The University and World War I: a centenary commemoration
25 Nov 2014
The University will mark the contribution made by staff and students during the First World War at an event in Whitworth Hall today
The conflict had a significant impact on the University and its community. As a centre of knowledge, expertise and personnel, the War saw our predecessors play a diversity of roles in military, medical, relief and agricultural service, through research and in efforts for peace.
The centenary commemoration event will mark the impact of the War, the University’s contributions and all those whose lives were affected and lost. It will feature readings from academic staff, senior officers and students of the University, original music composed and performed by current students and opportunities for reflection.
President and Vice-Chancellor Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell said: “The First World War had a significant impact on the University and its community and one hundred years on it is fitting that we commemorate, with a great sense of pride, the contributions of our students and staff, including, of course, those who lost their lives.”
Dr James Hopkins, University Historian and Heritage Manager and Honorary Research Fellow in the School of Arts, Languages and Cultures, said: “The University made diverse contributions to the war. Over 600 staff and students from the University lost their lives in military action. Many members of the University community volunteered for roles that provided relief and care for the injured, took up essential work in fields and factories and assisted those displaced by conflict. The University also made significant research contributions including treatments for gunshot wounds and the effects of shell shock, measures to counter the submarine threat to shipping and work to increase bread production. The University has a strong community of students, staff and alumni that existed both then and now, so it’s important that we mark the contribution of our community and those whose lives were lost or changed forever."
The service will feature:
- Welcome by the Chancellor, Mr Tom Bloxham.
- An article on the impact of the War by Professor FE Weiss, who was the University’s Vice-Chancellor from 1913–1915, Anglo-German and educated across Europe, to be read at the event by Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell.
- Letters from the front, written by students serving in the War and to be read by our current students. They include a note on how difficult life was in the trenches, especially having to write to the parents of his friends who had been killed. The author himself was later killed. Other letters are from a medic and a female student who worked with refugees but later died. The final letter is from a student who survived and returned the University, finally graduating in 1920. There will also be a poem by Florence M Grier Evans, a student during World War I who went on to become the first History PhD graduate from Manchester. Her poem was published in the Manchester University Magazine on 13 May 1915.
- An explanation of the social and cultural impact of WW1 by Dr Ana Carden-Coyne who is a Senior Lecturer in War and Conflict and Co-Director of the Centre for the Cultural History of War.
- An original composition for the event by Rory Wainwright Johnston, an undergraduate music student in the School of Arts, Languages and Cultures. It gives a returning soldier’s view of the traumatic experience of war. It will be performed by The Cosmo Singers of The University of Manchester Chorus, conducted by Rory Wainwright Johnston and set to the poem ‘Back’ by Wilfred Gibson.
- An original composition called Memoriam Retinebimus, composed for the event by Yvonne Eccles, a PhD music student in the School of Arts, Languages and Cultures. It uses the motto of the University to symbolise the University community during the First World War and now, with writings from staff and students during the war. It will be performed by The Cosmo Singers of The University of Manchester Chorus, conducted by Luke Mather, an undergraduate music student.
- An original composition performed by The Cosmo Singers of The University of Manchester Chorus, conducted by Ellie Slorach, an undergraduate music student. It will explore the contrasts between the reality of war on the front line and the view of war back home. Boreas is an original composition for the event by Emma Wilde, a PhD music student in the School of Arts, Languages and Cultures.