A Twitter Tour of the Great War by Alex Calvo

twitter-iconThe 100-year anniversary of the Great War, which together with associated conflicts such as the Russian Civil War and Japan’s 21 Demands on China had a profound impact on the whole world and planted the seeds of the Second World War just two decades later, is prompting renewed interest in its study. In addition to books, papers, courses and museum exhibitions, social media also offers an excellent opportunity to increase our knowledge of the Great War.

With such purpose in mind, we shall briefly introduce some Twitter accounts that readers interested in the Great War may find useful. This is just a sample; unfortunately, it is impossible to list all Twitter accounts dealing with the Great War.

Our tour begins with two Western Front academic heavyweights, Senior Lecturer Jonathan Boff and Professor Gary Sheffield, who have written extensively and are based at Birmingham and Wolverhampton University, respectively. To learn more about this theatre, one can also follow the Western Front Association and the Guild of Battlefield Guides. While its remit is global, we can also mention the Commonwealth War Graves Commission – doing a sterling job ensuring the fallen are properly honoured. Robert Foley, King’s College London and UK Defence Academy, is another military historian often tweeting on the Great War, with interesting insights on German tactics.

Younger historians on the rise, with a focus on the Great War, include James Pugh (also working on air power and narcotics) and Aimée Fox-Godden (also working on military innovation and women and ex-service organisations). This triumvirate is complete with Tim Fox-Godden, historian and illustrator. While having a broader focus we can also mention the Shropshire Regimental Museum – a hidden gem in Shrewsbury, and its curator, Christine Bernáth. General accounts covering the Great War include ResearchingWW1 and the International Society for First World War Studies, while Simon Bendry is the national education co-ordinator for the First World War Centenary Battlefield Tours Programme.

We can also mention the Imperial War Museum’s Great War Centenary account. With regard to local history, many towns and counties sport their own Twitter account devoted to life during the Great War and the contribution by their population, for example Shropshire and Norfolk. The same applies to institutions, such as Glasgow University. Archaeology plays a growing role in military history, and here we can mention Dr Tony Pollard.

India’s vital contribution has been receiving growing attention lately, and two very useful Twitter accounts in this regard are those of the USI-MEA ‘India and the Great War‘ Commemoration Project and specialised journalist Manimugdha S Sharma. Focusing on Sikh soldiers, we have the Empire Faith & War exhibition by the UK Punjab Heritage Association. Also increasingly recognised is the Chinese Labour Corps, which played an essential role in logistics and construction in the Western Front. Here, an account to follow is the National Campaign for a Permanent Memorial to the Chinese Labour Corps of the First World War.

The Great War was a truly global conflict involving myriad regions – among them East Africa, where German forces (mostly colonial Schutztruppen made up of ‘Askari’ – Swahili for ‘soldier’) engaged in guerrilla warfare and managed to hold out until news of the armistice reached them. Three accounts specialised in this campaign are the Great War in Africa Association, WWIAfricanCampaign and Guerrillas of Tsavo. WWI  in Africa has a wider remit, covering the whole of the continent.

When it comes to the war at sea, two accounts devoted to the Battle of Jutland are Nick Jellicoe and Jutland Remembered, while Alessio Patalano (King’s College London) specialises in the history of Japanese naval power and Alexandra Churchill tweets on a wide range of topics within the Great War.

Accounts specialised in Gallipoli include the Gallipolli Association, while Turkey in the First World War is devoted not only to this campaign, but more generally to the Ottoman Empire in the Great War. The Gallipoli Centenary Education Project works with schools to promote learning about the campaign among students.

While soldiers from many countries fought at Gallipoli, it holds a special place in Australian and New Zealand accounts of the Great War. Focusing on these two dominions, we have the Canon Garland Memorial Society, local journalist David Doughty and the Australian War Memorial – serving a triple role as archive, museum and memorial. With regard to Canada, we may mention the Vimy Foundation, and – with a wider focus – Canada’s Military History.

Among other aspects of the Great War dealt with by specialised accounts we can find Belgian refugees in the United Kingdom and Switzerland. Upcoming theatre productions include The Same Sky (a tale of a Notts’ ‘Pals Regiment’ and how it separated two lovers, staged at the Derby Guildhall Theatre) and It is easy to be dead (a play on poet Charles Hamilton Sorley).

Finally, given that learning a foreign language is often necessary to conduct research on the Great War, we shall mention some accounts tweeting in other languages. In German we have Der Erste Weltkrieg documentary series and Julian Nordhues – a Berlin-based historian, while in French we can mention an Internet documentary on the archaeology of the war, and specialised journalist Stéphanie Trouillard. An Italian account specialising in the Great War Centenary is GrandeGuerra+100, which tweets on a different aspect of the war every month.

(NB. Click on hyperlinks to access referenced Twitter accounts).

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