Memorialisation aside, our project’s focus on researching the university’s experience of the Great War will shed light not just on the experiences of those men and women who left to serve, most obviously in the military, the medical services or on the industrial home front (ammunition manufacture, etc.), but also on the running of the university during the war.
My work as a battlefield archaeologist has brought me as close to the realities of the Great War as it is possible to get, one hundred years after the fact. I have excavated trenches at various locations on the Western Front, as well as mass graves at Fromelles, in French Flanders. In 2008 I was also privileged to accompany Harry Patch, the last man alive to have fought on the Western Front, as he made his final visit to Flanders, to unveil a monument at the place where he went over the top at Passchendaele in 1917.
This project is primarily about sharing the stories of those who walked, or even marched, on the beautiful Gilmorehill campus before us. It is about remembering our own community in the “war to end all wars”. We want to tell of the individual staff and students, the soldiers, nurses, engineers and even the diplomats and spies who made Gilmorehill what it is today.
Our University has long embraced diversity. Those who have been displaced from the collective wartime memory – the women doctors, the conscientious objectors and our alumni who fought for Germany and her Allies – will be remembered as part of this Project.