End of WW1 -Schools Project

With the new school term now upon us, Just Druid is launching a creative digital project aimed at inspiring Welsh Pupils to remember the 40,000 welsh people who were killed in WW1

 The Memorial to the 6,000 Welshmen who died at the horrors of Passchendaele, Flanders

The Memorial to the 6,000 Welshmen who died at the horrors of Passchendaele, Flanders

 Of course the 100th anniversary of the end of WW1 is on November 11th 2018 and this project is designed to help commemorate this date. The Peoples Collection Wales website will publish the digital memories online

  Please click on the above IMAGE for the PCW website

Please click on the above IMAGE for the PCW website


 The mud at Passchendaele

The mud at Passchendaele

All the Welsh regiments fought at the battle of Passchendaeleas the 38th (Welsh) divisionand lost 6,000 men. It was calculated that for every metre of ground fought over, 35 allied soldiers and 30 German soldiers were killed and 500,000 died all together in just three months.

 soldiers blinded

soldiers blinded

 And what about the families of the dead – the Britain Empire lost nearly 9 million men- what is ever mentioned about the families. It just doesn’t bear thinking about...this is why as we commemorate the 100th anniversary of the end of WW1 it is really important to do something special. This anniversary will never come around again and of course no one alive today will be here to see the 200th anniversary  

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Please see our schools project, based on the true story of 2nd Lt Glyn Morgan from Pontypridd and his letter that was written to his Dad in 1917 on the eve of the battle of Passchendaele

please click on link below


Nellie's Premier

Seven months of planning finally came to a conclusion with the Premiere of the film about Nellie Spindler, being held at the Theatre Royal, Wakefield, in the presence of Wakefield VIPs the Spindler family, our event sponsors and two hundred guests.

 Preparing the big screen

Preparing the big screen

 

We first came across Nellie doing research for the Battle of Passchendaele, fought in 1917. There was a cemetery in Flanders with 10,000 soldiers and one woman – this was Nellie’s final resting place. She was killed when the Germans continually shelled the Casualty Clearing station ( CCS) , where Nellie worked as a nurse treating the wounded Allied troops. It’s hard to make sense of such an action today but that’s what happened.    

 

 A CCP at Passchendaele

A CCP at Passchendaele

 

Nellie’s tent mate and fellow nurse Elizabeth Harper was moved out their tent only days before suffering from exhaustion. She was sent back to Blighty to recover. Apparently it was only officers who suffered from shell-shock in WW1 – Other ranks had nervous breakdowns and were exhausted or in some cases were shot for cowardice.

 

 Nurse Harper in the Film 

Nurse Harper in the Film 

 

However Nellie’s friend, Elizabeth recovered over time and even named her first daughter after Nellie. I was very privileged to meet Elizabeth’s great grandson Chris Crossland of Leeds who shared this family story with me at a SSAFA event.

In researching, Nellie Spindler’s story with the wonderful help of her remaining relatives, two documents they showed us will always stick in my memory

On Nellie’s first week at the CCS, she was required to write out her will. Imagine having to do that on your first day in work.     

The second document was a record of Nellie’s death and it included the casualty figures that flooded the CCS every 8 hours and even broke down the type of injuries the soldiers were suffering from – This went on for 3 months – and if nearly a million soldiers were killed at the battle, then around 1.5 million soldiers were injured. No wonder the nurses had breakdowns....how do you cope with that ?

The other thing to reflect on, is where they buried all the dead? A lot of soldiers had no known grave and 54,000 names are on the memorial Menin Gate alone. The soil in Flanders was very toxic and with the incessant rain and mud many bodies were consumed by nature itself.

 The mud and swamps of Passchendaele

The mud and swamps of Passchendaele

 

Such was the esteem that Nellie was held in that she was buried with full military honours and many a commanding officer in the area, took time out to attend her funeral. Her grave can still be seen and is at the Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery in Belgium

 Nellie's grave in Belgium

Nellie's grave in Belgium

 

 

What was really noticible about the Premiere was that it acted as a rallying call and quite a few people presented new information about Nellie and her family at the Premier. We are going to tweak a few scenes in the film to take advantage of this.

