World War One – unusual personal perspectives

(Show now closed: post retained as archive.)

As you amble through the galleries at BMAG, perhaps aiming for the Pre-Raphaelites or for the Staffordshire Hoard, your eyes might be drawn to the exhibition in Gallery 15. It tells the story of the 400,000 Muslim soldiers who fought in WW1,  and features personal stories and loans from relatives of those who served. It links historical research with personal testimony from Birmingham people whose Muslim relatives served in the First World War. This show runs until 5th March 2017.

There was a companion exhibition – Honouring Indian VC soldiers in WW1 – which ended on 28th January 2017. The Victoria Cross is Britain’s highest award for gallantry for soldiers, and has been awarded since 1856. Of the 1,358 medals ever awarded, 9 were to South Asian soldiers of the British Indian Army during WW1. This exhibition brought some of their stories, often unrecorded or unreported, to public gaze. The researchers ‘raided’ the archives of the National Army Museum to uncover letters from many of the South Asian soldiers. Although censored during the translation process they nevertheless reveal fascinating attitudes to their participation in the King-Emperor’s war.

Understanding more of these two groups illuminates many of the major political tensions in today’s world. It is a great privilege to see this unique material here in Birmingham.

posted by David Foster


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