Category Archives: event

Presenting a forthcoming event or reporting on an event that has taken place

Oxford at War 1914-1918 Roadshow

Do you have a family story or local history about the First World War? Bring your WW1 stories, photos, documents, letters, postcards, clothes, medals, and other objects to the

Oxford at War 1914-1918 RoadshowVisitors and staff at WWI Roadshow, Museum of History of Science, Oxford

When: 12 November 2016 11am-4pm
Where: 13 Banbury Rd, Oxford OX2 6NN
Booking (optional): or 01865 283686

The Oxford at War 1914-1918 Roadshow is a free, open event where visitors get the chance to engage with their history and learn more about the First World War. Bring your WW1 stories and objects to the Roadshow where a team of historians will be ready to talk to you about your material and record any information. We will digitise your objects (letters, photographs, medals, diaries etc) and publish these online as part of the online archives Oxford at War 1914-1918 and Europeana 1914-1918. There will also be talks, films and exhibitions for you to enjoy.

Although we are particularly keen to gather Oxford-related material, we welcome all contributions.

The event is free. No booking necessary, but some timed slots are available and can be reserved by contacting or 01865 283686.

What to expect on the day?
Roadshow in AthensYou’ve seen Antiques Roadshow – well, this is the same without the valuation. Our experts will talk to you about your stories and what you have brought in. They’ll record the details, and then our digitisers will photograph your items so we can upload them to the website Please just turn up on the day, there may be queues but also exhibitions and films to divert you. If you would like to make an appointment (optional) please ring: 01865 283686 or email

What if you can’t join us?
Do tell your friends! And you can upload your stories and photos to the website

Why is the University of Oxford doing this?
We want to preserve the memory of the First World War and those who lived then. By recording stories and material in digital form, we can make them available online to students, researchers, school children and anyone interested in the history of the War and the stories about the people who lived then. See more in this short video, where Dr Stuart Lee talks about why this is important

The Oxford at War 1914-1918 Roadshow is part of the Oxford Centenary Programme which has received funding form the Van Houten Bequest.

Imagining Oxford

Belgian boys during their play hour in the quadrant of St John's College, Oxford University, where they are being educated by Belgian schoolmasters. By Nicholls, Horace (Photographer) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Belgian boys during their play hour in the quadrant of St John’s College, Oxford University, where they are being educated by Belgian schoolmasters. By Nicholls, Horace (Photographer) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Oxford Images of World War 1 invites volunteers age 16-15 to turn the clock back 100 years and imagine what life was like for young people in the city and county during the Great War. The outcome will lead to a major outdoor photographic exhibition at the Oxford Castle Quarter in May 2016.

Saturday 7th November 2015 marked the start of our journey on this exciting project. Falling on the same weekend as Remembrance Sunday this felt like an appropriate starting point for reflecting on the past. We had a great panel of speakers who kindly offered their knowledge and expertise to the project. Lots of fascinating stories about life in World War 1 Oxford were discussed with local historian Dr Malcolm Graham. Malcolm also explained how Oxford literally became a ‘Garrison Town’ during this time.  Military historian Stephen Barker presented some poignant accounts of Oxfordshire soldiers through personal artefacts, diaries and photographs – all very powerful stuff.  Dr Jane Potter helped illuminate the story of three Oxford women who recorded and reflected their WW1 experiences through poetry. Thanks also to Dr Adrian Gregory,  Director of  Oxford University’s Globalising and Localising the Great War project, who helped us picture what life was like in Britain in 1914. We couldn’t have asked for a better start to our project!

Cadets headed by a band marching through the Broad Oxford. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Cadets headed by a band marching through the Broad Oxford. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Over the course of the next few months, under the guidance of heritage professionals, our volunteers will continue to explore these themes in local archives, museums and online collections. Their mission will be to interpret the story of young people living in these times through photography and text. The creative choice will be theirs to pursue and develop and mentoring sessions with professionals will help guide their work. In 2016 we will run training sessions on stills photography and exhibitions to arm ourselves with tools to publicly present our work to a professional standard.

Finally thank you to the Heritage Lottery Fund grant who have given us this opportunity to introduce a new generation to this aspect of wartime history, and to keep the legacy, memory and significance of the Great War alive for the younger generation.

