Saturday, 8 March 2014

A sad centenary

After Fairlynch Museum's ‘Sea, Salt and Sponges’ exhibition of 2013 comes a display on a very different theme. 

Yet there are connections. The 19th century German zoologist Ernst Haeckel  was featured in last year’s exhibition as a colleague of Budleigh scientist Henry Carter FRS.  His beautiful illustration of sea anemones from the book Kunstformen der Natur (Art forms of Nature) of 1904 is shown above.

Among other things he is noted as the first person to describe the 1914-18 conflict as a world war, quoted in the Indianapolis Star of 20 September, 1914


 A British Army file photo of T.E. Lawrence in 1918

 I was intrigued to learn during research for the exhibition  that Carter’s writings about the tribes of Arabia may well have inspired T.E. Lawrence in the latter’s campaign against the Turkish enemy in the Middle East.  Lawrence’s mentor was the archaeologist and antiquary David George Hogarth, Keeper of the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. He was also a Naval Intelligence officer and acting director of the Arab Bureau, a section of the Cairo Intelligence Department set up in January 1916 during the First World War. 

Above: A page from Henry Carter's extensive Arabic-English vocabulary of the Mahrah dialect. It was published in 1848 along with his Notes on the Mahrah tribe

Hogarth’s praise of Carter’s 1840s research into the character of the Mahra and Gara tribes is on record. Lawrence would later state that everything he had accomplished he owed to Hogarth.   


Actress Jenny Coverack portrayed Kathleen Scott in her show ‘A Father for my Son’ in Budleigh Salterton on 25 May 2012. She is pictured above inside Scott's Hut dressed as Kathleen. To read an interview with the actress click on  Photograph copyright © 2006 Marketa Jirouskova

Going back to Fairlynch Museum's Antarctic exhibition of 2011-12, it’s worth remembering that Captain Scott’s widow received many letters during the Great War assuring her that her husband’s story had helped them cope with the adversities of trench life and battle.

And of course former local resident Murray Levick himself earned the gratitude of many hundreds of veterans for the medical help that he provided to victims of gassing and trench foot. 

British 55th (West Lancashire) Division troops blinded by tear gas await treatment at an Advanced Dressing Station near Bethune during the Battle of Estaires, 10 April 1918, part of the German offensive in Flanders.  This is photograph Q 11586 from the collections of the Imperial War Museums (collection no. 1900-22)           

The grimmest connection lies in humanity’s use and abuse of science and technology. What a contrast between the optimistic  belief in the value of science expressed by Henry Carter and his fellow Victorians and the way in which scientific knowledge was used for the cruellest of ends between 1914 and 1918. 


Newton Poppleford's war memorial   Image credit: John Hagger

The Great War resulted in the deaths of over 150 people associated with the Lower Otter Valley. From Newton Poppleford, Colaton Raleigh, Otterton, East Budleigh and Budleigh Salterton they volunteered to defend Britain against what they saw as an aggressive and uncivilized enemy. Many more people emerged from the conflict mentally and physically scarred. 

Away from the front line, residents of the Valley worked together for the war effort. In museums throughout the world the story of the 1914-18 conflict and its effects will be told over the next five years.  Fairlynch is proud to make its own contribution to that great and thought-provoking story.  

‘The Great War at Fairlynch’ 2015 exhibition at Budleigh Salterton’s very special museum! Reviews included: “Wonderful display on WW1, informative, bright and relevant. Well done!! 

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