Amgueddfa Blog: First World War

Yr wythnos hon, mae amgueddfeydd ledled y wlad yn dathlu ac yn hyrwyddo cyfraniad arbennig eu gwirfoddolwyr. Yma yn Sain Ffagan, mae ‘cymuned’ o wirfoddolwyr yn chwarae rhan bwysig yng ngweithgarwch yr Amgueddfa. Gallwch weld eu gwaith ar draws y safle – o’r gerddi i’r adeiladau hanesyddol. Canrif yn ôl – yn ystod y Rhyfel Byd Cyntaf – roedd gwirfoddolwyr yn gadael eu hôl ar Sain Ffagan o dan amgylchiadau pur wahanol.

Yn ystod y Rhyfel, sefydlwyd bron i 18,000 o elusennau newydd ym Mhrydain ac fe welwyd ymgyrchu gwirfoddol ar raddfa heb ei debyg o'r blaen. Ynghyd ag Urdd San Ioan, roedd y Groes Goch Brydeinig yn ganolog i'r ymgyrch hon. Yn 1909, daeth y ddwy elusen ynghyd i sefydlu cynllun y Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD), gyda'r bwriad o roi hyfforddiant meddygol i wirfoddolwyr a'u paratoi i wasanaethu gartref a thramor mewn cyfnodau o ryfel. Yn ôl ystadegau'r Groes Goch, erbyn diwedd y Rhyfel Byd Cyntaf roedd 90,000 o bobl wedi cymryd rhan yn y cynllun - yn eu plith Elizabeth Radcliffe o bentref Sain Ffagan.

Yn ferch i ofalwr capel y pentref, roedd Elizabeth a’i theulu yn denantiaid i’r Arglwydd Plymouth o Gastell Sain Ffagan. Ganwyd chwech o blant i William a Catherine Radcliffe – pedwar mab (William, Thomas, Robert a Taliesin) a dwy ferch (Elizabeth a Mary). Cyn y Rhyfel, bu Elizabeth yn gofalu am blant James Howell – un o berchnogion y siop enwog yng Nghaerdydd. Ond erbyn 1916, roedd hi nôl yn Sain Ffagan ac yn gwirfoddoli fel nyrs VAD yn yr ysbyty ategol a agorwyd ar dir y Castell ym Mawrth y flwyddyn honno. Ar y pryd, roedd hi’n ddi-briod ac yn 28 mlwydd oed.

Roedd y rhan fwyaf o nyrsys Ysbyty Sain Ffagan yn wirfoddolwyr lleol – menywod o’r pentref, yn anad dim, a oedd wedi derbyn hyfforddiant sylfaenol gan y Groes Goch. Dim ond 70 o wlâu a dwy ward oedd yn yr ysbyty, felly milwyr ag anafiadau ysgafn oedd yn cael eu trin yno. Roedd gofyn i’r gwirfoddolwyr wisgo iwnifform swyddogol y mudiad, sef ffrog las a ffedog wen gyda chroes goch wedi ei phwytho ar y frest. Mae llyfrau cyfrifon Ystâd Plymouth yn cynnwys sawl cyfaniad ariannol at gostau prynu gwisgoedd i staff yr ysbyty. Mae’n debyg fod siop J. Howell & Co. ymhlith y cyflenwyr.

Yn ffodus iawn, mae gwisg Elizabeth Radcliffe o’r cyfnod hwn wedi goroesi, ynghyd â llun ohoni yn ei lifrai. Rhoddwyd ei ffedog a'i llewys i gasgliad yr Amgueddfa yn 1978, ac yn ddiweddar cawsom ragor o wybodaeth amdani a’i brodyr gan aelodau’r teulu. O’r pedwar brawd aeth i’r ffrynt, dim ond un ohonynt – Taliesin – ddaeth adref i Sain Ffagan yn fyw. Mae enwau William, Thomas a Robert Radcliffe i’w canfod ar gofeb rhyfel y pentref, ynghyd ag Archer Windsor-Clive - mab ieuengaf yr Arglwydd Plymouth - a laddwyd ym Mrwydr Mons. Mae’n amhosibl i ni amgyffred â mawredd y golled i Elizabeth a’i rhieni – un teulu ymysg y miliynau a rwygwyd gan erchyllterau’r Rhyfel Mawr.

