is dedicated to...
Driver Alfred George Roberts L/23534
‘C’ Battery, 173rd Brigade, Royal Field Artillery
Died 21st March 1918 Aged 26.
Son of Alfred George and Fanny Roberts.
He still lies beneath the fields of Passchendaele with no known grave.
Remembered with honour on the Pozieres Memorial.
One of 14,704 names engraved on those walls.
101 years ago today, one of the deadliest battles of the First World War came to an end in Passchendaele, Belgium. The battle had lasted 105 days.
When it was over, 550,000 men had been killed.
As the famous World War One poet Siegfried Sassoon lamented, "I died in hell – they called it Passchendaele...".
“There was not a sign of life of any sort. Not a tree, save for a few dead stumps which looked strange in the moonlight. Not a bird, not even a rat or a blade of grass. Nature was as dead as those Canadians whose bodies remained where they had fallen the previous autumn. Death was written large everywhere.”
Private R.A. Colwell, Passendale, January 1918
The advent of the new tanks and new airborne radio systems could have little effect on the carnage that became Passchendaele
“It’s a pretty mechanical toy but of very limited military value”. (Lord Kitchener upon overseeing trials of the tank).
While Passchendaele came to symbolise the futility of some of the fighting during the First World War, drowning in mud came to symbolise Passchendaele.
“Mud. Mud like wet soap. Nothing could move in the mud. Guns were bogged for three days. They put 26 horses on one gun to drag it free. A Digger fell off duckboards in the dark and sank up to his neck. His mates tried to get him with a chain of rifles but he drowned in the wet earth, begging to be shot.”
The hellish landscape around a Biblically-named village in Belgium was turned into a charnel house of shattered trees, suffocating poison gas, rumbling artillery and chattering machine guns and the dead. In the trenches thirty-five Australians died for each metre of land taken at Passchendaele.
100 years since the end of WW1
95 years since the start of the BBC
A New Stage Play
For a New Venue
Northwood House is pleased to welcome its first stage play in the ballroom – now informally known as the ‘George Ward’ theatre – named after the man who bought the House in 1793 and built the magnificent mansion you see today. Voices Over Passchendaele is a new play with new ideas for the stage.
The small audience will be grouped around the floor level stage – it is close and intimate and they will undoubtedly become part of the performance. Nothing like this has been tried before and we are breaking new ground with the actors and creative team as they step back in time to recreate life on the western front.
Featuring authentic and original props that include rare and original WW1 radio equipment, the play has at its very core, authenticity and originality. This can only be enhanced as it will be performed over the weekend that commemorates 100 years since the end of the First World War.
Tim’s historical eye for detail demands that the actor’s uniforms ranks, medals and insignia all be correct and for the most part are original items. The Commanding officers swagger stick was at an RFC airfield in 1917 in Northern France. The TX No 1 radio flew over Passchendaele 100 years ago. It is Felicity’s eye for detail demands that the words and phrases used are correct for 1918.
All that you will see and hear actually happened 100 years ago.
Please remember that all the parts played by the actors were real people, caught up in a conflict that would change the world and their lives forever.
The cast and creative team wish to dedicate each night’s performance to those who served, and to those who never made it home.
Felicity Fair Thompson is a writer and film maker and lives on the Isle of Wight. Her documentary Carisbrooke Castle was broadcast on SKY TV and three of her other fourteen independently made travel films for the retail market, were shown on Australian television. She has taught Creative Writing for Screen South, Connexions, Isle of Wight Council, Isle of Wight College, and alongside Sir Andrew Motion for the Bi-centenary celebrations for Alfred, Lord Tennyson, as well as guiding young writers with learning difficulties, and teaching independently. Her published writing includes three children's stories, an EU funded community play, theatre reviews, personality profiles, award winning poetry, scenic travel features, and three novels: Cutting In was one of three top finalists in the People's Book Prize 2014. The Kid on Slapton Beach has received rave reviews. Hold Tight is her latest novel. Exit the King, performed at the 2017 Ventnor Isle of Wight Fringe Festival, and in January 2018 at Carisbrooke Castle, was her first play.
Voices over Passchendaele, co-written with the writer and historian, Tim Wander, is her latest work.
Tim Wander is an Island based historic consultant, author, lecturer and a specialist in historic building renovation.
Tim has written many books, papers and articles about the early days of radio broadcasting, Marconi and several BBC radio plays. This is his first stage play and his playwriting debut at a new venue - Northwood House in November 2018.
He regularly acts as a technical and historic consultant and provides radio and television interviews and articles on the early history of radio and broadcasting. In 2016 Tim took over as Consultant and Curator for Science and Industry for Chelmsford City’s museum service. He is now developing plans to celebrate the various centenaries of British radio broadcasting in 2020 and 2022.
As part of this, his next play, again writing with Felicity Fair Thompson continues Peter Eckersley’s amazing story up until his time with the BBC. There is also a very strong rumour that the script for the film of the play is now well underway.
Only a few weeks ago, I had never to the best of my knowledge heard the name Peter Pendleton Eckersley, yet his work and career have touched my own life in so many ways: the more I read about him and the more I talk to the very informative Tim Wander, the more fascinated I have become and the more I admire Eckersley’s achievements.
As well as my love of history I also find human beings endlessly fascinating, and uncovering stories of Eckersley’s private, as well as public life, reveals a complex man: a real individual with character flaws, insecurities and a streak of genius; a man of his time and yet ahead of his time, a pioneer and a maverick.
My task is to help bring this man, and his world, alive on stage, and in doing so I know I have around me a great team of writers, producer and amazing, talented actors, all of whom have made my job easier and so much fun. I hope you enjoy watching the show as much as I have enjoyed helping to create it.