Islington’s Gallipoli

In several places across Britain our regional projects have been getting going: in Devon several schools are working with two artists and the Multi Story Theatre Company, and there are two Scottish projects in Hawick and South Lanarkshire. In Islington, London, a project with a musical flavour has just started and we are featuring this in this blog.

Cooks, batmen and signallers from the Finsbury Rifles behind the lines at Suvla Bay, August 1915. © IWM (Q 57877)

Cooks, batmen and signallers from the Finsbury Rifles behind the lines at Suvla Bay, August 1915. © IWM (Q 57877)

Islington Museum has started a blog telling the stories of those men who travelled from Islington to Mudros to fight in the disastrous Gallipoli campaign, and also asking what the campaign means to our local community today.

Rebecca Campbell-Gay, the Education Officer at Islington Museum, says:

‘Many men from Islington fought at Gallipoli. We will be looking particularly at the 1/11th (County of London) Battalion, the London Regiment (Finsbury Rifles.) Over the next few months we will be publishing the 1/11 Battalion’s war diary on our website. The war diary records the Finsbury Rifles campaign in daily extracts, revealing both the mundane and terrifying realities of life in the trenches at Gallipoli.

The Finsbury Rifles  war diary will also form the basis for two creative projects running in Autumn 2015. We will be working with local primary and secondary schools to explore what happened at Gallipoli from a variety of perspectives.  The young people will investigate the Finsbury Rifles, learning about their costly campaign and imagining what daily life would have been like for them at Gallipoli.  The young people will also look at primary sources from both the Turkish and Allied Forces to explore different experiences of the campaign and its aftermath.

The young people will work with musicians and artists to learn original British and Turkish music from the First World War, and to explore the photography of Colonel Stanley Cesnola Byrne. They will then  work with the artists and musicians to create their very own musical and artistic meditations on the realities of the campaign and its human cost.’

As a flavour of the stories from Islington, here is an extract from a letter sent by Trooper R. F. Lovell to his Dad, a churchwarden at St. Mary’s, Upper Street, Islington:

No sooner had we started than we were enfiladed from the hills by shrapnel and sniped at from the open. Shrapnel was bursting at every yard we took and our men behaved splendidly.

We came across extended, and everybody was as cool as anything. Regulars who were on the hill said they had never seen an advance like it.

I managed to come through all right, having one or two near shaves, but I am sorry to say I left my mate behind me. I heard officially this morning that he was dead and buried, and it is an awful blow to me.

He was wounded in the head and hand and died from injuries. He was the nicest chap I ever met, unassuming, matey with everybody and I was very attached to him. He was in my half-section and we were never apart.

My sympathy goes out to his parents and fiancée. He was the only son and the last of his line. He so far is the only death in the squadron and the one we could least spare.

We will be publishing information about the other projects over the coming weeks.