New Bexhillian Magazine Article: Bexhill, Canada and the World

A new article has been published in the monthly Bexhillian Magazine. Entitled “Bexhill, Canada and the World,” the article connects the recent Sussex Day and Canada Day celebrations as a reasoning to reflect upon the shared history and experiences of Bexhill and Canada. It is also an effort to galvanise interest and engage the public in both my work and the upcoming First World War centenary. Public engagement is a key aspect of academia at the present time. Academics must attempt to make their research both relevant and accessible to as wider audience as possible. These articles are one step towards that objective.

The July edition of the Bexhillian Magazine can be accessed here:

Canada-Sussex

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Talk to Catholic Women’s League – 7 July 2014, Bexhill Museum

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I will be giving a talk to Bexhill Catholic Women’s League on 7 July. See above announcement. 

The talk will focus on both my Canadians in Bexhill and Knights of Columbus research. As the latter research touches on the partnership between the Canadian Knights and the Catholic Women’s League in the UK, this will form the core of the talk. Questions and comments will be taken afterwards. 

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Knights of Columbus paper – Abstract

Below is a very rough abstract for a book chapter that I am writing for an edited collection on Transnationalism in peace and war. The chapter will be presented next month at Memorial University of Newfoundland, St. John’s, Canada. The chapter uses some of my previous research on Bexhill and the First World War as a case study of the Canadian Knights activities in Britain. The abstract and paper are very much subject to change following feedback from editors/colleagues.

The Knights of Columbus in Britain during the First World War

The chapter will analyse the role and activities of the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic order and fraternal organization, during the First World War. The Knights of Columbus served a dual role – faith and recreation. The Knights of Columbus established racially integrated rest and recreation facilities for troops in Europe during the war. The centres provided a place of worship for Catholic soldiers and social facilities for all troops irrespective of religion, rank, or creed. The centres aided soldier morale and brought a level of inclusiveness for Catholics not offered by the Y.M.C.A.

Patriotism is a core principal of the Knights of Columbus. The term ‘For God and Country’ is a central component of its ethos. Members are expected to act as ‘patriotic citizens.’ Therefore, despite having a presence in a number of countries, the fundraising and operationalization of their wartime activities were nationally compartmentalized. Moreover, the Knights of Columbus required the sanction of national governments to effectively serve the soldiers.

The chapter will explore how the Knights commitment to patriotism affected its ability to act as a transnational organization. The central hypothesis suggests that Knights of Columbus did not act as single transnational organization but two nationally distinct organizations – American and Canadian.

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Maple Leaf Empire paper – Abstract

Below is the abstract for my upcoming paper entitled “Canadians in Bexhill-on-Sea during the First World War: A Maple Leaf Empire?” This paper will be presented at the Institute of the Americas, University College London in early July before being submitted for publication. The abstract is a work in progress but it gives a sense of what the paper seeks to achieve.

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Canadians in Bexhill-on-Sea during the First World War: A Maple Leaf Empire?

The First World War centenary commemorations will undoubtedly raise questions about how the conflict affected Canada’s journey from Dominion to nation. The centenary offers an opportunity to look at such questions from another perspective. To date, little attention has been paid to how the many Canadians stationed abroad were perceived by the local communities where they were based. Moreover, what impact did the Canadians have on these communities? Jonathan F. Vance developed the ‘Maple Leaf Empire’ characterisation to explain the extensive influence of Canadians based in Britain during the two world wars. In his broad study of the same name, Vance argued that a form of ‘reverse colonisation’ occurred whereby towns across Britain became ‘Canadianised.’ Using the East Sussex town of Bexhill-on-Sea, a location overlooked by Vance, this paper will put the Maple Leaf Empire theory to the test.

Bexhill was the location of the Canadian Training School, Canadian Trench Warfare School and Princess Patricia’s Canadian Red Cross Hospital (PPCRCH) between 1917 and 1919. Previous research by this author has shown that the Canadian soldiers based in Bexhill demonstrated a strengthening attachment to Canada as an object of loyalty and belonging.[1] However, it is not yet clear how the Canadians based in Bexhill impacted on the town itself. How did they interact with the local population? What were local perceptions of Canada prior to their arrival? How did they conceptualise Canada? How did these perceptions change over time? Does the Bexhill case support the Maple Leaf Empire characterisation? Drawing primarily on local newspapers, these questions will be answered with a view to gaining a better insight into Canada’s evolution to nationhood.

[1] Flanagan, Luke, 2014, “Canadians in Bexhill-on-Sea during the First World War: A Reflection of Canadian Nationhood?” British Journal of Canadian Studies, 27: 2 (Autumn) (forthcoming).

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Canadians in Bexhill article in Bexhillian Magazine

A short article on the Canadians in Bexhill has been published in the Bexhillian Magazine, a local free publication available to over 6,000 households in Bexhill. This article is informative and aims to give an outline of the locations used by the Canadians and how they interacted with the local people. This article serves as a precursor to two academic articles that are forthcoming. The first, “Canadians in Bexhill during the First World War: A Reflection of Canadian Nationhood?” will be published in the British Journal of Canadian Studies this September. A second paper entitled “Canadians in Bexhill during the First World War: A Maple Leaf Empire?” will be presented at a conference in London this July. The objective is to receive feedback and submit it for publication a short time thereafter.

The public engagement objective of the article is to spark an interest in the First World War among the Bexhill population and encourage interaction with the local war commemorations and the broader history of the town. Bexhill has a deep and rich history that is ripe for discovery. There are plenty of contributions still to be made.

The Bexhillian Magazine article can be accessed by clicking here:

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Updated CV available

An updated CV has been uploaded. Please view using Curriculum Vitae tab.

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Bexhill Remembers exhibition opening – speech

I have decided to share the text of the speech that I gave at the ‘Bexhill Remembers’ exhibition opening at Bexhill Museum on 28 February 2014. The speech expressed my sentiments about the exhibition and Bexhill’s war experience more generally. It is hoped that those who intend to visit the exhibition may use what I have said to inform their own interpretations.

NB: This is very much my own opinion. Please DO NOT cite or quote without prior permission.

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It is a great honour to be asked to open this exhibition. The final result is a testament to the hard work and generosity of the museum’s employees, volunteers and supporters. I think this exhibition and the way it was put together embodies the sense of community spirit that typified Bexhill’s war experience.

In the course of my work I have come to see Bexhill’s war experience from two standpoints:

–        As a location – Bexhill was ideal for training and housing soldiers

–        As a community – provided a welcoming and accommodating environment

When I was walking around the exhibition I was struck by how Bexhill, although fully immersed in the war, in a way provided a refuge from it;

–        Soldiers – convalesce, to regain strength and morale, and train

–        Residents – watch sport and shows

–        Visitors – Discover Bexhill – to holiday and enjoy the beach

–        Re-discover – Returning ‘home’

My Project has given me the opportunity to re-discover Bexhill. What I thought would be a surface project has actually reshaped my research interests, provided new opportunities for research. For example I will be writing a paper on the Catholic Army Huts in Bexhill and Cooden for a conference in Canada in July.

My aspiration for the exhibition and the WWI centenary is that it sparks a new interest in our town, encourages new contributions to the understanding of its history, entices more visitors and tourists so that we can showcase what is great about Bexhill today.

For me this exhibition provides not just an opportunity to remember but to explore Bexhill further. Thank you.

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