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Birmingham Museums commemorate the Battle of the Somme centenary with rare new artefact

  • A rare new artefact added to Blakesley Hall’s First World War exhibition – a tunic worn by a soldier from Birmingham, Arthur Brooke Turner, on the first day of the Somme
  • Free screenings of iconic film ‘The Battle of the Somme’ take place at Blakesley Hall with the first showing on Sunday 17thJuly

Birmingham Museums is commemorating 100 years since the Battle of the Somme by hosting a series of film screenings of an iconic First World War propaganda film at Blakesley Hall – where a tunic worn by a Birmingham soldier on the first day of the Somme will be added to the site’s longstanding First World War exhibition.

The uniform belongs to Arthur Brooke Turner, who was a solicitor from Birmingham and served in the Territorial Army as a pre First World War soldier with the 6th Battalion of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment. As he worked his way up through the ranks, Arthur was wounded on 1 July 1916, during the major offensive on the first day of the Somme.

Blakesley Hall will display Arthur’s uniform which was worn on this day when he was severely injured and lost his leg on this day. The first day of the battle was one of the bloodiest in the history of the British Army, when British forces suffered 57,470 casualties, 19,240 of which died.

It is extremely rare to find an artefact like this in such good condition, as First World War soldiers were instructed to destroy their clothes once de-mobbed because of an increased risk of lice spreading from contaminated uniforms. It will sit alongside Arthur’s cigarette case which was in his right breast pocket when he was hit by shrapnel.

The items will be on display from 1 July as part of Blakesley Hall’s established First World War exhibition, which opened in 2014 and focuses on a family who lived in the hall throughout the war. Through the ‘Tom, Frank and May’ display visitors are able to discover the true effect that the war had on one family.

Blakesley Hall will also be one of the first places in Birmingham to see the UNESCO listed film ‘The Battle of the Somme’ which was shot and screened in 1916. It was the first feature length documentary film about war which is recognised as one of the most popular films in British Cinema history.

The screenings of the film, which has now been restored and is being shown in partnership with the Imperial War Musuems, take place on 17th July, 11th September, 16th October and 13th November and are free to attend. In the year of its release around 20 million people, almost half the population of Britain at the time, watched the ‘Battle of the Somme’. One hundred years later, this unique film, from the Imperial War Museum’s collection, is being shown at Blakesley Hall to commemorate the anniversary.

Jo-Ann Curtis, Curator of History at Birmingham Museums Trust, said: “The Battle of the Somme was one of the most infamous days during the First World War and being able to share this rare uniform with the public in commemoration of the anniversary feels very fitting.

“We are honoured that Arthur Brooke Turner’s family have agreed to let us display the fascinating items and tell his story. With the new display and with the upcoming screenings of ‘The Battle of the Somme’ we hope this will encourage visitors to share their own historical family stories and learn more about Birmingham’s role in the war. By the end of the war 150,000 Birmingham people had served. 12,320 of them died and 35,000 came home disabled, so the impact was huge and it is only right that we remember their involvement.”

The screenings are free to attend but pre-booking is required on 0121 348 8120. Arthur Brooke Turner’s uniform will be on display as part of the ‘Tom, Frank and May’ exhibition. For more details about opening times and prices please visit: www.birminghammuseums.org.uk/blakesley



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