World War 1 through the words of the great war poets

Published

geograph.org/Paul Makepeace

Jonathan Peters
News Editor

A project to commemorate World War 1 by students from the University of Glasgow and School of Art

A new project to commemorate World War 1 has been started by students from the University of Glasgow and School of Art. “Words of World War 1” will involve filmed recitals of famous war poems, on site across France, charting the progression of the war.

Organised by students from several different subjects, they came together around a shared love of war poets such as Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon, and a desire to capture the experience of the conflict through the words they wrote a century ago.

Explaining the motivations of the group, Project Manager Xavier Weiss told the Glasgow Guardian: “Words of WW1 gives us a chance, as students, to value and remember our collective cultural heritage.”

“This gives us the opportunity to learn from history’s oft-repeated mistakes. However, more importantly it also allows us to realise that the 4506 members of the University of Glasgow that served in World War One – who walked the same streets we do now – were not so different nor so distant as we have come to think. Instead, their lives had texture. Only theirs were disrupted and – for 761 of them – destroyed by war”

World War 1 was the first major conflict of the 20th century, and took the lives of over 16 million people. One of the deadliest wars in history, it started on 28 July 1914, ending on 11 November 1918. 100 years after the end of the “Great War”, Words of World War 1 aims to ensure that the history of this conflict is remembered not only in terms of numbers and causalities, but also through the lived experience of the soldiers.

The project hopes to achieve this by filming on the site of former battlefields, with a cinematography designed to accentuate the meanings of the poems. As Weiss says: “Since our video series follows the progression of the war – from initial nationalistic enthusiasm, to horror and eventual cynicism – our videos will also grow increasingly abstract.”

“This reflects the psychological nature of the war. We are not filming fire-side recitals, but dynamic and intensive pieces that strike the viewer with the raw power of the poetry that the war evoked in man.”

More information on the project can be found on their Facebook and Instagram pages, and the team hope to have an interactive website running soon. The poems will be recorded in France over the coming months, and are scheduled to be released in August. A proof of concept video can be watched on YouTube, which demonstrates the style and spirit of the Words of World War 1 project. A recital of one of the most famous war poems ever written, “Dulce et Decorum est” is performed by Harry Langhorn and filmed in Glasgow.

This project is a unique opportunity to commemorate the past and experience the poetry of World War 1. In recognition that over 700 hundred students and staff from the University, as well as millions of people across the world, lost their lives in the conflict, Weiss told us: “We remember them therefore not just to prevent tragedy but also to commemorate, identify and empathise with these men – 100 years later.”