Military Memory, And The Sacred Space

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20171110

Giles Fraser explores the role of sacred spaces in remembering those lost at Passchendaele

The battle of Passchendaele has come to represent the total horror of the First World War. Horses dragged into the mud, the rising casualties, the utter despair - all of this lives on in our memory of World War One today. These images play into how we think about the merits and consequences of war.

Giles Fraser looks at how the dawning realisation that husbands, brothers and sons weren't coming back from Passchendaele - and that their bodies would remain on the battlefield in row upon row of simple, white graves - created a desire to memorialise the war dead in many personal ways.

The church played an important role in creating centres for remembering, but often these came from the personal grief of mothers and wives who created temporary shrines which later became more permanent memorials in churches and town centres. Sometimes, families had crosses brought back from the battlefield and placed in churches - and sacred spaces were either re-purposed or specially established to absorb our immense sense of loss.

Giles Fraser visits families who today still mourn the loss of their brave family members.

With contributions from Lady Marianna Monckton at Ightham Mote in Kent, who remembers her relative Captain Thomas Riversdale Colyer-Fergusson; Anglican Priest and poet Rachel Mann; Professor Mark Connelly, University of Kent; Paul Flynn, MP for Newport West; Professor William Whyte, University of Oxford; volunteers from the Barnsley War Memorial project and relatives of those in the local area who lost family at the Battle of Passchendaele.

Presenter: Giles Fraser
Producers: Ellie Clifford and Aidan Judd
Executive Producer: Katherine Godfrey
A Whistledown production for BBC Radio 4.