How can new narratives involving communities create non-political contexts for World War One?

About this project

The aim was to help new generations understand the Battle of Cambrai from a community perspective with exclusive access to the founder of the World War One Mark IV tank D51 and communities in France and worldwide. The objective was to create new narratives using interview and documentary methods to create a film explaining the aftermath of war from the community perspective rather than a political narrative position.

The aim was to work with communities in France and the UK to digitally capture the history of the World War One tank called "Deborah" – a National French Monument – which was discovered on the battlefields in France by historian Philippe Gorczynski MBE. The innovative approaches involving communities to lead the narrative have helped new generations understand the implications of warfare on a community in the aftermath of the Battle of Cambrai 1917.

The importance of creating a narrative from those involved in the community rather than discussing the military or political objectives of the Battle of Cambrai was an innovative approach to creating new knowledge about the impact of war and how a WW1 Tank became the peace making machine bringing communities together and creating new friendships across Europe.

Associate Professor Fiona Graham researched the impact of the story and discovery of the World War One tank on people living in Europe with historians, communities in France and the UK and the Royal Tank Regiment. She created a narrative arc that captured how the tank has brought people together from across Europe ultimately leading to the creation of a new museum in France to commemorate the story.

Fiona established new British and French community collaborations with the project to engage with the narrative and tell their story. She worked with communities in the UK and France, The Royal Tank Regiment and relatives of the crew of D51 tank which was destroyed in the Battle of Cambrai 1917 at Flesquieres. She had unique access to work with the French historian who discovered the nearly entire tank at Flesquieres and captured on film its move to a new museum in France to mark the centenary of the Battle of Cambrai and engage UK tourists to visit the location.

Associate Professor Fiona Graham and colleague, camera and drone pilot Paul Ottey from Production House discussed the tank and its history with children in schools in France and the UK; communities in the Midlands and North West, talks from the tanks’ location to members of the House of Lords; produced installations and public talks exhibitions at the Museum of Military Life at Carlisle Castle, Cumbria; installation for the Centenary at The Royal Tank Regimental Museum, Dorset; exhibited at AHRC Living Legacies conference at PRONI in Northern Ireland and archived at the Public Records Office of Northern Ireland. It has been donated online and to the Tourism Office in Cambrai, France for the public and to encourage footfall to the Cambrai Tank Museum. The narrative has also been broadcast internationally on British Forces Television (BFBS) and Associate Professor Fiona Graham has engaged with British Forces Radio interviews about the project. It has broadcast on ITV and BBC and on BBC News Online.

This research project is in collaboration with Production House and the Royal Tank Regiment.

Lead researcher

Fiona Graham

Associate Professor

Fiona is a Senior Lecturer and Producer, with a background as a factual documentary producer/director and television studio producer. Fiona has a background in print journalism, BBC radio and television including BBC1, ITV1, ITV2, Channel 4, STV…

Fiona's profile

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