Wednesday 3 February 2016

Untold stories of wounded WW1 soldiers

Fundraising in the First World War: 
when charity began at home
Untold Stories - a clever pun on words - untold, both as in the value of the stories 'cannot be measured or expressed in words', and that wounded soldiers stories from World War 1 are generally not told.  Untold stories is a project run by People's Heritage Cooperative to explore these stories.

To honour those who have died in combat is very different from caring for, valuing the experience of, and recognising the rights of living soldiers, particularly when their views and experiences might contradict the national narrative of 'honourable war'.

There are some records, of both more medical and some political forming a more obvious starting point for any research.  For example the National Union of Ex-servicemen, active into the 1920s:

It stood for the abolition of existing conditions of wage slavery and capitalist exploitation, under which disabled ex-servicemen were perhaps the worst sufferers, and for the establishment of a social system which should no longer be based upon privileges of property, but upon plain and simple rights of common people.

Jim Simmons, a wounded soldier and NUX member became a councillor and MP for Birmingham and a notable pacifist:
Three times wounded, Simmons lost a leg in the war...from 1919 onwards he contested municipal and parliamentary elections by appealing to the servicemen's vote.  When attacked by the Tories he responded: 'The young man who FOUGHT replies to the cowardly attack by the old man who stopped at home.'
Speak up for Britain!A new history of the Labour party, Martin Pugh

Jim Simmons is an exception in terms of his visibilty and in representing wounded soldiers - But what of the servicemen he claimed to represent? What are their stories, and how will we find them?

Watch this spot and look out for more events and workshops as the project progresses!

First event:

February 11, 5-7pm

Talk on Birmingham hospitals and surgeons by Professor Jonathan Reinarz, Director of the History of Medicine Unit, University of Birmingham
Murray Learning Centre UG05
(Please note that the first 45 mins will be an opportunity for attendees to find out more about the project and Prof Reinarz’s talk will begin at 5.45pm)

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