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Letters from the Holy Land: the influence of the Middle Eastern campaign in WW1 on Welsh culture and society

In this latest Guest Blog by Gethin Matthews, he talks about the imagery of the Holy Land and how middle eastern culture came ultimately to affect Welsh culture and society.

The First World War was a world-wide war which transported millions of young men away from their homes to foreign lands. Often these men sought an anchor which could help them make sense of their unfamiliar surroundings as they tried to convey their experiences to their loved ones. In the case of Welshmen who found themselves in Egypt and Palestine, they had a ready vocabulary to describe these countries which came straight from the Bible. The idea of the campaign in the ‘Holy Land’ struck a chord with newspapers and opinion-formers back in Wales, and shaped ideas which persisted with the Welsh public.


Ivor Gurney: words, music, windows

The AHRC’s latest feature article marked the airing of BBC4’s documentary about the life of the Gloucestershire WW1 poet Ivor Gurney. The documentary, which you can watch on BBC iPlayer until 1am on Friday 11th April, draws on Gurney’s poetry, music and his war experiences as a Private at the front line and at home in a mental asylum.

Fittingly, Gloucester Cathedral, where Gurney was once a chorister, has unveiled a new stained-glass window marking the life of the poet. The window will be dedicated at a service this month, and the Dean of Gloucester described it as “a fitting tribute to all who served during the Great War”.

If you aren’t familiar with Gurney’s work, two short clips below from Professor Tim Kendall’s documentary “The Poet who Loved the War” give a new and unique flavour of the unflinching power of his artistic response to his war time experiences.