From the Territorial Army nurse saving lives in Afghanistan, to the First World War female motorcyclist dispatch rider who caused a scandal with her masculine breeches and leather jackets – a new display will mark ten years of IWM North, part of Imperial War Museums, in Manchester.
IWM North opened as a national museum in 2002. Since then, award winning displays and learning programmes have shown how war shapes the lives of ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances, in conflicts ranging from 1914 to the present day. This new display reveals ten remarkable and surprising stories of people caught up in war and conflict, which reflect IWM North’s first decade exploring dramatic individual experiences.
The personal stories told in the new 10@10 display are brought to life in all areas of IWM North. Visitors inspired by First World War soldier Thomas Witts, who forged his date of birth to join the army aged 16, can get even closer to his full story by examining his diary, photograph and uniform badge in daily TimeStacks object handling sessions. The story of Thomas Boardman, who was ill with malaria 32 times while he was a prisoner of war in the Far East during the Second World War, is revealed through the working ukulele he made by hand with scavenged materials in the camp.
Visitors can discover what happened to Guardsman Edward Charlton – the last person to be awarded the Victoria Cross in Europe during the Second World War. A touching letter from the British Army – never before on public display – informing Charlton’s family of his honour, is among the newest additions to the IWM North Main Exhibition Space and subject of regular 10@10 Closer Look Tours thoughout July.
Specially filmed footage will be shown for the first time, revealing comments by some of the individuals or their surviving family members. Photographic portraits of the remarkable individuals involved will also form part of the display.
The display will reflect how IWM North has helped to improve the lives of local people through award-winning volunteer schemes and educational programmes. The volunteer scheme has helped more than 280 local residents re-engage with their community, while a Veteran’s North Group, set up by IWM North to work with veterans from a range of conflicts, now has more than 200 members.
One IWM North volunteer whose story is revealed in the 10@10 display is Frank Halls, who survived a dramatic period in his life in 1990. He was working as a contractor in Iraq when the country invaded Kuwait. Soon afterwards, Frank was detained by Iraqi officials and held hostage for five months to be used as a human shield in case of an attack on Iraq. He has volunteered at IWM North for ten years and regularly uses his knowledge and skills to help visitors research their military family history at IWM North’s Your History Station.
Graham Boxer, Director of IWM North, said: ‘In our first decade we’ve won almost 30 awards and received more than 2.5 million visitors who have come to discover remarkable stories of people whose lives have been shaped by conflict. This new display depicts ten particularly surprising stories. With new images and footage, as well as items on display throughout IWM North, we invite visitors to come and be amazed by ten inspirational, tragic and heroic individuals.’
The Ten Surprising Stories:
- · Thomas Witts – First World War soldier who forged his date of birth to join the army aged 16, survived the Battle of the Somme to meet his future wife, then made a valuable contribution to British manufacturing during the Second World War.
- · Mairi Chisholm – Civilian nurse and female motorcyclist dispatch rider during the First World War, who was awarded medals for her bravery when she set up an emergency treatment station just 50 yards from the frontline, working under fire and saving many lives.
- · Thomas Boardman – Second World War prisoner of war in the Far East who was ill with malaria 32 times but crafted a remarkable ukulele from scavenged materials.
- · Frank Tolley – RAF pilot ordered to participate in the bombing of Dresden in 1945, who felt a sense of redemption when he helped to save thousands of lives only months later by dropping food parcels over the Netherlands.
- · Edward Charlton – The last person to be awarded the Victoria Cross in Europe during the Second World War, with letters from the British Army to Charlton’s family explaining the honour on display for the first time at IWM North.
- Harbilas Singh Sagar – Child refugee who settled in England after fleeing extreme violence during the partition of India, with the help of his heroic mother.
- Frank Halls – Contractor who was captured and held hostage in Iraq, and has been a volunteer at IWM North for ten years as part of an award winning volunteer scheme.
- Patrick Lyster-Todd – Lieutenant Commander forced to hide his sexuality for 20 years before successfully campaigning to lift the ban on homosexuality in the British armed forces – which was only fully lifted in 2000.
- · Saranda Bogujevci – Refugee who was the first child to testify at a war crimes trial, with her cousins, after her friends and family members were victims of ethnic cleansing in Kosovo.
- · Major Helen Ball – Medical practitioner who volunteered as a Territorial Army medic and served in Camp Bastion, Afghanistan, one of the busiest military hospitals in the world.
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