Os hoffech ddarganfod mwy am waith y Groes Goch yn ystod y Rhyfel Byd Cyntaf, mae adnoddau gwych ar wefan y mudiad, gan gynnwys rhestr o'r holl ysbytai ymadfer a agorwyd ym Mhrydain. Mae llu o wrthrychau a delweddau perthnasol yn y casgliad yma yn Sain Ffagan hefyd. Ewch draw i'r catalog digidol i ddarganfod mwy.

 

I actually visited the Mametz Wood exhibition twice. The first time was the official opening, but as I didn’t see anyone that I knew, I spent most of the time hovering at the back during the speeches and the opera recital (which sounded beautiful, but as I know nothing about opera it went over my head a bit), while feeling spectacularly under-dressed next to all the soldiers in their shiny, smart uniforms.

I enjoyed the exhibition itself very much. The work we had done in youth forum had provided helpful context which meant I could appreciate what I was seeing a whole lot more; the Christopher Williams painting was of course a highlight, as was the World War One stretcher and a pistol owned by Siegfried Sassoon, who had fought at the battle.

It was also great to see the work of the very talented Margaret Williams, who I hadn’t heard of before I joined the youth forum, showcased alongside her male counterparts. However, due to the fact that it was an opening, it was very crowded, and being too British to ask people to move slightly aside I missed some of the exhibits. 

I decided to go back a few days later, and this turned out to be a very good idea. This time, there were old music hall and war songs playing quietly in the background. Combined with the ghostly sketches of soldiers, surrounded by their old possessions, it really made you feel as though you had stepped back in time, which surely is a sign a museum has done its job.

It also seems to enhance the sense of the futility of it all. I was surrounded by images and descriptions communicating the brutality, violence and bloodshed, the enormous sacrifice, and in the end, this was all that was left. A pipe, some faded documents, the stretcher rather than the people it had carried, a few old songs, and a collective national sense of loss. It was hard not to feel emotional. All this suffering may have created beautiful art, but the suffering itself hadn’t been worth it at all. 

There was also a video screen showing an actor reading a section of In Parenthesis, originally by David Jones, now adapted for a new opera. Whether it was because of the skill of the actor (whose name escapes me) or all the things I’d just seen and felt, I found I didn’t need to put the headphones on to understand what he was trying to say. 

So, to conclude. War’s Hell: The Battle of Mametz Wood in Art is well worth a visit. And next time I get invited to an exhibition opening, go with a friend and make more of an effort than just jeans and a jumper.  

The National Waterfront Museum’s current exhibition Forget me not: Postcards from the First World War features a fantastic selection of all types of postcards from the industry & transport, and social & cultural history collections. One case tells the amazing, but tragic, story of Captain Anthony Starkey of the S.S. Torrington.  

Captain Anthony Starkey was master of the S.S. Torrington. The ship was built in 1905 by William Doxford & Sons of Sunderland and was owned by the Tatem Steam Navigation Company of Cardiff.

Ship model of the S.S. Torrington.

On 8 April 1917 the ship was sailing from Italy to Cardiff to load coal for the Italian railways. Shortly after 11.30am she was torpedoed by a German submarine, 150 miles off the Isles of Scilly. The torpedo hit forward of the bridge. A submarine then surfaced and opened fire on the ship. Capt. Starkey ordered his men into the lifeboats, but the submarine came alongside. Capt. Starkey was ordered below deck of the U-boat, which he did thinking he could save his men. Some of the crew went on the deck of the U-boat, whilst others remained in a lifeboat. The captain of the U-boat then ordered the vessel to dive remarking that “the others could swim”. Through the submerging of the U-boat about 20 member of the Torrington’s crew were washed off and killed. The remaining crew in the lifeboat were never heard of again. In total thirty four members of the crew were killed and Capt. Starkey was the only survivor.

S.S. Torrington with inset portrait of Capt. Starkey.

Capt. Starkey was held prisoner aboard the submarine for fifteen days. He was then held in four different prisoner of war camps in Germany, including Brandenburg, Holminden, and Strohenmoor. Prisoners were poorly treated in these camps, and Capt. Starkey commented that “We would have starved if it had not been for the food we received from home. We were there for two months and a half on German rations and looked like shadows when the time was up. Then food began to arrive from home and we certainly enjoyed that. The food in the camps was always potato soup, not always good potatoes, cabbage soup and some bread.”

