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Created in Conflict: British Soldier Art from the Crimean War to Today

Tue - Sun, 17 Mar – 10 Jun 2018, 11am – 5pm

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Challenging perceptions about war and behaviour; presenting a new dimension to soldiers’ experience, creativity and skills.

Created in partnership with the National Army Museum, this exhibition will showcase the incredible resourcefulness and diversity of artwork made by British Armed Forces personnel. With important loans from the V&A, the Imperial War Museum, and the Museum of Military Medicine, the exhibition will feature a rich variety of resonant items including tankards made by soldiers in the trenches during World War I, game pieces carved by Prisoners of War during World War II, and toys and quilts made by convalescing soldiers.

Addressing a broad time period, Created in Conflict: British Soldier Art from the Crimean War to Today will consider the enduring questions raised by war, including ways of keeping in touch with home, patriotism, loyalty and the treatment of veterans. Throughout the exhibition paintings, photographs and insightful collaborations between veterans and contemporary artists will reflect the power of artworks to make us feel both better and worse about war.

FREE entry for members.

Exhibition created in partnership with the National Army Museum.

Paint provided by Zoffany: Luxurious design, artfully crafted to the highest standards.

 

Weight of Duty © Anna Redwood

 

Stratford upon Avon College Year 1 Dance students will be performing a site specific dance piece: ‘Conflict Reimagined’, inspired by the landscape of Compton Verney and our exhibition Created in Conflict. The performances will be on Wed 6 Jun, 12noon, 2pm and 4pm.

In this online gallery we invite you to share your soldier art.

Many of the visitors to Created in Conflict: British Soldier Art from the Crimean War to Today have spoken to us about the treasured objects they have at home, collected and produced by family and friends in the military. Soldiers visiting from nearby MoD Kineton talked about how they hadn’t thought about decorating bases, and making things like personalised mugs, hats, game boards and signs as art, but after seeing the show they now think afresh about the creativity involved in things they did to make life more comfortable and to pass the time on operations. Here we hope to bring together and recognise an even broader range of soldiers’ creative work, expanding on the exhibition’s highlighting of the more unexpected forms of soldier art – including sewing, knitting, tattooing, jewellery and toy-making as well as carving, engraving and painting.

Please do send us photographs and the stories of soldier art in your personal collections and experience.

In this opening blog Sapper Adam Williams shares his photographs of wall murals painted by members of many nations forces on recent operations in Iraq.

Williams was, in part, inspired by these other records of national and regimental identity to produce his painting, featured in the exhibition. Williams’s work connects to a long tradition of personalising living spaces on campaign, transforming the immediate environment to make it more habitable. In the range of murals he has photographed we can see soldiers from around the world using art to boost morale and create a little piece of home.

 

These two photos show probably my favourite mural I have come across. Located in Baghdad Diplomatic Support Centre (BDSC), a large number of troops entering into Iraq pass through here and a section of blast walls are decorated with different American state flags. I see it as a form of interactive art as in the white space below the flag troops can sign their names, so it grows the more people pass through – Date unkown

Spanish Army soldier painting a mural dedicated to “The Last of the Philippines” from the Siege of Baler (1898-99) during the Philippine Revolution. Mural painted in Forward Operating Base (FOB) Gran Capitan, Besmaya, Iraq – painted 2017

Mural that appears to be dedicated to the United States Air Force (based on the content and the est. date), found on Ali Al Salem Air Base in Kuwait – Date unknown

404 Air Support Battalion USAF mural in a abandoned part of Camp Taji, Iraq. Includes close up of the individual Company pieces – Helicopter Support, Alpha, Bravo and Charlie Company – Date unkown

I came across this in 2016. It was outside a workshop for the Royal Australian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (RAEME) in Camp Taji, Iraq. It was put up by members of both the Australian Army and New Zealand Army (ANZAC) and points to various places in their home countries.

This second image of a signpost was again 2016 and I found it in Baghdad Diplomatic Support Centre (BDSC) in Iraq. I presume that it was created by mainly US forces as most of the signs point towards various North American locations.

Submitted 10/05/18 by one of Compton Verney’s wonderful volunteers (Son of George Arthur Preedy)

Hand written/ Illustrated card, sent by my father George Arthur Preedy, who was a signaller in the 6th Battalion Royal Signals, stationed in North Africa, in October 1943. He served in The Royal Signals, on call-up in 1942, until his demobilisation in November 1945. These cards were to his wife, Marion May Preedy, on the occasion of their 7th wedding anniversary – with quite a touching verse.

I believe this type of card would have been a fore-runner to the more recent types of airmails, very lightweight and small in size – no doubt my father wanted to send a greeting by faster means than the wartime letter service. 

 

The other images are ‘doodles’ that my father would have often drawn whilst abroad. 

 

Submitted 11/04/18

“The British Military Quilt is dated  May 19, 1881. I don’t know if this was when the soldier making it was wounded or perhaps it has another significance.  I believe this was during the Boer War.  I got it from an antique store in Henley on Thames in 1973 – It had been in the owner’s family.  The corners have different ranking officers with the outside edges (on both sides opposite the centre  panel) having hussars with a centre panel containing the British lion and has shamrocks, suggesting he was probably part of the Irish Guards.” 

“The second piece is not a quilt but a crazy piece mounted in a frame.  The stitches are fantastic!  There is one date of 1900, Woolwich.  (Possibly made by a sailor?). I also got this when I lived in England and was involved in putting on quilt shows.”

Marianne Ballantyne kindly shared this Dog cart fashioned from brass shell case enscribed “Ypres”

Submitted 02/05/18

“Soldiers were encouraged to take up sewing as a valid alternative to the less salubrious pursuits of drinking and gambling; needlework was also used as a form of therapy for those injured in conflict and recuperating in hospital. This example unsigned and undated, was stitched by Private James Reeves, who served in the 108th Regiment of Foot (Madras Infantry) in India in the 1860’s. Great Grandfather of our Museum Curator James also served with the 2nd South Wales Borderers. He was discharged in 1886 having completed 21 years and 2 months in service.”

Submitted 01/06/18 by Martin Stott

This is a brass fire screen. Size:  approx 620mm x 400mm. It has been in my family’s possession as i recall ever since i was a child (I am 64) and the story my mother tells is that  it was made under the command of her father Lieutenant Commander Abraham Hegarty at the end of WW1.

Specifically it was made by ratings on HMS Abingdon which was deployed to the Black Sea as a mine sweeper at the end of WW1(1919-20), from cartridge and shell cases, ‘to keep their minds off the danger of the work they were undertaking’. Allegedly the ship at the other end of the ‘sweep line’ was blown up on 3 occasions, but Abingdon and its crew came through unscathed.

I have no evidence that this is all actually true. However the circumstantial evidence is clear.

My grandfather did indeed serve as commander of a tender to HMS Julius in Constantinople  in 1919-20 called HMS Abingdon (I have his Naval records supplied to me by the MOD) and a quick scan of Naval history on the internet shows that HMS Abingdon was indeed a mine sweeper deployed to the Black Sea at that time.

My mother could not possibly have worked this out and retro-fitted the story because I got  hold of the MOD records and she had no idea how to use the internet so she must have acquired that information through the passing down of stories across generations. Happily they are corroborated.