Imperial War Museum North’s Lest We Forget exhibition looks back over 100 years of remembrance, exploring how we processed – and continue to process – the loss of loved ones and the trauma of the First World War. Sculptures, artworks, films, mementos and everyday objects are included in the exhibition. We’ve picked out five key pieces including an original draft of Sebastian Faulks’ Birdsong, a life sized horse puppet from the stage show of War Horse, as well as contributions by writer Rudyard Kipling to the debate around how the dead should be remembered. The exhibition is free to enter and closes on Sunday 24 February. Read our review of the show here.

1. Joey the horse puppet from the stage production of War Horse
Based on the book by Micheal Morpurgo, this war story is told through the eyes of the animal soliders in the First World War. The book has been a bestseller both in print and on stage and this life-sized horse puppet (Joey) was part of the National Theatre’s production between 2009 and 2013. He has appeared in more than 1600 shows.

2. Original draft manuscript of Sebastian Faulks’ novel, Birdsong
Faulks’ manuscript, complete with handwritten notes, is displayed in public for the first time as part of the Imperial War Museum’s exhibition. It was published in 1993 and had sold more than 5 million copies by 2010.

3. Gassed (1919), a painting by John Singer Sargent
Gassed is perhaps the most famous British painting depicting the First World War. Sargent, a graduate of London’s Slade School of Art, travelled to the Western Front in 1918 and this now iconic large-scale piece draws directly on his experience of seeing soldiers blinded by gas on the frontline.

4. Examples of the Dead Man’s Penny
Given the unprecedented numbers of fatalities in the First World War, the British government took the difficult decision not to repatriate the bodies of the dead. This was painful for bereaved families who were sent a commemorative coin bearing their loved one’s name (known colloquially as the Dead Man’s Penny) and any personal objects and possessions which could be retrieved.

5. Contributions by Rudyard Kipling (and others) to ‘The Graves of the Fallen’ book of guidelines 
The decision not to return bodies to their families resulted in a remarkable commemorative legacy. Remembrance architecture was constructed in many cemeteries around the world. What is less well known is that as part of the design process, the Imperial and Commonwealth War Graves Commissions worked with leading cultural figures of the time, including the author Rudyard Kipling, and the architect, Edwin Lutyens. Lutyens is also responsible for the former Midland Bank building on Manchester’s King Street which now houses Jamie’s Italian and Hotel Gotham.

Until Sun 24 Feb 2019, IWM North, The Quays, Trafford Wharf Road, Manchester M17 1TZ. Tel: 0207 416 5000,

Fri 1 Feb - Sun 24 Feb
Ruth Allan
Published on:
Mon 18 Feb 2019