Craven and the First World War: a collaborative research grant success!

First World War Network member Anne Buckley was the first recipient of a collaborative research grant from the network to undertake a co-production project with a non-academic partner. In this blogpost, Anne discusses her work with the Craven and the First World War project which resulted in the installation of an information board marking the site of a First World War training and PoW camp in Skipton, North Yorkshire.


This research project into the First World War camp in Skipton started when staff at Skipton library brought a book, Kriegsgefangen in Skipton, to the attention of the University of Leeds in 2014. The book was written by 50 of the German officers imprisoned in Skipton during the First World War and was published in Munich in 1920. I have been leading the project to produce an English translation of the book which will be published by Pen & Sword in 2020. In a fitting parallel to the original the translation is a collaborative effort with contributions from staff and students and the University of Leeds and local volunteers. The book quite possibly represents the most detailed account of a German POW camp in Britain during the First World War. Hence, the POWs’ account is of international and national as well as local importance.

I have been collaborating with Craven District Council’s Craven and the First World War project since autumn 2015 when Professor Alison Fell, who heads the University of Leeds Legacies of War project, introduced me and my colleague Dr Caroline Summers to Project Officer Rob Freeman. As I live in Skipton collaboration has been very straightforward!

We have done a large amount of public engagement work including organising several archaeological digs on the site of the camp involving local schoolchildren. In addition, we have commissioned a professionally-designed project website, held exhibitions and given a large number of talks. One of the most rewarding activities was working with the children of Skipton’s refugee families to produce an animation film. The film told the story of the senior German officer in the PoW camp, Fritz Sachsse, and his incredible journey to Skipton, which started with his escape from a Japanese POW camp. You can see the film here:

On 12th July actor Wolf Kahler, the grandson of Fritz Sachsse, officially opened the information board and gave a moving speech in which he shared his personal memories of his grandfather. The event was attended by around 150 people including local residents, and academics and archaeologists who have been working on the project to uncover the story of the camp. Wolf Kahler was a familiar face to many of them, having had starring roles in films such as Raiders of the Lost Ark in which he played the Nazi Colonel Herman Dietrich.

Wolf Kahler speaks at the unveiling of the information board.
Wolf Kahler speaks at the unveiling of the information board. Photograph credit: Simon Lewis

Public impact

One of the aims of both my work and that of the Craven and the First World War project is to ‘rewrite the story of the First World War camp back into the history of Skipton’. The camp is very rarely mentioned in histories of the town, and our work aims to change this, reshaping accounts of Skipton and its past and also enabling local residents of all generations to understand more fully how the national narratives of commemoration and war relate to their own home surroundings.

The information board is now a permanent reminder of the training and prisoner-of-war camp that stood on the outskirts of Skipton a century ago. In his speech Wolf Kahler said that his grandfather would sign off his letters with the words ‘do not forget me’. The board will ensure that the people of Skipton will not forget Fritz Sachsse and his comrades who were imprisoned here during and after the First World War.

Wolf Kahler and Anne Buckley with the newly installed information board.
Wolf Kahler and Anne Buckley with the newly installed information board. Photograph credit: Simon Lewis

Media coverage of opening

BBC Look North Clip embedded into blogpost on project website:

Newspaper reports:

Project websites and social media

Twitter: @skiptonpow



Final keynote announced!

With just one week to go before ‘The First World War: Past, Present, and Future’ gets underway, we are delighted to announce the identity of our final keynote speakers!

The children of Sighthill Primary School have been working with the Young People’s Hub partnership project, and discovering the stories contained within the War Poets Collection at Edinburgh Napier University. On Friday morning, children from the school will be showcasing their work with the War Poets Collection and talking about their experiences of the First World War’s centenary.

To join them (and us!) at the conference, please make sure you register for your tickets as soon as possible. A very limited number of tickets remain, and the final day for registration will be Friday 21 June. To register, please follow the link below:,-present,-and-future


‘Strange Meeting(s): Craiglockhart, Poetry and the Cultural Memory of the Great War’

We are delighted to share the details of the keynote address taking place at ‘The First World War: Past, Present, and Future’. Dr Jane Potter, Oxford Brookes University, will draw upon her expertise to consider the special place that our conference location occupies within the cultural memory of the First World War. An abstract for Dr Potter’s address, entitled ‘Strange Meeting(s): Craiglockhart, Poetry and the Cultural Memory of the Great War’, is as follows:


Siegfried Sassoon arrived at Craiglockhart War Hospital on 23 July 1917, having been sent to ‘Dottyville’, as he called it, to avoid a court-martial in the wake of his outspoken public statement against the War. He was soon visited by an admirer of his poetry, a neurasthenic second lieutenant who had arrived a few weeks earlier fresh from the horrors of the Western Front: Wilfred Owen.  Under the care of Captain Arthur Brock RAMC, and his ergotherapy or work-cure, and with Sassoon’s advice, Owen learned to channel his experiences and memories of battle into poems that have come to define the Great War experience.  This talk reflects on the legacy of these ‘strange meetings’ at Craiglockhart and the ways in which the poetry of Owen and Sassoon not only remains central to the cultural memory of 1914-18, but has become the archetype for the representation of war itself.


Limited tickets for the conference are still available. For further details, to view the full programme, and to book your place, please visit the link below:,-present,-and-future

The First World War: Past, Present, and Future – tickets now on sale

Craiglockhart Campus, Edinburgh Napier University, 27 and 28 June 2019.

