Its been a whole month already. I have unfortunately been snowed under with school work and as much as I hate to admit it, Young Ambassadors has taken a bit of a backseat! I will make sure that this won’t happen too often and that I keep chipping away at my project.
Over the past week I have been getting in contact with local papers to promote the sharedhistories site and Young Ambassadors trip. I am hoping that they will get back in contact with me soon so I can share what we are doing. Recently I have also been looking for support from businesses in my local community to support me in raising funds for the trip and helping me with resources for my project. I have been pushing the community focus of my project and how it can benefit my area in terms of education and awareness. For many in communities such as mine, war commemoration can seem irrelevant and at times dull due to the pomp and ceremony of government services. Many people can’t empathise with the men and women of WWI simply because of how its taught. We in school are taught the stats and facts and major battles but we fail to engage with the topic due to its lack of intamacy. We may know all the stats of ANZAC Cove or The Somme but we don’t really know what happened on a human or emotional level. Hollywood films are often pretty bad at giving us an accurate and respectful view of what life was like. My aim with my project is to scale it down for my community. To show a small cross-section of local history, creating relevance by bringing in familiar locations and families, I hope that this will create awareness of our part in history and of its significance today.
Speaking Of statistics, the soldiers I am researching, Percy and Julian, we part of some of the biggest and saddest moments of New Zealand’s involvement in the war. The sons of James and Frances Radcliffe, the brothers attended Ngaio State School (my old school) and Wellington College. They were among the 100,000 New Zealanders who served overseas during the war. They were also unfortunately amongst the 18,500 New Zealanders to die during the war. Julian was killed in France in May 1916. The younger brother, Percy was killed on October 12 1917 when in the space of a few hours 845 New Zealanders were killed and 2700 were wounded. This I have found out is our blackest day. More men died here than on ANZAC day, and we don’t commemorate this occasion at all. The biggest loss of life and it barely gets a mention outside of history books.
For me to understand truly what their experiences were, I have had to look at the stories of those who survived to write it all down. I recently stumbled across the book ‘Goodbye to All That’ written by Robert Graves in 1929 about his experiences and subsequent shellshock after being a young officer for the British army on the Western Front. Although he is not a New Zealand soldier his story would have been approximately the same this being experienced by the Radcliffe brothers. Graves describes life in the trenches in vivid, raw detail, providing me with and incredibly valuable amount of knowledge of conditions and emotional turmoil that occurred in the trenches. The book gives you graphic depictions of scenes and sounds typical to Northern France and Belgium, allowing you to glimpse the horrors of war. I thoroughly recommend this book to any others seeking to step into the shoes of a soldier for their research. It is first-hand knowledge that you cannot begin to comprehend.
I hope to have more time for research in the holidays in a few weeks time. Until then however j'espère que tous les autres font bien leurs projets et je suis de plus en plus enthousiastes pour le voyage chaque semaine!
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Last modified on Tuesday, 08 April 2014 23:13
Merci beaucoup pour vos commentaires!
Je suis vraiment contente de la reponse de mon blog et je ne peux pas attendre pour le voyage...
I hope my next blogs will shed some light on the lives of these men as I have been doing a lot more research as of late. Its become a really fascinating topic and I have found out some really interesting things about the family. I am really glad you both enjoyed it and I look forward to speaking to you in June!
Je suis vraiment impressionnée par ton travail, Caitlin. Ton approche est très intéressante. Comme tu dis, les statistiques et les faits ne donnent pas une idée précise de l'expérience d'un soldat dans les tranchées. En te concentrant sur ces deux histoires des soldats qui étaient d'anciens élèves de ton école, et en partageant tes découvertes avec la communauté, tu vas combler l'intention du projet des Jeunes Ambassadeurs!
Merci Caitlin pour cette mise à jour de ton enquète. I am interested to read why you have chosen to focus your attention on the lives of these two men, and your intention to bring a true account of what it was like for them to go through this. And thank you for recommending a book also. You are likely to discover, feel and experience some thought provoking, and at times emotionally challenging materials as you proceed. I look forward to reading your presentation of facts and your articulation of these thoughts.