One of the ideas that kept me
going through all the research was that I would make a film that showed
the context of these men and their families within history. By the time
I had collected all the necessary information, technology had caught up
to enable me to make the film at home on my computer. The result is in
an animated film that shows all of the men's family trees growing over
136 years, mixed in with photos of their families and historical time
markers, with contemporary music, and with the cycles of the moon and
the seasons. The film lasts for half an hour and when I present it I
give a ten minute introduction that fills in some of the background and
explains how the film works. Afterwards, I talk for however long the
audience want me to (I suggest a minimum of 40 minutes), giving more
detail of the stories I uncovered and the detective work involved,
illustrated with photographs from my research. I am also more than
happy to answer questions, of which there are usually many.
I first showed it publicly during Surrey Open Studios in June 2005.
Emboldened by the reaction, I arranged my own event in September 2005
and have since started accepting invitations to give presentations to a
variety of organisations. As you will see from the reviews and
feedback, people have found it moving and thought-provoking, and my aim
is to show this film to as wide an audience as possible (please send me
if you have any ideas for further venues).
Previous events (including reviews and feedback)
- June 2005, Surrey Open Studios
- 25th September 2005, Event at
Mickleham Village Hall (see Review
- May 2006, Norfolk Open Studios
- 3rd October 2006, Dorking
Local History Group (see Review
- 27th February 2007,
Fulmodeston Methodist Church (see Review)
- 8th May 2007, Mundesley Junior
School (see Review & Feedback)
- 25th September 2007, Holt
- 27th September 2007, Cawston
Local History Society
- 9th November 2007, Mundesley
- 12th March 2008, Fakenham
Library (see Newspaper article &
- 14th May 2008, Dereham Library
(see Review & Feedback)
- 21st May 2008, the British
Legion at Wells-next-the-Sea, Norfolk.
- 25th June 2008, Weybourne Good
- 15th September 2008, the
Creakes' History Society, North Creake, Norfolk (see Feedback)
- 17th September 2008, Great
Yarmouth Probus Club, Norfolk
- 27th October 2008, Narborough
History Society, Norfolk
- 4th November 2008, Cromer
Library, Norfolk (see Feedback)
- 11th November 2008, Westcott
Local History Group, Surrey
- 19th November 2008 at Reepham
Library, Norfolk (see Feedback)
- 7th January 2009, for Wells
Local History Group, Wells-next-the-sea, Norfolk
- 21st January 2009, for
Mid-Norfolk Family History Society, Dereham, Norfolk
- 26th February 2009, for
Aylsham Local History Society, Aylsham, Norfolk
- 10th March 2009, for The
Cambridge Branch of the Historical Association at St Mary's School,
Bateman Street, Cambridge
- 21st March 2009, for the
Friends of Leatherhead Parish Church, Leatherhead Parish Church Hall,
- 15th May 2009, for the
Aldborough Village History Society, Aldborough Church Room, Aldborough,
- 12th September 2009, in the
Mole Valley District Council chamber in Dorking, Surrey, as part of
Heritage Open Days
- 14th October 2009, for
Downham Market Heritage Society
- 26th October 2009 for
Narborough History Society, Norfolk (2nd presentation)
- 2nd March 2010, for the
Norwich and Waveney Branch of the Western Front Association (1st
- 7th April 2010, for Wells
Local History Group, Wells-next-the-sea, Norfolk (2nd presentation)
- 16th June 2009 for
Mid-Norfolk Family History Society, Dereham, Norfolk (2nd presentation)
- 9th November 2010 for St
Mary's School, Cambridge (see Feedback)
- 9th April 2011 for the
Redcoat Society, Friends of the Regimental Museum of The Rifles, in
- 2nd February 2012 for St
Mary's School, Cambridge)
- 1st May 2012 for St Mary's
School, Cambridge (see the
- 7th May 2014 for St Mary's
School, Cambridge (sessions in both the Junior & Senior
- 28th May
2014 - at Aylsham Library, Norfolk, as part of the Aylsham Festival
- 9th June
at The Perse School, Cambridge
- 3rd August 2014 at The
Country Club, Melton Constable, Norfolk
- 17th September 2014 - Upwood
and Raveley History Group,
Cambridgeshire - "Your presentation has been described as
the very best we have had"
September 2014 - Society of Genealogists, London - "Several
of our friends commented to me afterwards that it was the most
interesting talk they had attended anywhere"
October 2014 - University of Huddersfield, Yorkshire
November 2014 - Pensans Community Primary School, Penzance, Cornwall
- 19th November
at St Mary's School, Cambridge (sessions in both the Junior &
Event at Mickleham Village Hall on 25th
In June 2005 I took part in the Surrey Open Studios
event and showed my project animated film in public for the first time.
