Conference - 2014

Annual Conference Report, 21st June 2014

The Association held its third annual conference at the Tally Ho Conference Banqueting Centre, near Birmingham, on 21st June 2014.  Due to publication deadlines, it was only possible to include a brief mention of this in the summer edition of The Gallipolian.

Nearly 90 attendees enjoyed a day of presentations, stalls and discussions on the Gallipoli Campaign.  Many stayed on afterwards for an evening meal together.

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This year, the organisers arranged a varied and very interesting programme and in addition to the Association’s own stand, there were books available for purchase, authors and exhibitors to meet and displays of equipment to peruse.

As always, the staff at the venue took care of us to their usual high standards and we were well fed and watered!

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Keith Edmonds, Membership Secretary and one of the Conference organisers opened the event by welcoming everyone and introducing the day’s first speaker, Clive Harris, who presented “Yeomanry, 21 August 1915”.

PHOTO right: Clive Harris

Using the benefit of his many years' experience guiding visitors around the battlefield, Clive spoke about the Yeomanry and their rôle in the attacks of 21st August 1915. He focussed on the local nature of these troops, with their roots in Warwickshire, Buckinghamshire, Berkshire and Dorset; also in London, South Nottinghamshire and Hertfordshire.  Clive referred to accounts of the Suvla Bay landings and the long walk in good order across the Salt Lake, while under intense shrapnel fire.  The Derbyshire Yeomanry, led only by NCOs, captured Scimitar Hill as light was fading but as the Turks held the higher ground, were doomed to failure.  This was the most costly of all the actions of the campaign – of the 14,300 involved, 5,300 were killed or wounded – yet many of the officers went on to be a part of the successful 1918 advance.

Clive was followed by Andrew French and Richard Bennett who updated us all on the “Trooper Potts VC appeal”.  Andrew and Richard told the story of Trooper Potts, who was awarded his VC during the action described by Clive Harris.  A trust has been formed (www.pottsVCtrust.org) to commemorate and celebrate Fred Potts' bravery by erecting a memorial to him in Reading.  As part of this, links have been forged with schools and community groups, and a sculptor has been commissioned.  One of the most popular activities in fundraising events was the 'shovel race', where children dragged each other on shovels, as Potts himself did when saving a wounded colleague in very different circumstances in 1915.

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After a short break, Gordon Birdwood and Lyn Edmonds provided an update on the Association’s Centenary activities.  Gordon and Lyn outlined the range of activities which the G100 committee had been working on.  These included local projects, the establishment of a new daffodil cultivar called 'Gallipoli Dawn' bred and named for the centenary, plans to release a commemorative stamp and coin, a photographic competition and the Gallipoli Centenary Education Project, introducing the National Coordinator, Robin Clutterbuck.  Robin welcomes the input of GA members and can be contacted by email: robin@gallipoli100.co.uk.

PHOTO below: Mal Murray

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Lyn then introduced the Association’s Forum Manager, Mal Murray who spoke on “The Irish Experience and Commemoration”.

Mal spoke with passion about the Irish experience of the First World War, and Gallipoli in particular, setting this against the background of growing unrest at home.  As in Australia and New Zealand, Gallipoli came to be seen as a symbol of Irish nationhood.  It is only in recent years – especially with the Queen's state visit in 2011 and recognition of those killed in the Easter Rising – that the uncomfortable memories of the First World War are being explored again. Although many records have been lost, study of the Irish contribution in the war is gaining strength – for instance there are 18,000 soldiers' wills on the National Archives website.  Unlike Britain, Ireland has very few public war memorials but this is also beginning to change.

After an excellent lunch, Stephen Chambers, the Association’s webmaster, Historian, Tour Guide and Conference co-organiser chaired the opening session of the afternoon.

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PHOTO above: Martin Purdy

The first speaker was Martin Purdy, who told the story of “The Gallipoli Oak”.  Martin Purdy and Ian Dawson's book on the Gallipoli Oak was published in 2013 and Martin told the story of the Duckworth family who wanted a lasting memorial to their son, Eric, who had been killed at the battle of Krithia Vineyard.  James, the young officer's father and wealthy Rochdale businessman, took an oak sapling out to Gallipoli and planted it in the cemetery where his son's comrades were buried.  He bribed the Turkish gardeners to water the oak regularly and now the tree is fully grown – a manifestation of Rupert Brooke's 'some corner of a foreign field that is forever England'.

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PHOTO left: Dominic Tweddle

The Conference then went offshore into uncharted territory as we listened attentively to two presentations of a naval nature.

Firstly, Prof. Dominic Tweddle introduced “H.M.S. Monitor 33”.  Dominic, Director of the National Museum of the Royal Navy, told the story of the M33.  Monitors were a direct response to the need for small shallow draught ships to work close to shore, and 14 were ordered in March 1915, taking the Harland and Wolff shipyards an astonishing 9 weeks from drawing board to launch.  14 were made, and the M33 is the only one surviving.  It is planned that the NMRN will open the refurbished ship to the public in August 2015.

The second sea voyage was steered by Ivan Steele and Martin Marks who explained the origins of Pinnaces, specifically “Steam Pinnace 199”.  Pinnaces were tiny remnants from the late Victorian age and were used at Gallipoli;  Pinnace 199 survives at the NMRN in Portsmouth.  Fitted with a Hotchkiss gun, machine guns and even torpedoes, they were mini warships and were often the first command of a young midshipman.  Ivan and Martin told of the bravura of some of the teenagers who 'commanded' them.

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PHOTO above: Jenny Mcleod

Keith Edmonds chaired the final session of the day and introduced Dr. Jenny Macleod who took us through the century since the campaign to consider “Commemorating Gallipoli”.  Jenny's research at the University of Hull has looked at how Gallipoli has been commemorated over the past century in the various combatant countries, especially Australia, New Zealand, Britain, Ireland and Turkey.  She gave a fascinating account of trawling through newspapers to read contemporary accounts of commemorative events.  From the outset, 25th April was called Anzac Day even in Britain, with only Bury running a 'Gallipoli Sunday' event.  Over the next decades, the commemorations reflected changing attitudes to Empire, national identity, attitudes towards war and the modern interest in family research, which has had the effect of 'de-toxifying' the military aspects of the campaign and led to people all over the world seeing it in relation to personal experiences.  Jenny has just completed her book on Gallipoli commemorations.

conf20145To close the conference, Christopher Fagan, Association Chairman addressed the audience.  He thanked the speakers and organisers and explained that there would be no Annual General Meeting this year.  As the Association had only recently changed to charitable status, there were not yet any annual accounts for the Association.  He advised that the Association had been working with the government to ensure that the campaign was well represented in commemorative events, both in the UK and on the Peninsula.  Finally, he asked for volunteers to step forward to assist the Trustees with the continuation of their work and thanked everyone for attending.

Report by:  Robin Clutterbuck and Keith Edmonds 15th July 2014

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

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