This weekend it’s International Museums Day, and the theme is ‘collections make connections’. Here are four Life Stories on Lives of the First World War that link to objects in IWM’s collections and exhibitions. Do you know anything you could share about them?
Mairi Chisholm served as a nurse and ambulance driver with the British Red Cross Society and the Order of Saint John of Jerusalem. She won several medals for bravery along with her friend, Elsie Knocker. The two women set up a dressing station immediately behind the front line, having witnessed soldiers dying from shock and believing a post closer to the front line was essential. The two women often worked under fire evacuating and treating the wounded, saving the lives of many soldiers.
Her uniform, which is among many personal items she bequeathed to IWM, is currently on display at IWM North as part of the From Street to Trench exhibition.
In 1918 Mairi was poisoned by a gas attack during a German bombardment, and returned to Belgium after spending some time in London recovering. After a second gas attack, however, her post was finally closed. She survived the war, living to the age of 85.
One of seven siblings, Private Albert Tattersall hailed from Moston in Manchester. Along with his brothers, John and Norman, Albert joined the army, and arrived in France in December of 1915.
His ID tags, pocket Bible and cigarette tin are among the items on display as part of IWM’s From Street to Trench exhibition.
After six months of fighting, only Albert was still on the front line. John had been injured, while Norman served behind the lines. Albert was sadly reported Died of Wounds at the age of 23 during the Battle of the Somme in 1916. He was wounded near Mametz on the first day, dying two days later.
In a letter to his family dated December 1915, shortly after his arrival, he said: “The trenches are in a rotten condition with water and mud, but I am not grumbling because war is hard at any time.”
Arthur Douglas Dodgson
Captain Arthur Dodgson served with the Royal Army Service Corps.
This photograph was also featured in the IWM project Faces of the First World War, where a family member told us that the child in the photograph is Arthur’s daughter Ione, and that the photograph was taken around 1915 or 1916.
Before the war, he had married and started a family with his wife, Juliet. Following their marriage in 1912, baby Ione was born the following year.
Captain Dodgson was awarded an OBE in 1919. A photograph of him with his daughter on his lap was part of IWM’s Faces of the First World War project.
Do you have any other information to share about Arthur?
Private Michael Lennon enlisted in Nottingham, with the Royal Dublin Fusiliers. He was posted to the Balkans in 1915, and wrote home regularly to his brother, Frank, and nephew, “little Frankie”.
In one of his letters, dated May 1915, he wrote:
“Well Frank, I suppose we are for it tomorrow, if we don’t get shelled on the way… I can only hope that we have all the luck to come through the night and if I should get bowled out – well it can’t be helped. I shall pack up to the place ‘Where falls not rain, nor hail, nor any snow, and where the wind never blows loudly’, but as I have said before, I am looking for something better than that and I shall see you again when the job is done.”
In June 1915, he sent a moving note home written on the back of a biscuit card:
“Still in the pink and a bit nearer to the shells that are flying about. Had a stroll to the top of the hill (and I don’t mean Derby Road) this morning and could see the shots exchanged between the combatants, while the big guns are going every now and again. …This is a wonderful place Frank, like a World’s Fair, with all the men of different nationalities…I only hope that I come back to tell little Frankie all about it.”
IWM’s collections include several of his letters, but no photograph of him. Did your relative serve with him? Perhaps you have a photograph you can add to Lives of the First World War.
Who are you Remembering?
All of these Life Stories emerged as a result of an atmosphere of “collections making connections”, this year’s theme for International Museums Day. People either bequeathed items to IWM straight after or during the First World War, or they worked together today to identify photographs.
Lives of the First World War aims to continue this valuable work in the digital age. Can you help? Who are you Remembering on Lives of the First World War?