted in a provisional government being formed in the wake of Nicholas’ abdication, the situation once again came to a head in October of 1917. With Vladimir Lenin having returned from exile in Switzerland, and with a swell in his Bolshevik faction’s membership from a little over 20,000 to over 200,000, Russia’s Communist revolution began in earnest. Despite divisions within the Bolsheviks, the revolution was successful and St Petersburg, renamed Petrograd, became the new temporary seat of Communist government within Russia.

Craig Palfrey, a historical reenactor and researcher in the 1914-21 society, said: “the most obvious short-term effect of the revolution was Russia pulling out of the First World War – putting a significantly greater strain on the allies and arguably prolonging the war. There are also more domestic effects, such as economic instability for the duration of the civil war, food shortages such as the devastating Volga famines and epidemics.

“Long term effects are more interesting. By becoming the world’s first Communist state Russia became isolated from the Western world, distrusted and seen for many years as an enemy, something which arguably still is the case.

The civil war broke out a few days later, and would last until 1923 in certain, far flung parts of the former Empire. Any group within society with an agenda, and with the capability to take up arms, did so. Bolsheviks, anti-Bolshevik “white” forces made up of army officers, the bourgeoisie and upper classes, the fearsome Cossack tribesmen who had once been so loyal to the Tsar now fighting for their own auton

omous region, various parts of the Russian Empire fighting for independence after so many years of Imperial rule, and even interventionist forces sent by Britain, France, the United States and Imperial Japan, all collided in a hell of snow, fire and blood.

The fighting was, in no uncertain terms, brutal. War crimes committed by all involved, long drawn-out sieges, large-scale assaults on cities, vast theatres of war encompassing thousands of square miles, especially in the Russian far east and in Siberia and adverse weather conditions throughout autumn and winter meant this once-mighty empire became little more than a broken, scarred battleground where no quarter was given or expected, and countless innocent people were caught up.

Zoe Knox, an associate professor of modern Russian history at the University of Leicester, said: “The Russian revolution is one of the twentieth century’s defining moments. It’s the culmination of the previous fifty years of au

tocratic rule, Marxism gathering momentum during Russia’s industrialisation at the start of the twentieth century and the internal weaknesses exacerbated by the First World War.

“Short term effects are clearer cut. Not only is there the violence of the civil war that follows, but there’s the heavy death toll and displacement that occurs throughout and the persecution of religion that follows the war’s end.”

Even today Russia’s revolution and the events which followed are a talking point for a great many historians and academics. It will continue to be for a century more.

History fans celebrate the 600th anniversary of Agincourt

By Lily Thake

History fanatics gathered to celebrate the 600th CRISPINanniversary of the battle of Agincourt this Sunday.

The free event took place at Leicester’s Jewry Wall Museum from 11.30pm to 3.30pm on October 25.

It was set-up to commemorate Henry V’s victory in battle over the French in Agincourt on October 25 1415.

Sharon Collins, committee member of ‘Friends of Jewry Wall Museum’ and fellow re-enactor, said: “This event is vital to maintaining and keeping the museum alive. We hope it will encourage more people to visit.”

Guests eagerly queued at the lunch stand for their free samples of a selection of Ploughman’s lunch.

They were also invited to take part in activities for a small charge, such as holding birds of prey and having a go at archery.

The experience included free demonstrations on medieval armor, gruesome surgery and combat techniques.

The museum is run by Leicester City Council and since proposals of cuts, ‘Friends of Jewry Wall Museum’ have been actively promoting it.

Mrs Collins said: “Our aim as a committee is to keep Jewry Wall open and renovated. We hold events three or four times a year roughly.

“I helped with the food today, we had to create authentic recipes for the Ploughman’s in a modern kitchen, which was insightful.”

Several reenactors were dressed in medieval clothing and on location to offer their expertise on specific aspects of history.

Matthew Heaver, a recent graduate of Wolverhampton University and avid history fan, came dressed as a medieval knight.

Mr Heaver said: “The group of reenactors here have taken part in the film Fake Heart, which is a low budget film. I featured in Born of Hope, a fan made Lord of The Rings prequel. We have all had our own share of experiences.”

To close the event, the battle of Agincourt was re-enacted and the brutal hand-to-hand tactics of medieval battle were revealed.

Tom Simon, a local visitor said: “I love history and my son loves birds. There is free food, a nice variety of activities and I think it is a good chance for a decent day out for the whole family.”