Created by photographer and battlefield guide Michael St. Maur Sheil, who has spent the past seven years exploring the fields of battle seeking to capture the history and emotions of this dramatic period, the project embodies the spirit of the centenary in honouring those who fought, acknowledging in the spirit of unity, a history now shared by a modern generation of Europeans.
Above: The offcial launch at the Jardin du Luxembourg Paris, April 2014
Above: A simulation of the Fields of Battle exhibition as it will appear in St James's Park from August 4th 2014.
The exhibition has been made possible with sponsorship from the Legion, together with the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund, Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Imperial War Museums, Wecommunic8, The Press Association and Mary Evans Picture Library.
Head of Remembrance at The Royal British Legion, Dr Stephen Clarke, said:
"As the National Custodian of Remembrance, it is only fitting that we help people honour and understand the sacrifices our Armed Forces have made, and continue to make. The tranquil scenes depicted in these images were once raging battle fields where so many gave so much for their country. This remarkable exhibition will offer insight into a conflict that scarred not only lives but also the landscape forever, and the legacy that is left behind a century on."
Photographer and battlefield guide, Michael St. Maur Sheil said:
"The support of The Royal British Legion provides a huge boost for our London street gallery project, helping us introduce the subject of the First World War to audiences who might never normally visit a museum or art gallery, and inviting them to see its battlefields as they are today. To achieve this as a free exhibition, we are reliant on the generous support of the Legion and our other partners.”
Above: Situated directly opposite Horse Guards, immediately adjacent to the Guards Memorial and close to Buckingham Palace and the Cenotaph, the official launch of the Fields of Battle - Lands of Peace 14-18 street gallery could not take place in a more fitting location to commemorate the Centenary.
View a short video on the inspiration and passion behind Michael St Maur Sheil's remarkable seven-year journey capturing the emotional and historical heritage of landscapes which witnessed the monumental events of the First World War.
Registered charity Fields of Battle 14-18 has developed a unique and engaging touring street gallery exhibition, based not on the horrors of war, but on how over time, nature has healed the battlefields, creating a link between the modern day and the personal dramas and stories these peaceful landscapes now hide.
Fields of Battle - Lands of Peace 14-18 does not seek to explain the history of the First World War, but rather seeks to introduce people to the subject by revealing some of the landscapes of battle and illustrating the stories of the people who experienced those battles.
It does so in a uniquely powerful manner, by bringing these events to people in their own communities via the medium of a touring photographic street gallery featuring the work of Michael St Maur Sheil, between August 2014 and Armistice Day in November 2018.
Above: The Messines ridge, south of Ypres, had been held by the Germans since 1914 but on the morning of June 7th 1917 the British exploded 19 mines packed with a total of 450 tons of High Explosive under the German lines. More information here
Above: Chemin des Dame, Aisne, The Somme. View from La Caverne du Dragon, southwards over French positions.
Above: Beaumont Hamel, The Somme.
100 years later, every detail of the battlefield of Beaumont Hamel, including trenches and
shell-holes is still visible, showing how naked and exposed the infantry would have felt.
Above: London Irish Rifles - The Loos Football, at Loos en Gohelle, France
Accompanying caption panels detail the historic significance of the main image together with thought-provoking learning points. Using archive photos, maps, poems and infographics, together with moving personal accounts of the Great War, each panel will provide a direct conduit between the contemporary image and the events that took place there 100 years ago.
Click the image above to download a PDF of a typical caption panel corresponding to the exhibition stand image displayed to the right.
Sited in open spaces such as landmark locations, civic squares, memorial sites and busy pedestrianised city centre areas, on a tour of the UK from August 2014, this free-to-the-public street gallery will stand alone in its ability to allow people of all ages, backgrounds and cultures across the UK and Eire to share in the remembrance of The First World War.
Above: One of Michael St Maur Sheil's most iconic images:
Beaumont Hamel - The Somme, where trenches and shell holes are still clearly visible after nearly a century. Click the image above for more information.
Education is a fundamental aim of this project and we are seeking additional funding to create an exhibition developed specifically for schools. This will be accompanied by a range of supporting materials and worksheets for teachers to enable each city to have an educational out-reach programme to better involve students. When visiting the exhibition, children will be encouraged to interact via a fun ‘passport style’ game.
In addition, the exhibition will act as a catalyst for local communities to commemorate the First World War and for local collaborations to take place, whilst actively promoting interactive learning partnerships with, for example: cultural organisations, regiments, businesses and community groups, schools, scouts and guides.
The street gallery will feature a mobile education unit, fully equipped with internet enabled computers. This facility will provide audiences with the opportunity, under helpful guidance, to search archives and discover the history of their own community and family involvement in the War and its aftermath.
Visitors will be encouraged to interact with online content from the Imperial War Museum, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and The Royal British Legion.
Right: The education station will enable one to one interaction with visitors.
A giant walk on map will feature an expanded European section, offering visitors the unique opportunity to walk from country to country to appreciate the scale and complexities of the conflict. The map puts Europe in context on a global scale, in terms of personnel and resources, together with providing engaging details on key battlefield locations. Consistently drawing large crowds and appealing in particular to children, the walk on map will make a massive impact in city centres and provides a focal point for the exhibition with the benefit of additional content featured on surrounding panels.
Extending to 16 by 8 metres, the walk on map will make a massive impact in city centres around the United Kingdom and Eire.
The street gallery and the walk on map in combination, will stimulate the imagination of the visitor, encouraging further exploration of the First World War and an appreciation of how the passing of time has led us towards a modern Europe.
Learn more about the objectives of the project here. More