Behind the Lines, National Library of Scotland, Review

Submitted by actionman on Fri, 31 Oct '14 11.23pm
Rating (out of 5)
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The exhibition in the National Library of Scotland on George IV Bridge, tells the personal stories of the First World War and it does so extremely well.

To mark the centenary of the outbreak of the war Behind the Lines explores the individual experiences of Scottish men and women during that period of enormous change. A vast array of the recruiting posters greet you which are hanging just inside the entrance; these must have been commonplace at the time and one felt almost intimidated by the imperatives to join up and 'do your bit'. What was fascinating was to see the extracts from the personal handwritten diary of Field Marshal Earl Haig.

One saw the first entry as the nation moved to war in 1914 and then, towards the end of the exhibition, was an extract from his diary on the 11th November 1918.

The exhibition has a mass of carefully selected photographs which show the conditions in the front line and the terrible mud that everyone, including the horses, had to endure.

What was also very moving was the letters that were carefully placed in 'Read me please' boxes throughout the exhibition. These were personal letters some describing conditions at the front, others written to relatives of a soldier who had been killed - all copies of the original and in the writers own hand.

In addition there were audio recordings of events and including one by a survivor of the Battle of Jutland. Really quite extraordinary, and most moving.

The contribution of women was given very good prominence and the various tasks that women took on were well illustrated with the emphasis perhaps being on their nursing contribution. The exhibition has a backdrop of what appeared to be sandbags and a projector flashed pictures from the war on the sandbagged background which was most effective.

As one might expect there were plenty of maps and some of these were put under glass on a large table round which there were seats - rather like a bunker and a map table.

This is a first class exhibition and one full of emotion and great history of a momentous period in our history.

The exhibition is highly recommended but is only open to Tuesday, 11th November - so hurry if you want to catch it, you will not be disappointed.