Ashby and the First World War

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Thomas Ashby at the front, 1915-18

In July 1915 British historian and author George Trevelyan came to Rome on behalf of the Red Cross with proposals for the organisation of a British Ambulance Unit on the Italian front. Trevelyan’s defective eyesight meant that he was deemed unfit for military service, but he was nevertheless determined to play his part.

When war broke out, the BSR’s third Director Thomas Ashby – a pacifist and a conscientious objector – enthusiastically embraced the idea of an Ambulance Unit as a way that he could help those hurt in the war without fighting. Ashby joined the first British Red Cross Ambulance Unit for Italy in August 1915, paying occasional visits to Rome during the years of the conflict.

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British Red Cross ambulance at the front 1915-18

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Image courtesy of the British Embassy Rome.

Inside the hospital at Villa Trento, 1915 - 1918

Inside the hospital at Villa Trento near Udine where Ashby was based for much of the war, 1915-18

100 years on, 25 of Ashby’s personal photographs have been digitised from a collection of more than 350 photographic prints relating to the First World War, housed in the Photographic Archive of the British School at Rome. As part of a series of events commemorating the Centenario 1914-18, the exhibition La Grande Guerra: l’altro volto del coraggio. La Croce Rossa negli scatti inediti di Thomas Ashby, organised by the British Embassy in collaboration with the BSR and the Croce Rossa Italiana opened on 22 May 2015 at the Galleria Doria Pamphilj.

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The photographs in situ at Palazzo Doria Pamphilj. Image courtesy of the British Embassy Rome.

The exhibition was on display at Villa Wolkonsky, seat of the British Embassy, for the Queen’s Birthday celebrations earlier this month, where BSR Director Christopher Smith and HM Ambassador Christopher Prentice were among those interviewed for the occasion.

In late June the exhibition moved to the Sala Santa Rita – a deconsecrated church in the centre of Rome right next to the Theatre of Marcellus – and will tour to various locations across Italy throughout the year.

Christopher Smith (BSR Director), Anna Maria Colombani (President of the Croce Rossa Italiana), Giovanna Marinelli (Assessore alla Cultura e al Turismo di Roma Capitale), Principessa Gesine Doria Pamphilj, Massimiliano Floridi, HM Ambassador Christopher Prentice, Colonel Duncan Venn. Image courtesy of the British Embassy.

Christopher Smith (BSR Director), Anna Maria Colombani (President of the Croce Rossa Italiana), Giovanna Marinelli (Assessore alla Cultura e al Turismo di Roma Capitale), Principessa Gesine Doria Pamphilj, Massimiliano Floridi, HM Ambassador Christopher Prentice, Colonel Duncan Venn. Image courtesy of the British Embassy Rome.

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La Grande Guerra: l’altro volto del coraggio. La Croce Rossa negli scatti inediti di Thomas Ashby on display at Sala Santa Rita, Rome. Image courtesy of the British Embassy Rome.

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Comments from the visitor book. Image courtesy of the British Embassy Rome.

Many thanks to all of the staff at the British Embassy who made this exhibition possible, as well as to Luigina Antonazzo for the framing of the images, and Elio and Stefano Ciol for producing the digital prints.

Images courtesy of the BSR Photographic Archives unless otherwise stated.


Useful links: Ashby and the First World War | British Embassy website | YouTube slideshow of exhibited photographs 

 

 

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