National Memory - Local Stories
National Portrait Gallery
The Rifles Berkshire
and Wiltshire Museum
Explore the Participants' Work: Firrhill High School
These works were created by young people in the workshops at the National Museums Scotland
My piece includes a photograph of my Great-Great Uncle with his best friend; they were in World War One together. Their photograph is mixed with an archival image of the trenches together with an image of a Death Penny. The whole composition is placed within a contemporary billboard. I’m looking at the billboard whilst holding the photograph of my Great-Great Uncle and his friend. They were only 14 at the time.
My Great-Great Uncle survived the war only because his friend stopped the bullet that was heading for him, but his friend died.
I’ve placed my image within the billboard to show how World War One still relates to all of us today. In this case it’s me, remembering the person in the poster image through the photograph of the person who is related to me. The whole piece is to show that we all have someone in our family who was involved in World War One.
In my piece I’ve used a recruitment poster for the Scottish Regiments with the words ‘This is the life for a Scotsman.’ I’ve blended into the poster a photograph from the trenches to show the reality of war in contrast to the recruitment poster. I’ve also used part of a poster encouraging women to support the troops during World War One. It shows a mother and her children waving good-bye to troops going off to war with the words: ‘Women say Go!’
I want my piece to question the war and to raise awareness of how the young men thought it would be ‘fun’, but it wasn’t. They were encouraged to join up to go abroad, have an adventure, excitement and make friends, but for many, the reality was different. My words are:
“Come on, it’ll be fun”
they said. I think it’s good to ask questions; we should always question.
I’ve based my piece on how war has shaped our world and all of us along with it. From a religious point of view, many people think World War One was so terrible because God was teaching us that war is not always what we think it might be and that nothing is gained except the loss of a loved one or ones.
After World War One it became known to many as ‘the war to end all wars’ because it was so bloody. But, alas, we have not learned to sit down at a Peace Table and sort out problems. Instead, we send brave men and women onto the battlefield to face the bullets and bombs.
I like clothes. What you wear is who you are. In the future, I want to be a fashion designer. At the time of World War One, as more women had to do men’s work in factories, on the land, on the airfields, as postmen and as carpenters, their clothing had to fit their job, rather than their gender. So in my picture I’ve placed myself within different images of women from World War One to represent new roles for women. I’ve set these alongside a portrait of myself now, in my school uniform. I want my piece to show that World War One helped to change women’s role in society and to make it possible for me to be who I am now and what I want to be in the future.
The background of my picture shows the cavalry on the Western Front going to war. The flowers in the horse hair belong to my horse, Holly, who died on 23 May 2013. I took this photograph on her last day. I ‘ve also used two photographs of myself riding Holly, which go well with the horses in the cavalry going to war.
Holly was a real friend and such a big part of my life. In World War One, the horses must have been a big part of the soldiers’ lives too. When we had to put Holly to sleep, it was almost like killing her, so this makes me understand how it must have felt when soldiers had to shoot their horses because they were injured or they couldn’t bring them home. Losing a big part of your life takes a long time to get used to. It must have been the same for the soldiers in World War One as it is for me now.
The inspiration for the stained glass window came from the large one in the War Memorial we visited in Edinburgh Castle. Around it were pictures of war heroes, from as far back as the ancient Greeks, with images of soldiers from World War One in the centre. What struck me was the use of violence to solve conflict, for as long as we can remember. The only thing that has changed is that we have more advanced ways of killing. When will this change? Probably never, but hopefully, in time, we can evolve so that our reflex action is to communicate in times of disagreement, rather than to grab a gun.
So in my piece, I’ve used an image of a stained glass window set against an image of the trenches during World War One with my words:
'Looking through a stained glass window to the past, is it really so different to today? 100 years has passed and still we fight.'
I want to be a pilot. I think the design of planes is amazing. In World War One, planes were used for the first time at war and women, for the first time, worked on the ground at East Fortune Airfield. The planes could be targeted quite easily, because they were only basic. It was dangerous work.
In the future I want to learn to fly, so in my picture, I’ve put myself as a World War One pilot. World War One gave women the opportunity to work in jobs that were usually done by men. And now, women fly with the Royal Air Force. This is where I want to be. So in my picture, I’m trying to say that out of all the loss, there have been gains.
In my picture, I’m trying to show how I feel about World War One. I’m trying to show the connection between the past and the present by including an image of myself blowing bubbles and in each bubble is an image of the trenches as they are today. In the centre of my image I’ve used an archival photograph of soldiers emptying out of a trench on the Western Front during World War One. The final bubble is placed within a World War One Scottish Women's Hospital medal with the words: 'War always affects someone' and I believe this is true even if it's just as history.
My picture shows two photographs of my Great Grandfather. One is a photograph of him as he went to World War One and one is a photograph of Him as an older man. I've included his field postcard and a box that he kept His medals in. I've placed myself in the background, together with a letter written by General Haig to schoolchildren after World War One, which has been kept by my Great Aunty for me to see. I've also included a Photograph of myself with my two sisters.
My piece shows generation upon generation of my family. I'm trying to portray that my Great Grandfather fought for peace so that his son, my grandfather, and all my family would have a happy life. My Great Grandfather makes me feel proud. He was also a lucky man; many didn't survive the war, but if it wasn't for him, I wouldn't be here.
I really liked looking at the World War One propaganda posters to see how misleading they were, and how happy the people look in them. But the reality was that it was never what it was made out to be.
So in my picture, I’ve used an image of a painting by William Barnes Wollen of the Recapture of Sanctuary Wood by the Black Watch in June 1916. This is set against a propaganda recruitment poster for the Royal Air Force, which is beautifully bright, making going to war look like going on holiday. Over the image I am placing the words ‘It was never what it was made out to be.’
In my picture, I’ve used an image of no-man’s land and I’ve superimposed over this flags from many of the countries involved in World War One, to show how many countries were involved. I’m trying to say that it wasn’t only us that lost people; it was the whole world and we are all as important as each other.
View the collection objects that inspired these works