First World War Commemorations

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the First World War. Here in Birmingham there are many events taking place to ensure that Birmingham honours and remembers those that fought and died in the Great War. 

Blakesley Hall and the First World War – A Family’s Tale (exhibition), 12 April until 2 November, Blakesley Hall

At Blakesley Hall, a new exhibition ‘Tom, Frank and May’ opens 12 April 2014. This exhibition introduces visitors to Thomas Merry and his wife Elizabeth who lived in Blakesley Hall from 1901 - 1932. Like many families at the time, the couple’s children (Tom, Frank and May) all played a part in the struggle of the First World War, but in very different ways. Tom joined up with the Army Service Corps (responsible for many of the logistics of the army), Frank was part of the Artists Rifles, and May worked in a military hospital in France. Through video, photographs, medals and letters from the family’s archive, visitors to Blakesley Hall can discover the true effect of the war on one family. 

Workshop for schools are available.

Photo credits: Frank, Tom and Elizabeth Merry, Front Porch, Blakesley Hall © The Merry Family


War Correspondents  Birmingham Rep, 26-27 April

The much-anticipated world premiere of the second song theatre performance from composer Helen Chadwick and choreographer Steven Hoggett (Frantic Assembly, Black Watch) marks the centenary of the First World War. Whilst reporting the outbreak of war, a journalist is held at gunpoint, caught in the no-man’s land between two nations. Testimonies, music and physicality fuse into a powerful, multi-disciplined song cycle performance which depicts the extraordinary stories and life changing experiences of war journalists – men and women who risk their lives in extreme circumstances.


Private Peaceful by Michael Morpurgo, Birmingham Rep, 19-24 May

Private Peaceful relives the life of Private Tommo Peaceful, a young First World War soldier awaiting the firing squad at dawn. During the night he looks back at his short but joyful past growing up in rural Devon: his exciting first days at school; the accident in the forest that killed his father; his adventures with Molly, the love of his life; and the battles and injustices of war that brought him to the front line.


'An Adaptable Trade’: The Jewellery Quarter and the First World War (exhibition) Museum of the Jewellery Quarter, 14 June 2014 until June 2015

From 14 June 2014, the Museum of the Jewellery Quarter will be displaying ‘An Adaptable Trade: The Jewellery Quarter at War’. In 1914, the Jewellery Quarter was at its peak and this exhibition will explore the effects of the First World War on the trade and the different ways in which it adapted. Focusing on the stories of local jewellery firms and through the display of artefacts, posters, photographs and personal items, ‘An Adaptable Trade’ tells the history of recruitment of soldiers from the Jewellery Quarter, the changing role of women in the industry and the challenges and opportunities the war brought to the trade. In addition, in September 2014, there will be a series of special promenade drama performances in the historic setting of the Smith & Pepper factory, giving visitors a chance to meet war heroes and gain a unique insight into the changing trade of the Jewellery Quarter during the war.


Stoneleigh Abbey First World War Exhibition, launch 27 July

Discover the part that Stoneleigh Abbey played in the First World War and the family living there at the time. The exhibition that spans the length of the war (4 year) show you how the house and its family’s lives unfolded in this turbulent time. Enjoy specialist talks by authors on the war and see art and poetry from local schools who have been stirred by the war and it effect. You can also transform yourself back in time by exploring a small authentic tent encampment.


Preparing for War, Black Country Living MuseumTue 22 Jul – Sun 31 Aug

Throughout the school summer holidays Black Country Living Museum will be inviting kids to get involved in drills, giving demonstrations of 1914 cookery and offering other crafty events that will allow young and old alike to join in the commemorations of WWI.


Civic Events

City Centre Parade, 3 August

A parade through city centre squares to commemorate the outbreak involving military groups and local businesses. 

Two Minutes Silence, 4 August 2014, City Centre

Two minutes of silence will be happening to commemorate all those that died in the Great War.

 Minimum Monument, Chamberlain Square, 2 August 2014

Brazilian artist Nele Azevedo, creates an unusual public art exhibit with more than 1,000 figures made out of ice. The public are invited to place the sculptures on the steps of Chamberlain Square and over two to three hours the ice figures begin to melt. Nele’s work deliberately celebrates the common man, this piece will be about honouring not only those who fought in the war but the families of those whose who sacrificed their loved ones or were affected. 


Soldiers' Stories: Birmingham and the Royal Warwickshire Regiment 1914-1918 (Exhibition) Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery2 August

An exhibition entitled ‘Soldier's Stories: Birmingham and the Royal Regiment’ will open at Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery 2 August 2014. The exhibition brings together personal items, medals and correspondence belonging to men who fought throughout Europe and further a field in the Royal Warwickshire Regiment. In addition, throughout 2014, Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery will be holding a series of gallery tours in the Birmingham History Galleries, focussing on Birmingham and the home front, in particular the role of industry, the effect the war had on families in Birmingham, an its legacy on the city.

Photo credits Birmingham Pals Battalion recruitment badge, 1914 © Birmingham Museums Trust 


Black Country Living Museum 

Candlelit Commemoration4 August

This evening service of reflection will be centred around the Museum’s Chapel and the War Memorial (the wider museum site will not be open). Admission will be free of charge but by pre-booked ticket only.


Summer 1914, Sat 30 August

Join us for a day of street theatre, storytelling and music based in the historic village. We will be evoking the atmosphere of the summer of 1914 and exploring how the start of the war affected ordinary people in the Black Country. There will be hands on activities for kids.


Tolkien and the Great War (exhibition), Sarehole Mill, September 2014 until October 2014

Tolkien enlisted in 1915 and fought in France and it is believed that this experience deeply affected the writer.   Second Lieutenant in the Lancashire fusiliers he trained on Cannock Chase before going to France on 4 June 1916, and was at the Somme in October 1916. He was sent home with Trench Fever in November 1916.







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