I had such an overwhelming positive response that I organised a special
event on 25th September 2005 - and this is how
it was written up in the Mickleham Parish Magazine:
An art event at Mickleham Village Hall
A Group Photograph
Sunday 25th September saw one of the most
unusual events held at the village hall for a long time. Andrew
Tatham's "A Group Photograph", the culmination of seven years of
research, had its first public showing - hopefully the first of many.
Andrew's project was based on a
photograph, taken in May 1915, of the 46 officers of the 8th battalion,
the Royal Berkshire Regiment, a few weeks before they departed for the
trenches of France. Andrew set himself the task of finding out what
happened to the men pictured and also to their descendants – a huge
undertaking, involving travels around not only the United Kingdom but
to the USA, Canada, South Africa and Australia.
The presentation itself is a graphical
representation of the individuals shown in the photograph and their
families and starts with a picture of the meadow on Salisbury Plain
where the original photo was taken. Starting in 1864 when the first of
the officers (Andrew's great grandfather) was born, the screen
gradually fills up with rows of green shoots, each representing one of
the individuals shown, while a counter keeps track of the passing days
and years. At the same time, there is a snapshot of memorable events
and soundtrack of the music for each year shown. Gilbert and Sullivan
gives way to Elgar as the shoots grow. The death of Queen Victoria and
the Wright brothers' first flight ushers in the long Edwardian summer
and the approaching war, marked by "It's a long way to Tipperary",
seems to come from nowhere. Of the 46 officers in the photograph, 15
were killed at the battle of Loos alone, and the starkness of Andrew's
depiction of this is deeply moving.
But time moves inexorably on. The 21
survivors return from the trenches to some form of normality and
gradually the remaining trees start to sprout branches, representing
the next generation. As the years pass, these branches also send out
new shoots. Glenn Miller gives way to Elvis, the Beatles and Abba. One
by one the old soldiers grow old and die, but grandchildren are joined
by great-grandchildren and pictures flash up of very old men with young
children. By the year 2000, the screen is an intricate mass of greenery
- a celebration of life.
As Andrew himself admits, the only thing
missing from the presentation is background details of each of the
individuals shown. The flyer given out beforehand hints at some of the
extraordinary lives lived by the survivors and their offspring, and
Andrew is working on how to best handle the volumes of detail he's
This was an extraordinary, beautiful and
very moving event, made even more poignant by the timing – September
25th was precisely 90 years after the first day of the Battle of Loos,
which cost the British Army 60,000 casualties. Andrew's work deserves
to find a national platform – the Imperial War Museum would be perfect
- before too long.
Before this, it would be ideal to have
another local showing. Andrew – could you see what you can arrange?
Everyone else, come and see it. It's stunning.
My thanks to Chris Budleigh for that wonderful article
- and also to those people who gave the following feedback:
Back to the Top of the Page
Event at Dorking Local History Group on 3rd
Review in the Dorking Advertiser:
I gave a presentation about my Group Photograph
project to Dorking Local History Group at the Friends' Meeting House in
Dorking on Tuesday 3rd October 2006. I started by showing my animated
film, and I then took questions. These led me to discuss how I had gone
about my research as well as further details about the individuals in
the photograph and the historical contexts (including the projection of
some of the photographs I have collected along the way).
I had a lot of individuals come and chat to me afterwards - and a lot
of positive comments both in the feedback forms that people returned to
me and in the emails that came to me direct - of which these are a
small selection (the first one below being from the Group's Convenor):
'It was a new type of evening
for us, but it was exceptionally well received. Several members made a
point of telling me how much they got out of it & I have
absolutely no regrets. Thank you so much for sharing your results with
us. We will certainly recommend it to as many people as we can. The
animation alone gave us much food for thought but being able to hear
something of the work you put into it made it even more interesting. We
were impressed how immersed you were in all those lives even though you
have stopped active research into them.'
'The film was fascinating and so inventive. It
kept everyone spellbound.'
ON THE wall of a pub in Wimbledon some years ago, Andrew Tatham noticed
a large group photograph of First World War soldiers.
As he studied the faces he was moved to
wonder what had happened to them, whether any memory of them remained.
A short while later, in the course of
some family history research, he looked at another group photograph in
a military museum.
Here were 46 men officers of the 8th
Battalion, the Royal Berkshire Regiment, at their training camp on
Salisbury Plain in May 1915.
One of them was Andrew's
great-grandfather, but about the rest he only knew their names, listed
in rows beneath the picture.
These two photographs and the feelings
inspired led him to embark on a project which
would occupy a great deal of time over the next seven years and would
eventually take him not only to 23 counties in England but also to
South Africa, Scotland, Canada, Australia and the USA.
He made contact with the families of
every man in the 8th Battalion photograph (plus four of their comrades
who missed it) traced the descendants, and amassed documents, letters,
anecdotes and more photographs.
