Trench Weary in Ravaged Lands

Remembering Passchendaele and Pilckem Ridge

Our new temporary exhibition looks back at the Battles of Paschendaele and Pilckem Ridge. Particularly ferocious for those soldiers participating, it is noted down in history for the sheer amount of casualties as a result of this fighting

During this battle, the Western Front experienced its heaviest rain for thirty years and the constant shelling had turned the area into a quagmire, with thick mud clogging up rifles and immobilising tanks.

The three months of fighting resulted in over 585,000 casualties; 325,000 of which comprised Allied Troops. The Battle of Pilckem Ridge (an opening attack in the Third Battle of Ypres) alone saw the loss of 4,500 troops.

It is always humbling to curate exhibitions at a time of commemoration; to investigate the stories of those members of the Armed Forces who acted in such courage at times that must surely have been filled with extreme nerves and fear, trepidation at the unknown outcomes of their actions; the patriotism that motivated them to become soldiers in the first place and facing the reality that they may never return home to their loved ones.

It is reassuring to know that at this point in the First World War Centenary, there is still an interest in unravelling these human stories and keeping the legacies of Welsh soldiers alive. More than we consciously realise, these people all helped to shape the future, the world in which we live and the opportunities on offer to us all as citizens of the modern world.

Quite simply, the soldiers that we remember within the museum as part of our collections and as an integral part of the First World War Centenary in Wales, help make my work as curator so fulfilling. It’s a genuine privilege to come face to face with these histories.

Some of the most poignant artefacts within this current exhibition are the pieces of trench art, where objects of war such as shells have been transformed into decorative and beautiful pieces of art. I always feel that it is an evocative reminder that despite war, there remains an appreciation that hope still exists and that out of a gloominess an inherent beauty can still emerge.

These artefacts act as a souvenir of war but also act as a metaphor for change and progress. They also offer Museum Curators a very tangible connection to the person who created these artefacts; a bridge between the past and present.

Amanda, a Curatorial Volunteer at the museum helped to install the museum display. Exhibitions offer great opportunities for our volunteers to get hands-on with these collections and it was satisfying to watch how Amanda handled these objects with such care and diligence in getting the display to be as impactful as it could be.

The exhibition will be running until 22nd September 2017 and forms part of admission to Cardiff Castle.

If you do have a castle keycard, you will be able to gain free entry to the museum.