“AND THEY MARCHED INTO GALLIPOLI”
Acrylics, metallics and fine glitters on canvas 60 x 45cm
The Gallipoli Campaign was one of the Allies greatest disasters in World War I. The land invasion started at dawn on 25th April 1915 and ended on the 9th January 1916.
The campaign was one of the greatest Turkish victories of the war and it is regarded as a defining moment in Turkey’s history: a final surge in defence as the Ottoman Empire declined. The struggle formed the basis for the Turkish War of Independence and the founding of the Republic of Turkey eight years later under Mustafa Kemal Ataturk who rose to prominence as a commander at Gallipoli.
The campaign was the first major military action for Australia and New Zealand as independent nations, and the birth of national consciousness in those nations. The date of the landing, 25 April, is known as “Anzac Day” and it remains the most significant commemoration date of military casualties for those countries.
The ultimate aim was to open the Dardenelles Straights to the Allied navies, threaten Constantinople (now Istanbul) and hopefully put Turkey out of the war. The land action started when the attempt to enter the Straights by naval action alone failed. Success for the land campaign depended on speed. It was a risky strategy and one that failed because the Turks fought hard.
Gallipoli soon became similar to the Western Front with Trench warfare being the norm and fighting severe. The proportion of casualties was high and the summer heat led to huge amounts of illness, inedible food and huge swarms of black flies. Conditions became horrific and many died due to illness.
The evacuation and acceptance of failure by the allies began in December and continued into January 1916.
I first visited Gallipoli in 1997 with my then boyfriend (now husband) an expert in WWI and some of his friends. I wasn’t interested in finding all the beaches and trenches as at that time I was pretty disinterested in the details of WWI but thoroughly loved the birds and tortoises that we saw as we wandered about. It was hot even in April and we were there for the ANZAC day commemorations. Never for one moment did I think standing in that ceremony that I would now be interested in WWI history and especially that I would be creating art that tells the stories of these events. What an amazing world we live in full of opportunities and promise for the future.
IN FLANDERS FIELDS
Acrylics metallics and fine glitters 100 x 100cm
The following original painting was created on the site at Essex Farm near Ypres where John McCrae wrote the poem ‘In Flanders Fields’ which ultimately led to the adoption of the poppy as the iconic symbol of remembrance that so many countries use to this day. John had become disillusioned following the death of a close friend who he personally had to bury. He wrote the poem and discarded it-it was picked up by someone else sent to the press in Canada where it was ultimately published and the rest is history.
I have also surprisingly for me written some poetry on the same place which is included in my blog-unchanged from the words that flowed from me to pen and then to paper in that calm serene place. An incredible, emotional and amazing experience to paint this piece in the same place that this iconic poem was written in May 1915.
THE BLANKET OF POPPIES – An artwork commemorating the life work and execution of Edith Cavell on 12th October 1915.
The biggest work in 2015 was commemorating the life work and execution of Edith Cavell. Edith was a British nurse who helped hundreds of allied soldiers escape from German occupied Brussels and was executed on the 12th October 1915 for her resistance work. Edith Cavell was born near Norwich, and spent time in Peterborough at a school in the Cathedral Precincts where she learnt fluent French. This meant she was able to work in Brussels (following her nurse training and work in London and other places in England) improving the quality of nursing there before WWI began. Knowing the likely consequence of war she chose to remain in Brussels as she thought she would more than ever be needed. This proved to be true!This colourful blanket includes as its centre piece, Britain and Belgium with quotes and symbolic depictions of her life before and at her execution created by myself in collaboration with Artisan Felter Eve Marshall.The centre piece is surrounded by stunning beaded and embellished hand made poppies, leaves and stems. The poppies were made by 49 women in workshops reminiscent of WWI knitting circles, each poppy representing a year of Edith Cavell’s life. These strong safe places have led to much sharing of stories and healing and care amongst the women taking part with some incredible stories being shared between strangers. A blanket is often used to care and wrap a person in comfort in times of distress. It is a sign of compassion from one person to another. There would have been little comfort for Edith during her confinement and subsequent execution.To me it seemed very appropriate to comfort and wrap the memory of Edith Cavell and her bravery in a blanket 100 years on.The workshops were inspirational and the strength of women working together with a common purpose was truly fabulous. Following national,regional and local publicity on the BBC,ITV, on radio and in newspapers I was humbled by all those who got in touch hoping to take part and the stories they have all told. I hope that those unable to take part will be able to connect and be involved in a work that I am creating to commemorate The Somme- See 1916 page. and my blogs. Other elements of the project included the creation of: words and poetry in collaboration with Keely Mills poet that were read at the events associated with the blanket: and a film detailing the work of the project. “I have been humbled and honoured by these women, many of whom were drawn to take part through emotional connections known and unknown to the inspirational story of Edith Cavell. I have also been astonished by how many people know nothing about this amazing woman and her bravery from such an iconic period of history. Her story needed to be told ”. The blanket was laid at events to commemorate the life, work and execution of this inspirational woman in WWI around the centenary of her execution on 12th October 1915. “It was a very intense, special and emotional experience creating art about a woman you feel connected with, having researched her life and travelled to the very places that she walked and worked in England and Brussels before her execution in 1915. Her story is one that every woman should know!”
EDITH CAVELL-HER STORY
Edith Cavell was born near Norwich into a strong Anglican family- she was brought up with strong anglican and victorian ethics. She was educated at one point in a private school in Peterborough Cathedral Precincts before becoming a governess. Around the age of 30 she trained to be a nurse and ultimately was “head hunted’ to take charge of improving nursing in Brussels and Belgium. When the Germans occupied Brussels in WWI she stayed as she felt she could be of greater use there. She became a prominent member of a group that possibly helped up to 1500 allied soldiers and French and Belgium men escape the germans. The group were betrayed and after 10 weeks in solitary captivity were put on trial. Following a guilty verdict for treason her execution was rapidly carried out on 12th October 1915 at 7am. After her death enormous amounts of successful anti-german propaganda were produced resulting in a doubling of enlistment in next 8 weeks. After the war her body was brought back to England and following a state funeral at Westminster Abbey she was buried outside Norwich Cathedral in her home county. Peterborough was where Edith learnt fluent french and hence why she was asked to work in Brussels to take charge of a number of nursing clinics . In recent years commemorative links have been lost with the re-naming of the hospital and Queensgate carpark and most people do not know who she is, let alone what she did. The centenary of her execution is an opportunity to revive her inspirational story and links to the city and internationally whilst involving people in a major artwork in her memory!