Photograph from the scrap album showing meal time at one of the POW camps. Probably serving the potato or cabbage soup Capt. Starkey mentions.

During his time in the various prisoner of war camps Capt. Starkey put together a ‘scrap album’. This album contains over 55 postcards and photographs, along with German bank notes, and documents such as ration cards, camp theatre tickets, letters and telegrammes. Some of these photographs show everyday life in the camps, such as meal times and entertainment. This album in on display in the current exhibition, along with other photographs, and two newspaper cuttings pasted onto the back board of another scrap book. These describe the whole story in detail.

Photograph sent home to Mrs Starkey of Cardiff. Capt. Starkey is standing at left, and is at the POW camp of Brandenburg, near Berlin.

Page from scrap album showing German bank notes, and a photograph of some of the entertainment.

Page from the scrap album showing stamps and some theatre tickets for entertainment in the POW camps.

Newspaper cuttings describing the events of 8th April 1917.

Forget me not: Postcards from the First World War runs until 19 June 2016 at the National Waterfront Museum.

To discover more about the First World War collections at Amgueddfa Cymru view this online catalogue.

 

Mark Etheridge
Curator (Industry & Transport)
Follow us on Twitter - @IndustryACNMW

 

Amgueddfa Cymru holds a large collection of material relating to the First World War. Many of these objects from the industry & transport, and social & cultural history collections can be viewed on this online catalogue. This catalogue was created to provide access to this collection of material, especially important during this period of commemorating 100 years since the First World War.

Some of the more poignant objects relate to those who lost their lives in the War, and among these are a number of Rolls of Honour. These either commemorate those who lost their lives, or commemorate both those who served, and those who lost their lives.

In the industry & transport collection is this very large (it measures 190cm x 130cm) framed and glazed illuminated Roll of Honour. It lists all those staff working for the Taff Vale Railway Company, who served and lost their lives in the First World War. The sheer numbers of staff mentioned shows how the war affected companies such as the T.V.R. and shows the tragic loss of life.

The Roll of Honour was drawn in the engineer’s office of the Taff Vale Railway at Cardiff by Ivor P. Davies. The alphabetical list details all men who served and also includes their regiment. Names are also marked to indicate those who died in action and those who died of other causes.

The Roll of Honour originally hung in the T.V.R. offices, in a building located next to Queen Street Station. Presumably it hung there until the offices were demolished in the 1970s during the rebuilding of Queen Street Station. In 1989 the Roll of Honour was acquired by Amgueddfa Cymru, and it displayed in the Railway Gallery, in a building next to Bute Road Station (now Cardiff Bay). This was an appropriate home as it was displayed in a very historic building originally built as the head office for the Taff Vale Railway Company in the 1840s. This building is still standing, though in a poor state of repair.

It is important that this Roll of Honour be displayed during the commemorations. We were therefore pleased to work with staff at Arriva Trains Wales in fulfilling this. We were able to provide a high resolution digital copy, which allowed them to replicate it. The replica has now been placed on display in the newly revamped Queen Street Station, where it can be viewed by thousands of travellers passing through.

Replica Roll of Honour on display at Queen Street Station, Cardiff.

Mark Etheridge
Curator (Industry & Transport)
Follow us on Twitter - @IndustryACNMW

Exhibition review by Museum's Youth Forum.

As youth forum members we were able to help input our opinions into the design of the temporary exhibition and have been able to see it develop from a drawing on paper to a physical form. Today we have examined the exhibition and have evaluated the information and items displayed.

Amgueddfa Cymru has been tasked with commemorating the WW1 centenary. Personally, we believe that the exhibition is very interesting as it gives an insight into the medicinal history starting from Ancient Greece right up to the 21st century. We enjoyed the exhibition overall. The video grabbed our attention the most and we were able to see a visual aspect of medicinal practice with a humorous touch.

The exhibition has a number of different displays which hold valuable information about medicine and the different tools used to carry out medical procedures such as amputations. It contains a silent video in both Welsh and English that shows a few medical procedures from the Roman times. There are some replicas of medical items in the display case that have been used such as a Face Mask used in World War One to disguise facial wounds. 

There is also a small game on an iPad that tests your knowledge of the information in the exhibition. This together with the video has proved to be a success with the general public. Some reviews say that they liked “the doctor video” and a young person enjoyed it when the doctor was “cutting the leg off”.

 

By Joel Powell, Emma Jones and Hannah Sweetapple.