A limited number of tickets are on sale now for anyone wishing to attend the First World War Network’s upcoming conference, which will consider the past, present, and future of First World War studies. Both two-day and individual day tickets are available for the conference, all of which include lunch and refreshment breaks. Tickets are available from our web store, hosted by the University of Hertfordshire, via the link below:,-present,-and-future

Over the course of two days a combination of internationally acclaimed scholars, early career and postgraduate researchers at the cutting edge of academic scholarship, representatives of heritage agencies, museums, and community groups, and those working across the breadth of First World War-related subjects will come together to celebrate the first one hundred years of First World War history, to discuss the latest work in the field, and to consider the future of the subject within the poignant setting of the former Craiglockhart War Hospital.

The conference programme, which can be viewed in full by clicking this link, comprises academic panels on a wide variety of subjects, a keynote paper by Dr Jane Potter (Oxford Brookes University), a special consideration of work undertaken with young people during the centenary, a round table discussion featuring representatives from academia, the museum sector, and the battlefield tourism industry, and a free workshop on the creation of digital history projects. Those arriving on Wednesday evening are also cordially invited to join us at a special public lecture by Dr Nigel Hunt (University of Nottingham). For further details and to register for Dr Hunt’s talk, see the link below:

We look forward to seeing you all there!

Free public lecture: Edinburgh Napier University

Ahead of our upcoming conference, join us at the site of the former World War One Craiglockhart Military Hospital for a very special free public lecture about the pioneering work of Dr W.H.R. Rivers, delivered by Dr Nigel Hunt (University of Nottingham).

Narratives and stress: WHR Rivers role in helping understand the importance of story in psychology

The narrative approach – understanding stories – in psychology has become, over the last few decades, very popular. It helps us understand how people’s minds work and gives us tools for helping those who have been through stressful and traumatic events. Dr Rivers worked at Craiglockhart Military Hospital during World War One, trying to understand and treat the men who were sent there as ‘shell shock’ or ‘neurasthenic’ cases from the trenches of the war. His approach became widely known through the novels of Pat Barker, but his influence on psychology (and other disciplines) cuts across many fields. This talk focuses on how Rivers’ work can inform our understanding of the importance of stories in resolving war trauma, even today.

To register for this event, please follow the link below:

Doors open at 18:15, and a wine reception will follow the lecture.

Please contact for further information.

Conference update: Friday afternoon workshop

Preparations are ongoing for our upcoming conference at Edinburgh Napier University, and we are delighted to share details of a workshop taking place on Friday afternoon, to which all our delegates are warmly invited. Ian Isherwood, R.C. Miessler, and Amy Lucadamo from Gettysburg College will be sharing their experiences of working on a digital project linked to the First World War letters of Hugh John Chevallier Peirs (better known as Jack). You can visit the website by following the link below:

In ‘The Great War and the Digital Humanities: Creating a project and building a team’, they will provide attendees with insights into the creation of a digital history project, consider engagement with a range of stakeholders, and answer questions from our delegates.

Ian Isherwood introduces the workshop:

“The centennial of the First World War has provided ample opportunities for historians to engage with broader audiences on the subject of war.  In 2014, conscious of the challenges that teaching the First World War presents for educators at all levels, a small team at Gettysburg College (Pennsylvania, USA) began digitizing an archival resource and made it available to the public without an institutional mandate or dedicated funding. The First World War Letters of H.J.C. Peirs: A Digital History website began as a mechanism for publishing the correspondence of a British officer 100 years to the day they were written. However, as the team embraced the methodologies of the Digital Humanities, worked collaboratively on creative technological innovations, and discovered new avenues for combining archival and digital pedagogy into the classroom experience, the Peirs project grew into a pedagogy-focused, archives-based digital project that serves as an example of boundary-crossing, team-based Digital Humanities efforts. Through the framework of the Peirs project, this workshop will give guidance for team-building and project management, provide examples of Digital Humanities tools and methods that can be used with First World War collections, and outline pedagogical uses for digital history in the classroom.”

All attendees to ‘The First World War: Past, Present, and Future’ are warmly invited to join us at this fascinating workshop, and will have the chance to speak to the team behind Jack’s letters. Tickets are currently available to members of our mailing list, and the full programme can be viewed by clicking on the link below:

For the latest updates on our conference and all other news relating to the First World War Network, follow us on Twitter @FwwNetwork

Draft conference programme announced!

The First World War Network is delighted to announce that, following an incredibly competitive and difficult selection process, the organising committee behind ‘The First World War: Past, Present, and Future’ are able to publish the first details of the speakers and panels that will provide the platform for discussions at our upcoming conference.

We are proud to present a series of papers that cover the breadth of work within the field of First World War studies, from a range of speakers. Alongside established academics, the programme for ‘The First World War: Past, Present, and Future’ provides opportunities for postgraduate students, early career researchers, museum and heritage professionals, and independent scholars from across the world to showcase their research.

The topics that will be addressed over the course of this conference emphasise the diversity of research interests within the field at the end of the centenary period, and illustrate the local and global legacies of the First World War as a historical event.

The programme of intended speakers can be viewed in full by following the link below:

We are greatly looking forward to welcoming you all to Edinburgh Napier in June, and will be making further announcements about the event in due course. For all the latest information, make sure to follow the First World War Network on Twitter: @FwwNetwork