Hello! We are Amanda, Emily and Miranda of the 20th Century and World Wars team. We were given the task of looking at the last sub-topic of the exhibition. Similarly to other groups, we had to prioritise which portions of the time period we would look at. We decided to focus our attention on the First and Second World Wars because these conflicts show a clear picture of what it meant to be Scottish in the British Army. Within this time period, we have looked at three subthemes: the soldier, women & civilians.
From both the University’s collection and the objects we have been loaned from the Gordon Highlanders, we have discovered a number of interesting objects.
Amanda’s favourite is the piece of barbed wire from a trench during the First World War. Emily found the civil defence booklet and ARP wardens badge with certificate donated by J. Barclay to be very important in demonstrating the civilian contributions on the home front during the Second World War. Finally, Miranda’s favourite object is the kilt, which was worn during the Battle of the Somme by an Aberdeen alumnus.
One object we felt deserved a special mention, which is not in our case but is still from the First World War, is the jacket, which forms part of the uniform that can be seen in the ‘Overseas Soldier’ case. This jacket belonged to ‘The Blind VC’, or Captain Sir Ernest Beachcroft Beckwith Towse. Blinded in South Africa during the Boer War, Towse was awarded the Victoria Cross by Queen Victoria herself. Even though he was blinded, he insisted on serving during the First World War. This is the jacket Towse wore to reenlist for duty, despite his blindness, at the onset of the First World War. It shows the various medals he received from fighting in battles overseas. His set of the three ‘Pip, Squeak, and Wilfred’ medals (1914-15 Star, War Medal, and Victory Medal) are visible by his Victoria Cross. Towse set up field hospitals for the duration of the First World War, having a special interest in treating and working with soldiers who had been blinded in battle, a very common injury due to the gas used in WWI. He was known to personally assist those recovering soldiers with writing letters home to their families.
As well as learning about the objects, this experience taught us the importance of being flexible and able to come up with new solutions as problems arose during the exhibition process. Only a few weeks before installation was due to start, we discovered that our kilt could not be displayed in the way we had originally planned. This meant that a last-minute reshuffle of our layout had to happen. Luckily, we managed to come up with a new layout that everyone was happy with and that showed off the kilt well on its new mount.
This concludes our behind the scenes look at each of the five subtopics. Make sure to check them all out at the now open Scottish Warrior exhibition!