One last word about the pupils at Pinders Primary school ( possibly the school that Nellie attended)  

 Pinders ( used to be known as Eastmoors )

Pinders ( used to be known as Eastmoors )

The schoolchildren were asked to do some memorial projects for Nellie - 23 pupils wrote poems and I was amazed that children under 11 could write such moving stuff 

They also sang a song to Nellie which was very poignant....

We intend taking the film back to Pinders school so the children can see the film and Margaret Spindler ( Nellie's neice ) has agreed to be there as well 

Then we intend taking the film to other schools to inspire the children to remember their own Nellie as we approach the 100th anniversary of the end of WW1

So the spirit of Nellie will live on... 

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Nellie's Cast

Director , Daniel Ready has finalised his cast for the eagerly anticipated film on Wakefield Staff Nurse, Nellie Spindler, who was killed tendering injured soldiers at the battle of Passchendaele in 1917. 

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Nellie is the only woman among 10,000 men who were buried at CWGC Military Cemetery at Lijssenthoek – Her headstone bears the inscription:

"A NOBLE TYPE OF GOOD HEROIC WOMANHOOD"

Ready has chosen an all Yorkshire trio of actresses to play the three parts in the film. With an acting workshop held last week, the cast then made a surprise visit to Nellie's old school - now known as Pinders School and were given a warm welcome by staff and the school children, who sang a song in memory of Nelllie.

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The cast then visited two of Nellie's remaining relatives, niece Margaret and great-granddaughter, Julie who have both agreed to share family mementos and early photos of Nellie for the film.       

"Cast of the "Angel of Passchendaele"    
 

 Photo by Ori Jones

Photo by Ori Jones

Annie Alice Eves who is playing Nellie Spindler, the Nurse killed at Passchendaele in 1917.

 

 

 Photo: Debbie Roe

Photo: Debbie Roe

Nancy Turner,  who is playing Minnie Wood, The Sister in Charge of the Clearing Station where Nellie worked

 

 

 Photo: Rob Chilton

Photo: Rob Chilton

Amy Brunskill who is playing Nellie's tent-mate and fellow nurse, who is effected by shell-shock. 

The Premiere of the film will be part of an evening remembering Nellie's life with poems, songs and a second film about the battle itself and  will be held at the Theatre Royal Wakefield on 3rd July.

For more details of the evening and tickets, please click on image above 

 

 

Finding Nellie

Finding Nellie

The Wakefield Civic Society Blue Plaque Scheme

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There are a few myths about ‘blue plaques. Contrary to what you might think, there’s no national blue plaque scheme. Anyone can put up a blue plaque and all sorts of organisations and individuals do so – including local councils, civic societies and Rotary clubs, for example. You don’t usually need permission to put a plaque on your own property (although it’s worth checking with your local council, particularly if you want to put a plaque on a listed building as some councils require you to apply for Listed Building Consent). Perhaps most interesting, not all ‘blue plaques’ are blue!

Strictly speaking, when we talk about ‘blue plaques’, what we are talking about are commemorative plaques – plaques of any colour, shape or size used to commemorate the life of an individual (or individuals), or a particular event from the past, or to tell the story of a building with an interesting history. Sometimes, a plaque might link a number of these themes together – for example, drawing attention to a building at which a certain event happened that was attended by noteworthy people.

The first blue plaques were put up in London in 1866. There are now over 900 of these distinctive, circular blue plaques in the capital and it is thought that this is the oldest ‘blue plaque’ scheme in the world. Today, the scheme is run by English Heritage who took over responsibility for it in 1986 but it is restricted to London. However, the success of the London scheme has inspired many others and it is perhaps not surprising that many schemes follow the lead set by the one in London by choosing to use circular blue plaques with white lettering but you will see plaques in black, red, green and brown, for example and in a variety of shapes and sizes.

Wakefield Civic Society started putting up blue plaques in 1995 and we have gone on to put up nearly 50 blue plaques in and around the city. There are a handful of plaques put up by others but the Civic Society’s scheme is now seen as the main scheme in Wakefield and it is to the Society that people tend to submit nominations for new blue plaques.

