THE STORY of a soldier from Birmingham, who fought in one of the First World War’s bloodiest battles, has been told in a music and theatre performance at the University of Birmingham today (9 November) and yesterday (8 November).
The performances, staged by the Platform Theatre group assisted by the Army and schools across the West Midlands, marks the 100th anniversary of the end of the Battle of Passchendaele.
The play follows the journey of Tommy, a soldier from the Pals Battalion, from enlisting in Birmingham to his traumatic experiences in the trenches on the Western Front in Belgium.
The performance also tells, through letters received and read by Tommy in the trenches, the story of his mother, sister and girlfriend left behind in Birmingham.
Two matinee performances for school children were held at The Bramall, University of Birmingham, while last night’s performance (8 November) was attended by the general public along with civic and military dignitaries. A military piper welcomed the school children and adults as they took their seats while the Band of the Parachute Regiment and Birmingham City Council Choir provided musical accompaniment to the performances.
The Battle of Passchendaele took place between 31 July and 10 November 1917. On the allied side were British, French and Commonwealth soldiers with a large contingent from Birmingham and the West Midlands including those from the Pals Battalions. With 275,000 British casualties and 60,082 deaths it was one of the bloodiest campaigns of the First World War.
Army West Midlands Brigade Commander Richard Carter said “This was a terrific and moving performance involving soldiers, pupils and teachers from across the West Midlands. We must never forget the sacrifices made by soldiers and their families to protect the peace and freedoms we enjoy today. With the performances taking place on both the centenary of the Battle of Passchendaele’s bloody end and so close to Armistice Day, it is a particularly poignant time for us to remember, reflect and show respect.”
Artwork and poetry created by pupils, based on the First World War and the Battle of Passchendaele in particular, were on show in the foyer of The Bramall over the two days. Outside the theatre a soldier appeared on horseback.
The performances, called ‘Tommy’s Passchendaele’, took place next to the University of Birmingham’s Great Hall which was the site of a major military hospital set up at the start of the First World War. 785 men from the University of Birmingham were called up during the War and 175 lost their lives.