Andrew, with an interest in film, has
made a 30 minute animated flick using video, painting and music to show
the family trees of the 46 men, growing over time from 1864, when the
oldest was born.
The cumulative effect of the presentation was very moving, and one
became intensely involved with these glimpses of individual lives at
moments of joy, or solemnity, at work or on
holiday, but always subject to the remorseless
onward rush of time, change and chance.
At the end of the film Andrew Tatham
responded to eager questions with a wealth of fascinating information
about his project and the discoveries he made.
He found the families first by searching
through Battalion records, Army lists, Wills Registers, electoral
registers, telephone directories and then setting up a website and
contacting living descendants all over the world.
It was a stimulating meeting, and we were
most grateful to Andrew for his presentation of an impressive piece of
historical research which was also an equally impressive work of art.
Back to the Top of the Page
Event at Fulmodeston Methodist Chapel on 27th
It was a cold wintery evening but still about 25 people
came from Fulmodeston, Hindolveston, Thursford, Croxton, Fakenham and
other neighbouring villages to attended my presentation in my village's
small Methodist chapel. I received a lot of interest and questions -
and collected £51.50 for World
Vision. Thank you to David Yarham for inviting me to take
part in the series of occasional talks that he organises.
Back to the Top of the
Event at Mundesley Junior School on 8th
I wasn't sure how giving a presentation to 150 9- to
11-year-olds and their teachers was going to go - but they really
seemed to get a lot from it, and the headmaster invited me back for
further sessions at Remembrance time. I got letters from a number of
the children, of which this is a sample:
Back to the Top of the Page
Event at Fakenham Library on 12th
Fakenham Library is where I work and it was great to see all the
tickets sell out for this event. I also had a good deal of press
interest, with articles in the Eastern Daily Press, and the Fakenham
& Wells Times (and one in the Lynn News still to come) - you
can see the whole article in the Fakenham & Wells Times here
. Again I had a great
response and it was nice to talk to customers when working at the
library over the ensuing few days and see how much the evening had
meant to them. I also received some email, including this one:
Back to the Top of the
I attended your presentation last night with my
husband and I wanted to let you know what a thoroughly moving
experience it was. I have been researching my family history for about
3 years and have four great uncles who were killed in the war. I have
read quite a few books about WW1 and the effects of it on the men and
their families but your presentation captured the essence of the people
caught up in the horrors of war more vividly than anything I have read
or photos I have seen.
Thank you so much for such an interesting and thought provoking
Event at Dereham Library on 14th
This event (part of the Dereham Festival) was sold out (and more) - and
in fact the audience was all there and in place quarter of an hour
before I was due to start, so we closed the doors and began early. This
time I started by taking a group photograph of the audience - and here
This was one of the best events for me in terms of response from the
audience - a good variety of questions both during the presentation and
afterwards on a one-to-one basis. And after the event I got this email
from Mike Snyder, Urban Affairs Reporter of the
Back to the Top of the
My wife and I just returned from a visit to the
UK, where we had the pleasure of seeing your presentation on your
"group photo" research project at the Dereham library. Some friends of
ours were organizers of the Dereham Festival. As a journalist I know a
bit about research, and I found your level of commitment to this
project nothing short of astonishing. I'll confess that I had no
particular expectations in advance (some guy has devoted years to
researching the stories of a bunch of WWI soldiers? To what end?) but
your presentation was a reminder that all human stories have unique
Thanks for sharing your story, and all the best in your future
The Creakes History Society on 15th
"Thank you so much for coming to visit us on
Monday. We so enjoyed your presentation of film & talk. It is
something so different and so interesting."
Back to the Top of the
Event at Cromer Library on 4th
Another great audience - I must have talked to everyone there at some
point - either during the drinks break or during the talk or
afterwards. It is so inspiring to see that what I have been doing seems
to mean so much to such a variety of people. It was also the event
where I've had the most unsolicited feedback in terms of letters and
emails - here is a selection:
I attended your presentation at Cromer last night
and wish to tell you how much I enjoyed it.
Clearly you have done a huge amount of research and, for instance, have
the names of each
man in your memory. It was clear from your talk that your knowledge
about the individuals and
their families has had a profound impact on you and the attentiveness
of last night's audience is testament to the fact that we all
experienced some of that impact. You could have heard the proverbial
The film was a very clever way of rapidly telling a story that covered
more than a century and
it worked well.
I shall certainly purchase the book when it is published. There is so
much more to tell than you
were able to cram in last night.
I attended your presentation at Cromer Library
last night and just wanted to tell you what an excellent presentation
you made. I learnt such a lot, and you also gave me much to think
Thank you, and good luck with your project
Back to the Top of the
Thanks so much for your talk and presentation.