When someone comes to us with an idea for a blue plaque, we first of all have to consider whether or not the person, event or building being put forward is suitable: we don’t, for example, usually put up plaques to commemorate notoriety! And we are selective about which buildings and which associations we mark with a blue plaque – some buildings might, for example, have had connections with a number of famous people and events, so we have to make sure that we are commemorating the most appropriate story as we cannot festoon buildings with multiple plaques. Once we are happy that the nomination is sound, we then have to obtain permission from the owner of the property where we want to put the plaque and, if the building is listed, we have to approach the council to obtain Listed Building Consent. Finally, there is the not inconsiderable matter of how to pay for the plaque – as a small charity, the Society cannot afford to pay for all the plaques on our list of nominations so we have to seek funding for each one we do (approximately £400 per plaque). We receive quite a few nominations each year so it tends to be the ones that come with an offer of funding behind them. You can find out more about how to make a nomination for a blue plaque on our website – https://www.wakefieldcivicsociety.org.uk/

 The Nellie Spindler Nomination

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It was back in 2011 that we first became aware of the Nellie Spindler story. One of our guest speakers, local resident Janet Miller, who had been in nursing herself, came to talk to our members about her collection of nursing memorabilia. Janet told us about what had happened to Nellie and suggested that we consider putting up a blue plaque to her. As with other nominations, we added Nellie to our list – which is where she stayed until 2017, the 100th anniversary of her death.

Our interest in the ‘Nellie story’ was rekindled when two of our members, Lesley and Brendan Harrison, returned from holiday to say that they had visited Nellie’s grave at the Commonwealth war graves cemetery at Lijssenthoek in Belgium and pointed out to us that it was such a remarkable story that, given it was the centenary of her death, now would be a good time to put up a plaque – but where should we put it?

An online search revealed that there are three addresses in Wakefield associated with the Spindler family: 90 Carlton Street (where Nellie was born in 1891, and 74 Cleaver Place and 104 Stanley Road where the family moved as Nellie was growing up.

The house at Carlton Street has long since been demolished – it’s now a commercial site. Similarly, the house at 104 Stanley Road has been demolished – the area was redeveloped sometime in the 1960s with council flats above a parade of shops. One of those flats is number 104 Stanley Road, but, clearly, it’s not the place where Nellie and her family lived and it’s not quite in the right spot either (although very close to the original house). So that left 74 Cleaver Place – could we find it and use that for the plaque?

Nellie Spindler plaque Stanley Road (3).jpg

Now, I’ve lived in Wakefield all my life and I’d not heard of it. I looked at various old maps of Wakefield and I couldn’t find it. In the end, I made an appeal for information on Facebook where there is a page (the Wakefield Historical Appreciation Site) dedicated to memories and photos of Wakefield. Fortunately, someone responded – Anne-Marie McFarlane came forward to tell me that she used to live at 106 Stanley Road, one of a terrace of six houses that had been called Cleaver Place! Yes, it looked as if the houses on Stanley Road had at some point been renumbered and 74 Cleaver Place was actually the same house as 104 Stanley Road! Anne-Marie had grown up in the house next door to where the Spindler family had lived, although long after the Spindler family had gone.

So, we needed to find out where Nellie’s family home had been. It turned out that the parade of shops that now stands in Stanley Road was built more or less where the back gardens to Cleaver Place would have been and that the current car park in front of the shops is where the houses would have stood. As it happened, the properties are today owned and managed by WDH (Wakefield District Housing) and an approach to them for permission to put up a plaque was viewed favourably – and they even agreed to provide funding to cover the cost of the plaque! This meant that we had everything in place to take the project forward and the plaque was ordered from the manufacturer we use – Leander Architectural in Buxton.

 

Unveiling the Plaque

Perhaps not surprisingly, there’s been a lot of local interest in the Nellie Spindler story and Wakefield Cathedral was holding a special service to remember Nellie on Remembrance Sunday, 12th November 2017. It was agreed that we could unveil our plaque as part of the service when three members of Nellie’s family would be present.

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A few days later, people assembled once again, but this time outside the shops in Stanley Road for a short ceremony to dedicate the plaque, now fixed in place, and to speak about the life and times of Nellie Spindler.

Such was the interest in the event that both BBC and ITV sent local news crews along to film the event and local press were also there to record the story for the newspapers. Nellie’s story lives on.

