time

Time held me green and dying.*

 

Amongst the young men who fought in the allied armies during the First World War were artists, writers and musicians whose expectations, prior to that August day in 1914, were far removed from the reality in which they subsequently found themselves. The government realised that they could use the skills of these artists to help in the propaganda war against the enemy. The War Propaganda Bureau was set up by Lloyd George in 1914 and invited leading authors to write articles and pamphlets promoting the British point of view. Artists, who were among the soldiers posted to the Western Front, became official War Artists.

After the armistice in 1918, the surviving artists, now no longer under the constraints of the W.P.B., began to work more freely and over the following decade much of their literature and art was influenced by those four and a half terrible years.

 

Susan has researched work done immediately after the armistice to produce Time held me green and dying. The primary source is The Waste Land by T.S.Eliot, first published in Criterion in 1922. The poem has five sections -The Burial of the Dead, A Game of Chess, The Fire Sermon, Death By Water and What the Thunder Said. These were used as the foundation for greater research.

 

I The Burial of the Dead

The scene shows a devastated landscape based on the photograph by French photographer Jules Gervais-Courtellemont of the Western Front after continual bombardment.

 

II A Game of Chess.

A private soldier is seen resting, surrounded by the paraphernalia of war with, in the background, extracts of a letter home, dated January 1915.

 

III The Fire Sermon.

Here propaganda and the iconic image of Kitchener are juxtaposed against the white feather, handed to men not in uniform. Also a soldier is setting a fire belt to protect bivouacking men.

 

IV Death by Water.

In the background is the demise of the hospital ship Britannic in the Aegean. In Testament of Youth, Vera Brittain gave an account of the rescue of the Voluntary Aid Detachment nurses from the ship, one of whom was a survivor from the Titanic.

 

V What the Thunder Says.

Remembrance: as a nation, on the battle field and in every parish across the country.

 

Writing home in 1917 Paul Nash said, “I am a messenger who will bring back word from the men who are fighting to those who want the war to go on forever. Feeble, inarticulate will be my message, but it will have a bitter truth, and may it burn their lousy souls”.

 

*Dylan Thomas

 

 

These images are taken from Susan's sketchbook.

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