We've had so many lovely comments and a card. Also people coming in to
say that they had thought of lots of questions after but had been too
absorbed to ask at the time.
I thought it was really really deep and thoroughly thought provoking
Community Librarian at Cromer
Event at Reepham Library on 19th
I've just had a nice selection of comments sent on to me from the
"Best public speaker I have heard in a long time"
"Very interesting , such a lot of work to have undertaken"
"Fascinating, would like to have heard about all of the men,
could have stayed longer"
"Enjoyable evening, thank you"
And thank you very much to Stephen Rashid for this:
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My wife and I enjoyed and appreciated your
presentation very much last night. It was vivid and moving in
describing the personal element behind the uniforms very forcefully.
Thank you very much. We wish you all success in your writing - there
would seem to be material for several books in the stories you have
unearthed,and they are truly fascinating.
When you were speaking about Leslie Herman BERLEIN, you remarked on the
way in which his memory had been kept alive by his family, so that
despite his early death he lived on for them. This reminded me of a
poem by Brian Patten on the same theme, which I attach. You may find it
With warmest best wishes,
So Many Different Lengths
of Time – a poem by Brian Patten
How long is a man's life, finally?
Is it a thousand days, or only one?
One week or a few centuries?
How long does a man's death last?
And what do we mean when we say, 'gone forever'?
Adrift in such preoccupations, we seek clarification.
We can go to the philosophers,
But they will grow tired of our questions.
We can go to the priests and rabbis
But they might be too busy with administration.
* * *
So, how long does a man live, finally?
And how much does he live while he lives?
We fret and ask so many questions –
Then when it comes to us,
The answer is so simple.
A man lives for as long as we carry him inside us,
For as long as we carry the harvest of his dreams,
For as long as we ourselves live,
Holding memories in common, a man lives.
His lover will carry his man's scent, his touch;
His children will carry the weight of his love.
One friend will carry his arguments,
Another will hum his favourite tunes,
Another will still share his terrors.
And the days will pass with baffled faces,
Then the weeks, then the months,
Then there will be a day when no question is asked,
And the knots of grief will loosen in the stomach,
And the puffed faces will calm.
And on that day he will not have ceased,
But will have ceased to be separated by death.
How long does a man live, finally?
A man lives so many different lengths of time.
Talk at St Mary's School, Cambridge on 9th
I was invited to give a lunch-time talk in the library at St Mary's
School. It was a thrill for me to get such an interested and
interesting response to my project, both at the time and afterwards
when I received feedback about the classroom conversations after I had
gone. The following is the article that Year 10 wrote up about my talk:
Back to the Top of the
Andrew Tatham and the Group Photograph
A personal view of the First World War
This was a brilliant and inspirational talk which connected well with
our work on Wilfred Owen. Mr Tatham told us how he had seen a photo
which showed his great grandfather and his battalion during the First
World War. He has spent seventeen years researching every man in the
picture and his descendants. Some of the men were killed but others
went on to do great things.
He focused on particular objects: an identity disc which still had a
bloodstain on it, a letter, a photo of a young war widow, a memorial
font cover and a battered helmet which had seen action and saved a
man's life. The strongly personal interpretation of the events of the
War and the lives of the soldiers made us see the situation from a new
perspective. Owen writes about what happened on the battlefields and
shares his bitter views about politics and propaganda but charismatic
Mr Tatham made us realise the power of humanity to regenerate and
overcome the devastation of war. He personalised the historical
information by referring to real people - for example William Bissley,
Mervyn Pugh, Hugh Cassels and poor William Joseph who suffered from
shellshock. Although these people had officer status, most were quite
ordinary and suffered the same problems with fear, injury and loss as
everyone else. They were not in themselves a unique group but the
research has made them come across to us as special representatives of
their generation. We felt part of the army experience with the use of
technical language. For example, we discovered exactly what a 'sap' is
and the fact that trenches were dug in zig-zag patterns which was
interesting and new to us. We were encouraged to empathise with the
men's loss of opportunity. War took many young men out of education
whether it was from top universities or ordinary schools. This affected
their chance of employment if they survived. We learned about waste and
tragedy such as friendly fire when people were shot by their own
artillery. News reports about current wars now have increased meaning
and interest and several of us have rushed to borrow novels set during
the 1914-18 period.
We all enjoyed seeing the Group Photo and the pictures of the families
today, three generations later. We have learned things of fundamental
importance: that tragic events in history do not have to be interpreted
only negatively and that anyone with an interest in a particular
subject can research independently and share their passion with others.
Members of year 10
Programme of Future Presentations on my Group
I'm currently working towards a major exhibition about this project,
taking place at In Flanders Fields Museum in Ypres in 2015. With all
the work for that, and the fact that I will be spending a lot of time
over in Belgium, I am unable to commit to giving further presentations
at the moment.