Oxford Images of World War 1 is organized by Fete Day Ltd and hosted by the Oxford Castle Quarter.

If you are interested in getting involved in the project as a volunteer, a mentor or would just like to find out more please contact Ameneh Enayat,

Wikipedia: World War 1 edit-a-thon

Are you interested in Wikipedia or the First World War?

Join us on Tuesday 10th November 2015 when the University of Oxford IT Services are hosting a Wikipedia Editathon on the theme of World War I and Oxford.

WHEN? Tuesday 10 November, 2-5pm
WHERE? IT Services, 13 Banbury Rd, Oxford OX2 6NN

At the event we will learn how to edit existing Wikipedia articles and add new material. We will improve or create Wikipedia articles on World War I topics and highlight the role of Oxford as both a city and a university, in this historical conflict.

Training will be led by Martin Poulter, the Bodleian Libraries’ Wikimedian In Residence.  Expert knowledge about the War or previous Wiki editing experience is NOT necessary, though subject experts and experienced editors are also welcome.

This is a free event, run as part of the University’s centenary activities. Non-University members are welcome. To book a place please visit: (University members) or email (non-University members).


Children in Headington
This item is from The Great War Archive, University of Oxford (; © Tony Godfrey

Picture of Somerville Nurses

Nurses at Somerville
CC BY-SA © Peter Batts

Artists Under Fire

Drawing of soldier in trench

Eric Kennington, Into the Trenches, 1917 image © Ashmolean Museum (WA1919.31.16)

The Ashmolean Musem has created an online exhibition of art on paper created during the First World War. The ‘Artists Under Fire:  Remembering the Great War 1914-1918’ contains a collection of images grouped according to theme, such as ‘Dressing the Part’, ‘Tending the Wounded’, ‘From Dock to Deck’ and ‘In Memoriam’.

[The exhibition] includes a range of images that reveal the effects of the war on soldiers and civilians alike, as seen through the eyes of contemporary artists.

From September 23rd to December 20th 2015, a physical exhibition based on the material will be displayed at the Ashmolean Museum Broadway. This is a rare chance to see the material exhibited, as many items are too fragile to be kept on permanent display. More information about the exhibition at

Those who cannot make it to Broadway can still enjoy the online exhibition at

While They’re Away: The Story of a City at War

The Museum of Oxford is hosting a compelling new play drawn from authentic accounts of life at the home front in First World War Oxford. This original production brings to light the city’s role in the ‘War to end all wars’ and the parallel stories of the local people whose lives it changed forever. Playwright, Jeremy Allen has worked with members of the local community and delved into local archives to uncover the WW1 experiences of a varied cast of characters from Oxford’s past: including Siegfried Sassoon and Lady Ottoline Morrell, as well as many whose stories have yet to be told. City landmarks and buildings take on new meaning as their war-time role is revealed. The drama is performed in the Old Museum at Oxford Town Hall, the site of one of Oxford’s WW1 military hospitals.

An UnderConstruction Theatre production in partnership with the Museum of Oxford. Created as part of the Lost Voices of Oxford’s Great War, a community project to uncover the city’s untold First World War stories. Generously funded by the Heritage Lottery.

7.30pm on 12th and 13th March 2015

2.30pm matinee and 7.30pm on 14th March, £5/£4 concessions, The Old Museum

Ticket office: 01865 305305

Or buy online at

Or in person at the Oxford Playhouse Box Office

While They're Away Play Flyer

Spirit of England: an introduction


Image of the plaque on Pentire Point, north Cornwall, UK commemorating the composition of the poem ‘For The Fallen’

By Robin Darwall-Smith Written for the the Oxford Bach Choir members’ bulletin and reproduced here with kind permission.

In a year that marks the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War, the Oxford Bach Choir is performing Elgar’s own reflection on that conflict, his great choral work The Spirit of England. Its title may have led people to fear an ephemeral piece of jingoist flagwaving, but the truth is very different. I will stick my neck out here and say that I think that The Spirit of England is one of Elgar’s greatest works in any genre, and I hope that all of you, whether or not you already love Elgar’s music, will find that you are in for a special musical experience.