Kevin Trickett MBE,

President, Wakefield Civic Society

A Welsh soldier’s story of Fighting in the battle of Passchendaele

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‘One of the greatest disasters of the war’ Lloyd George, Memoirs 1938

This year, 2018, marks 100 years since the end of World War 1. Whilst the big screen is showing the Churchill epic ‘Darkest Hour’ here in Wales a small independent film maker has released a short intimate story of the Welsh soldier, 2nd Lieutenant Glyn Rhys Morgan from Pontypridd, who died in ‘the Great War’ in 1917 aged 21.

Glyn Rhys Morgan was one of 6,000 welsh soldiers who died in Belgium in the battle of Passchendaele. Lloyd George later referred to it as ‘one of the greatest disasters of the war’. The death toll in total was 260,000 allied forces and 220,000 ‘enemy’ soldiers. They died in the rain, which is one of the main reasons their strategy failed so miserably- the ground was so sodden the soldiers couldn’t move forward at the rate they were supposed to. It was a ‘senseless campaign.’

The film is interesting on many levels. Visually it uses real black and white film footage and photographs from the period. We see is horse and carts, soldiers with ‘pudding basin’ helmets, cross body bags and rifles over their shoulders. A far cry from what we see on our screens today. There is one lovely piece of footage of the soldiers smiling to camera as they wash themselves in the puddles of rain water.

The language of war is also interesting. They use phrases like ‘supress and neutralise resistance,’ ‘strike a blow against the enemy’ and ‘barrage’ which actually means heavy gun fire. It detaches us from the horrors of what actually happens.

The film makes it all very personal when we see Glyn writing a letter to his family, that will only be posted in the event of his death.  At one point he speaks directly to us reciting a poem including the line ‘It is sweet and fitting to die for one’s country.’ Within the context of the poem this is a lie- which adds a new dimension to the film. Did he really think ‘he lived and died magnificently’ as his Colonel later said in the letter to his father?

By the end of the film I am moved but actually more angry. How was this ‘senseless campaign’ that resulted in so many deaths allowed to happen? I dislike war anyway. As humans with such intellect I fail to see how we ever get to these situations. Surely there are ways to avoid such conflicts? But I know that money, oil (other natural resources), politics, egos and arrogance play a huge part.

What was also annoying was that the Welsh soldiers weren’t even recognised for their part in the battle until 2014 when there was finally a Welsh memorial unveiled at Flanders. 

The film ends with a beautiful vocal of ‘Myfanwy’ a welsh song of unrequited love- a lover spurned. I think of the love that the soldier had for his country and war effort and how that was repaid by the system.

The final question the film poses, How will we remember him? A great end to provoke discussion after the film.  Follow the link to check out the trailer: https://www.justdruid.org/films/

Written by – Prith Biant

www.prithb-art.com

 

Our next project

Here at Just Druid we believe ideas for our films must be relevant to themes and events that are happening in the modern world. We want our films to be personal - to not only celebrate the relationships we have with those closest to us, but to commemorate special moments in history.

The 31st July of this year marks the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Passchendaele. The Battle of Passchendaele was a major campaign of WW1 and took place in Flanders on the western front, where allies fought the German Empire for control of the city resulting in half a million soldiers dying in the space of only 3 months.

The anniversary will be commemorated all over the world. Scotland are to hold a themed weekend named ‘The long road to Passchendaele’, Canada will hold a ceremony of remembrance along with Australia and New Zealand, and Flanders in Passchendaele will hold a free weekend exhibition. We want to pay a tribute to those that lost their lives during the battle, and their families and loved ones.

Just Druid are working closely with SSAFA, Britain's oldest military charity and the only one in existence at the outbreak of WW1 

Follow the link for more information - https://www.ssafa.org.uk/

Here at Just Druid we are inspired by associations that try to benefit those that have been affected by disastrous events like war, and we feel privileged to work alongside SSAFA in preparation for our new film about the Battle of Passchendaele and those that lost their lives. We plan to resonate the message in our new film the message of remembrance – that we must not forget those that have and are serving for us, and their memory must be celebrated for years to come.

We are working with some talented film students at the University of South Wales to come up with ideas for the film’s script and how to film it - It will then be  professionally edited in London. The film will not only be a form of remembrance to the war in 1917, but a tribute to the amazing work of SSAFA.