The Great War
There was a room full of people at the March meeting of Stanhoe and Barwick WI when Andrew Tatham gave a very moving talk, with an accompanying video presentation, regarding the 21 years of research that he had undertaken regarding a photograph of named soldiers in uniform.
Quite by chance he had found a photo of the 46 men of the 8th Royal Berkshire Battalion which included his great grandfather, taken on the verge of the first world war. He became determined to find out more about the men, and he tried to find one living member of each of their families so that from anecdotal evidence he could build up a picture of their lives. This led to contacts with an immense network of people and compilation of an immense quantity of data.
photo: Rosemary Brown
How was he to present all this data to share with people in the future? He decided to make a film.
The backdrop was a pastoral scene of a grassy field on Salisbury Plain where the men had camped and trained for action. A rolling calendar of the years, starting at 1864 when the first man was born, ran throughout and each time a man was born a tree appeared in the field. Every now and then a photo of a soldier would appear, the soundtrack played music of the era and a photo of people in the dress of the time reminded us of his surroundings.
In 1914 gunfire sounded, and as the men fell on the battlefield the trees in the field fell too. By 1918 only 25 men were left of the original 46. A later composite photo showed the original photo colour coded with the fallen showed in black, the nine in red had substantial wounds, and the three in green were seriously wounded; only 10 men were left living in eventuality. The last survivor died in 1990.
After a short break Andrew told us the life stories of three of the men in the photo, including one who planted many trees for continuity, right into old age.
photo: Pamela Austin
It was a very thought-provoking presentation, and the message after all these years of research, as well as being one of human compassion, was, “Anything is possible, no matter how difficult it may seem, so whatever takes your interest, follow it up.”
More details: Andrew Tatham’s Group Photograph Project