We’re always humbled and excited when someone brings us something incredibly personal that can help add a human story to historical fact, and that’s the case this week.
The museum team have been captivated by an eye witness account of the action surrounding the Menin Crossroads during World War One; we have a depiction of a scene, painted by the artist Matania, hanging in the museum and showing the aftermath of battle, so it’s something we’re all very familiar with, but to read a first hand account is something else.
The diary of Company Sergeant Major Robert George Lovatt DCM explains, through detailed prose and sketches, the action of the time. A veteran of the South African Wars, Lovatt was born in 1882 and served with the 2nd Battalion in the First World War.
His great grandson James is currently researching his family history, and brought a fascinating archive of family papers to share with our curatorial team.
We are very grateful he has agreed to loan us the notebook so we can have the delicate pages scanned and added to our archive.
“We held on to this position for days being shelled by heavy shellfire during the day, no firing by night for which were thankful as it allowed us an opportunity to get out of our trenches to stretch our limbs, also to carry back the wounded and bury the dead.” CSM Robert Lovatt
“The sketch of the ground in the notebook precisely replicates what’s shown in our painting,” says Assistant Curator, Steve Erskine, pictured right with James Lovatt and the notebook. “We know that Matania went to great lengths to ensure his work accurately reflected the reality of the scene, Lovatt’s map, gives us the detail and the context of events at the time. For us, seeing the words and thoughts of a Green Howard soldier on the ground, in that action, and recording it as it happens around him and to him is really special. It just goes to show, just because something happened more than 100 years ago, it doesn’t mean there’s nothing new left to learn, and we are very much looking forward to studying CSM Lovatt’s account in more detail.”
Thanks so much James for coming to see us!