Tag Archives: Wootton Bassett

Spaces of Remembrance

By Catherine Waite

Everyone is familiar with the traditional symbols, places and times associated with Remembrance Day. This year’s Royal British Legion Poppy Appeal, launched just under two weeks ago, hopes to sell 45 million poppies, the nationally recognised symbol of remembrance in the UK. Yet, the 2012 Poppy Appeal also incorporates a new and innovative method to encourage society to mark the 2 minutes silence at 11am on Sunday 11th November. By using the social media tool “Thunderclap” it is intended that the same message will be posted simultaneously on thousands of Twitter and Facebook profiles as a symbol of remembrance. In doing this the Royal British Legion’s appeal for remembering the fallen moves into a new space of remembrance, alongside the more traditional commemorations that take place at the Cenotaph in Whitehall and at local war memorials across the country.

Changes in the spaces and acts of remembrance have this year also been the subject of geographical consideration. The work of Jenkings et al. (2012) “Wootton Bassett and the political spaces of remembrance and mourning” uses print media analysis to consider how the Wiltshire market town became a nationally recognised space of remembrance as a result of British military action in Iraq and Afghanistan. In the course of their work they explore how this space spontaneously became a site of memory and remembrance, yet a site that ultimately became temporary in nature following the decision to relocate the destination of repatriation flights away from RAF Lyneham. It is therefore clear from both the innovative use of spaces and symbols by the Royal British Legion and the temporary use of urban areas as spaces of memory and remembrance that geography still has much to offer and yet much to learn about the contemporary uses of space.

Jenkings, K.N., Megoran, N., Woodward, R. and Bos, D. 2012 Wootton Bassett and the political spaces of remembrance and mourning Area 44:3 356-363

Poppy appeal launches with concert BBC News 24th October 2012

Royal British Legion first with Thunderclap social media tool BBC News 5th November 2012

Two Minute Silence Thunderclap

The Digital Gravestone: Technology, Temporality and Memorial

By Jen Turner

Less than a week ago, people across the world remembered events of 9/11 in all manner of ways, ranging from simple recognition of the date to a minute of silent reflection.  Two days later, Google illustrated a different take on memorialisation by displaying a tribute to German composer Clara Schumann, in the form of their infamous ‘Google Doodle’. 

A recent article in The Guardian considers how humans have always harnessed the latest technology to develop ingenious methods of memorialising people and events.   Here, Melanie King discusses the wealth of new enterprises available to the discerning mourner, including the transformation of cremated remains into diamonds or tattoos.  King also describes how age-old traditions have been dragged into the 21st Century using “hi-tech gimmickry”.  One Dorset-based funeral home offers the service of attaching a QR (quick response) barcode to a gravestone or memorial plaque.  This can then be scanned by a Smartphone, bringing “the deceased digitally to life” in the form of a full obituary and photographs at a cost of £300. 

Similarly, the BBC reported last year of the prevalence of tribute pages on sites like Facebook, particularly in cases where young people die suddenly.  Their report commented that, “with so many people having an online life, it seems appropriate that they are given a form of online funeral when they die”.  Online media has also stimulated other kinds of remembrance, such as the Twibbon Royal British Legion’s official poppy, which can be added to Twitter user pictures to commemorate war deaths.  As accessible and versatile as these technologies now are, King highlights an important criticism.  The advancement of technology means that today’s innovations may become obsolete tomorrow.  The digital gravestone relies on the continuity of the QR code, which could easily be replaced by something more ingenious.  What will then happen to those obituary memories and photographs trapped behind that barcode?

The temporality of memorials is discussed in a recent Area paper by Jenkings, Megoran, Woodward, and Bos (2012).  Here, focus is upon the processes of memorialisation in the English village of Wootton Bassett, which emerged as a site to honour British military personnel killed in action.  Located near to RAF Lyneham, cortèges carrying repatriated service-men and -women passed through the town, greeted by assembling masses of silent people.  The paper pays particular attention to the town as a place where contemporary engagements with militarism and the meanings of war are negotiated.  In contextualising this, Jenkings et al discuss the end of commemorative services following the repatriation of personnel to a different air base – highlighting the town as another ‘temporally variable’ space of death. 

Considering this in relation to the technological advancement of memorial practice, we can question the impact of creating memorial attachments to changeable objects and spaces. 

Jenkings, K.N., Megoran, N., Woodward, R. & Bos, D., 2012, Wootton Bassett and the political spaces of remembrance and mourning, Area 44.3 356-363

Remembrance in the internet age, BBC News, 11 November 2011

The digital gravestone, The Guardian, 9 September 2012

RGS-IBG New Content Alert: Early View Articles (22nd June 2012)

The following Early View articles are now available on Wiley Online Library.

Commentary

Static imaginations and the possibilities of radical change: reflecting on the Arab Spring
Federico Caprotti and Eleanor Xin Gao
Article first published online: 19 JUN 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4762.2012.01110.x

Original Articles

Wootton Bassett and the political spaces of remembrance and mourning
K Neil Jenkings, Nick Megoran, Rachel Woodward and Daniel Bos
Article first published online: 15 JUN 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4762.2012.01106.x