30 Jun 2016

Birmingham Museums commemorate the Battle of the Somme centenary with rare new artefact

  • A rare new artefact has been added to Blakesley Hall’s First World War exhibition – a tunic worn by a soldier from Birmingham, Arthur Brooke Turner, on the first day of the Somme
  • Free screenings of iconic film ‘The Battle of the Somme’ take place at Blakesley Hall with the first showing on Sunday 17th July

Birmingham Museums is commemorating 100 years since the Battle of the Somme by hosting a series of film screenings of an iconic First World War propaganda film at Blakesley Hall – where a tunic worn by a Birmingham soldier on the first day of the Somme will be added to the site’s longstanding First World War exhibition.

The uniform belongs to Arthur Brooke Turner, who was a solicitor from Birmingham and served in the Territorial Army as a pre First World War soldier with the 6th Battalion of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment. As he worked his way up through the ranks, Arthur was wounded on 1 July 1916, during the major offensive on the first day of the Somme.

Blakesley Hall will display Arthur’s uniform which was worn on this day when he was severely injured and lost his leg. The first day of the battle remains one of the bloodiest in the history of the British Army.

It is extremely rare to find an artefact like this in such good condition, as First World War soldiers were instructed to destroy their clothes once de-mobbed because of an increased risk of lice spreading from contaminated uniforms. It will sit alongside Arthur’s cigarette case which was in his right breast pocket when he was hit by shrapnel.

The items will be on display from 1 July as part of Blakesley Hall’s established First World War exhibition, which opened in 2014 and focuses on a family who lived in the hall throughout the war. Through the ‘Tom, Frank and May’ display visitors are able to discover the true effect that the war had on one family.

Blakesley Hall will also be one of the first places in Birmingham to see the UNESCO listed film ‘The Battle of the Somme’ which was shot and screened in 1916. It was the first feature length documentary film about war which is recognised as one of the most popular films in British Cinema history.

The screenings of the film, which has now been restored and is being shown in partnership with the Imperial War Musuems, take place on 17th July, 11th September, 16th October and 13th November and are free to attend. In the year of its release around 20 million people, almost half the population of Britain at the time, watched 'The Battle of the Somme’. One hundred years later, this unique film, from the Imperial War Museum’s collection, is being shown at Blakesley Hall to commemorate the anniversary.

Jo-Ann Curtis, Curator of History at Birmingham Museums Trust, said: “The Battle of the Somme was one of the most infamous confilcts during the First World War and being able to share this rare uniform with the public in commemoration of the anniversary feels very fitting.

“We are honoured that Arthur Brooke Turner’s family have agreed to let us display these fascinating items and tell his story. With the new display and with the upcoming screenings of ‘The Battle of the Somme’ we hope this will encourage visitors to share their own historical family stories and learn more about Birmingham’s role in the war. By the end of the war 150,000 Birmingham people had served. 12,320 of them died and 35,000 came home disabled, so the impact was huge and it is only right that we remember their involvement.”

The screenings are free to attend but pre-booking is required on 0121 348 8120. Arthur Brooke Turner’s uniform will be on display as part of the ‘Tom, Frank and May’ exhibition. For more details about opening times and prices please visit: www.birminghammuseums.org.uk/blakesley


For more information or images please contact: Zoe Turton, PR Officer on 0121 348 8281 or zoe.turton@birminghammuseums.org.uk  or
Jay Commins, 01904 500698.

Notes to editors 

Birmingham Museums Trust

Blakesley Hall is part of Birmingham Museums Trust, an independent charity that manages the city’s museum collection and venues on behalf of Birmingham City Council. It uses the collection of around 800,000 objects to provide a wide range of arts, cultural and historical experiences, events and activities that deliver accessible learning, creativity and enjoyment for citizens and visitors to the city. Most areas of the collection are designated as being of national importance, including the finest collection of Pre-Raphaelite art in the world. Attracting over one million visits a year, the Trust’s venues include Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery, Aston Hall, Blakesley Hall, Museum Collections Centre, Museum of the Jewellery Quarter, Sarehole Mill, Soho House, Thinktank and Weoley Castle. www.birminghammuseums.org.uk

Imperial War Museum 1914 partnership 

This year, Imperial War Museums (IWM) and Birmingham Museums are working together to show the UNESCO listed film The Battle of the Somme, to audiences across the world. Shot and screened in 1916, it was the first feature length documentary about war and changed the way both cinema and film was perceived by the public. In the year of its release around 20 million people, almost half the population of Britain at the time, watched The Battle of the Somme many hoping to see the image of a loved-one, or friend captured on film. One hundred years later, this unique film from IWM’s collection, is being shown to commemorate the anniversary of the Battle of the Somme.*

*(For more information about the First World War Centenary Partnership’s plans to commemorate the Battle of the Somme visit www.1914.org)

IWM is leading the First World War Centenary Partnership, a network of local, regional and international cultural and educational organisations. Together, the Partnership is presenting a vibrant programme of cultural events, activities and digital platforms, enabling millions of people across the world to discover more about life in the First World War.

IWM established the First World War Centenary Partnership in 2010. The founding ambition for the Partnership was that its members would collectively organise and present a vibrant, diverse and far-reaching programme to reflect how people want to remember, commemorate and debate the conflict in their own communities, in a way that is meaningful for them.

For more information about First World War Centenary Partnership activities visit www.1914.org

The First World War Centenary Partnership, in which Birmingham Museums Trust is a partner, is led by Imperial War Museum. This is a growing network of over 3,600 not-for-profit organisations from 59 countries who are planning to mark the First World War Centenary. More details about events can be found on www.1914.org

BMT is also a project partner with the Voices of War and Peace: the Great War and its Legacy which is a First World War Engagement Centre. The centre funded by the Arts & Humanities Research Council and in partnership with the Heritage Lottery Fund is based in the Library of Birmingham and supports a wide range of community engagement activities, connecting academic and public histories of the First World War (visit www.voicesofwarandpeace.org). BMT has supported this project and continues to share collections research and resources including incredibly significant collection of first world war oral testimonies from Birmingham people.

In 2011, BMT, in collaboration with University of Birmingham and Birmingham City University invited arts, heritage, educational, and community partners from across the city to come together to co-ordinate a city wide campaign to mark Birmingham’s First World War Centenary programmes. Partners continue to meet and discuss ways in which Birmingham can deliver a coherent programme of events.