Spirit of England is an unusual work in that both words and music were written the middle of a war, and it lets us into the emotions felt by Britons on the home front, impotent to do anything, fearful of loved ones, uncertain of the future, and yet hopeful of eventual victory. One important thing to bear in mind is that, in early performances of this piece, every member of the choir, orchestra, and audience will have known someone close to them who was serving in the armed forces, and, especially in the latter days of the war, most of them will have known someone who had been killed.

Soon after the outbreak of war, the poet Laurence Binyon published in the Times a series of poems reflecting on the conflict. At a time when many assumed that the war would be over by Christmas, Binyon showed a prescient awareness that it would be more serious than that. As early as 21 September 1914 there appeared his poem, For the Fallen, which includes these famous lines:

They shall not grow not old, as we that are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them, not the year condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

In December 1914, Binyon published his war poems as a collection called The Winnowing Fan, which became immensely popular: in January 1915, one of Elgar’s friends wrote to him “Why don’t you do a wonderful Requiem for the slain—something in the spirit of Binyon’s For the Fallen?”

Elgar therefore set to work. He selected three poems from The Winnowing Fan out of which to create a halfhour cantata which would chart the emotional journey of the war to date. We therefore start with The Fourth of August, which represents the excitement and apprehension which greeted the outbreak of hostilities. The other two poems swiftly leave that world behind to consider the emotional cost of war. To Women reflects on the feelings of women with loved ones serving on the front, and their uncertainties and fears, while For the Fallen, the longest movement of the three, is a great elegy to the dead themselves.

In May 1916 that the second and third movements were released for performance, but not the first movement. Interestingly, the most optimistic of the poems was also the one that caused him most trouble. In particular Elgar could not bring himself to set a verse in which Binyon described the Germans thus:

She fights the fraud that feeds desire on
Lies, in a lust to enslave or kill,
The barren creed of blood and iron,
Vampire of Europe’s wasted will.

Elgar, like many Britons, was steeped in German culture. His own music owed a great deal to German influence, and he had visited Germany regularly. He had also been encouraged and helped by many Austro- German musicians. It was, at least early on, impossible for Elgar to demonise a nation which he had loved so well.

By early 1917, however, after three increasingly terrible years of war, Elgar’s mood had changed. He now came up with an extraordinary solution to his problem: he based his setting of these words around the music of the Demons’ Chorus from The Dream of Gerontius. He explained his reasons for doing this in a letter:

“Two years ago I held over that section hoping that some trace of manly spirit would shew itself in the direction of German affairs: that hope is gone forever & the Hun is branded as less than a beast … I would not invent anything low & bestial enough to illustrate the one stanza: the Cardinal [Newman] invented … that particular hell in Gerontius where the great intellects gibber & snarl knowing they have fallen. That is exactly the case with the Germans now:—the music was to hand & I have sparingly used it. … The horror of the fallen intellect—knowing what is once was & knowing what it has become—is beyond words frightful.”

In fact the overwhelming mood of The Spirit of England, especially in its second and third movements, is one of a deep compassion in the face of unimaginable losses and suffering, and there is very little militarism about it. In the third movement, when Binyon imagines fallen warriors as they marched off to war “open-eyed and unafraid”, Elgar certainly sets these words to a march, but it is an eerie and ghostly episode. Instead the emotional core of the work is at the end when Binyon compares our memories of the fallen to the stars above, and Elgar rises to a deeply moving and ecstatic climax (sufficiently ecstatic for Elgar to give the first altos a top G sharp at its height: you have been warned), before dying away to nothing.

The Spirit of England made a deep impression on contemporary listeners. The poet Robert Nicholls, who had been wounded in the war, in a letter to a friend, damned “all the people writing about war & soldiers when they haven’t a notion of either. Sensible people like Yeats keep quiet, or express the feelings of noncombatants in the most touching & poignant forms imaginable as Elgar & Binyon. How often the sad last phrases of Elgar’s “For the Fallen” echo despondingly & yet somehow victoriously in my head!”

The Spirit of England ends quietly and uncertainly: a reflection of Britain’s mood in the middle of the war. Even after the war, however, Elgar was in no mood to celebrate. Laurence Binyon wrote an Ode to Peace, which he invited Elgar to set, but Elgar was not interested; instead he wrote the Cello Concerto.

