A new touring exhibition created by the Great War Dundee partnership has been launched at Lochee Community Library. The Home Front focuses on what life was like in Dundee during the First World War. The exhibition, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, has been put together by Matthew Jarron (museum curator at the University of Dundee) and Linda Nicoll (a volunteer at Dundee City Archives).
“During the centenary commemorations there has been a lot of focus on life at the front line and the devastating losses suffered in campaigns such as Loos and the Somme. For this exhibition we wanted to focus on what life was like for those left at home.
“Dundee was affected in many ways by the war. Some of these were the same across the country – rationing and lighting restrictions, for example – but some were unique to the city. The jute industry boomed while there was a huge demand for sandbags, but then suffered a terrible collapse when the war ended. New wartime industries were introduced, including two munitions factories. Dundee was also home to an important seaplane base.”
The exhibition also brings to light some less well-known stories about the city. “Dundee was an important centre of the anti-war movement,” says Matthew, “something we were keen to stress in the exhibition. An important figure in that was Edwin Scrymgeour, who in 1917 fought a by-election against Winston Churchill, the only contested by-election anywhere in Britain during the Great War.”
Another story brought to light is that of the 33 Serbian children who came to Dundee as refugees in 1916.
Linda Nicoll, who discovered their story explains:
“The children were between 12 and 16 years old, and had made the incredibly dangerous journey on foot over the Albanian mountains to the Adriatic Sea where they were picked up by ships and brought to Europe. Thousands died during this journey. When they arrived in Dundee, local jute manufacturer George Bonar bought the house Fernbrae on Perth Road to house them. Half of them were educated at Harris Academy and the rest at the High School. After the war some stayed in Dundee while others returned home. They later spoke fondly of the warm welcome they had received in the city.”
These stories and many others are told in the exhibition, which will be on show in Lochee Library until Saturday August 27, then will tour round other libraries and venues elsewhere in the city.