I’ll leave the last word on The Spirit of England to another great composer who wrote a masterpiece inspired by the First World War. In 1969, Benjamin Britten planned to perform For the Fallen at the Aldeburgh Festival. Here is what the composer of the War Requiem made of Elgar’s music:

It has always seemed to me to have in its opening bars a personal tenderness and grief, in the grotesque march an agony of distortion, and in the final sequences a ring of genuine splendour.

The Oxford Bach Choir performance of The Spirit of England will take place in the Sheldonian Theatre, Oxford on Dec 6, 2014.

Several recordings of The Spirit of England can be found, for example on YouTube.

More information about the composer Edward Elgar, the poet Laurence Binyon  and his Ode of Remembrance can be found in Wikipedia.

Magdalen and the Great War

Magdalen inviteThis term’s Magdalen College Library & Archives Talk will feature Dr Robin Darwall-Smith, Magdalen College Archivist, talking about ‘Magdalen and the Great War’.
Robin will discuss the impact of the First World War on Magdalen
College, and among the themes he will consider are: the College in the summer of 1914; how Magdalen functioned during the war and who was there during this time; what happened to its members on the front; and how the College chose to remember the war afterwards.

Including a chance to see a related exhibition in our Old Library, which was curated by Robin and our Archives Assistant, Ben Taylor.

Monday 24th November (7th week), 17.30 Magdalen College Summer Common Room, Cloisters III
All welcome, RSVP to

Oxford Central History Network

The Oxford Central History Network (OxCen) held its inaugural meeting on June 18th. Led by the History Department at Oxford Brookes University, the network aims to encourage and support the remembering of the First World War in Oxfordshire through a diverse range of community projects and educational or heritage activities.

“We believe that by creating a network that brings together people and organisations who may normally not meet, we can share ideas, enhance the work of all, spread interest in the subject and create a uniquely rich account of the myriad ways in which the War affected the county and its people.”

Some 30 people from a range of organisations gathered to discuss the format and activities of the network, and look at how the network can best support the historians of Oxfordshire in their work on the Centenary of the First World War. The kind of support the network may offer was outlined, and ideas for further work was discussed.

It was agreed that the network website would be used to publish information about the network and about events and resources of potential interest to people within and outside the network. The site already features an events listing, links to resources and a timeline. Input is welcomed to extend these sections, add more material and ensure they offer a useful resource. A members-only area will be set up where members can post a profile and outline the kind of work they do, any input they may be looking for or the type of advice or support they may be able to offer.

The network is happy to welcome anyone interested in history or active in historical research in Oxfordshire, whether affiliated to an institution or organisation or doing independent or personal research. More information about the network can be found on the OxCen website

OxCen webpage header

Discovering World War I in the Archives

18 June 2014 2:00pm — 4:00pm, in the Convocation House, Old Bodleian Library

The Bodleian Library’s exhibition, ‘The Great War: Personal Stories from Downing Street to the Trenches,’ opens 18 June. Letters and diaries of politicians, soldiers and civilians, all connected with Oxford University, convey contemporary experiences of the Great War from the outbreak of war in 1914 to the battle of the Somme in 1916.

The exhibition at the Bodleian is part of a series taking place this year in three archives that preserve memories of World War I. In Germany, ‘Literatur und Krieg’ at the Deutsches Literaturarchiv, Marbach, and in France, ‘1914, La Mort des Poètes’ at the Bibliothèque nationale et universitaire de Strasbourg, also examine how war is understood through surviving documents.

Curators from all three archives will join a panel discussion in Oxford on 18 June examining the choices and discoveries made in selecting material to tell stories of World War I. The event will be held in the Convocation House, Bodleian Library.

Speakers: Christophe Didier – Julien Collonges – Ulrich Raulff – Christopher Fletcher – Mike Webb

Moderator: Stuart Lee

See the event listing to book free tickets:


From Downing Street to the Trenches: First-Hand Accounts from the Great War, 1914-1916


From Downing Street to the Trenches: First-Hand Accounts from the Great War, 1914-1916

2:00pm | Monday 24 March 2014 | Bodleian: Convocation House | Tickets £11 | details

Mike Webb will be talking about his book to be published alongside the Bodleian Libraries Exhibition, The Great War: Personal Stories from Downing Street to the Trenches, 1914-1916

step-into your place-poster