The eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month marks Armistice Day and 104 years since the end of the Great War. From that moment on, this day has become a day of Remembrance. Although particularly mindful of those affected during the First World War, this solemn day is dedicated to remembering all those who died in the line of duty in conflicts, old and new.
The oldest part of the buildings at the Craiglockhart campus played an important role during the First World War when it was requisitioned for use as a military hospital for the treatment of officers recovering from shell shock (or neurasthenia, as it was then officially called). During the hospital’s twenty-eight months of operation between 1916 and 1919, around 1,800 officers were assessed and treated at Craiglockhart, including the famous war poets Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen. To honour their memory, Edinburgh Napier University established the War Poets collection in 1988, and in 2005 a dedicated exhibition space opened in the entrance and foyer area of the former war hospital. The exhibition recounts the stories of those affected by war and remembering their lives plays a central role within that.
For Edinburgh Napier University, this Remembrance Day will also be inextricably linked to the memory of Catherine Walker MBE. Although not military personnel, Catherine was the face of the War Poets collection for many years, introducing audiences new and old to the (extra)ordinary stories behind each and every item in the collection. As part of her work, she contributed to preserving the memory of all the officers who passed through Craiglockhart War Hospital, many of whom – after having been discharged back into duty upon recovering at Craiglockhart – did not live to see the world rejoice the official end of the war at 11am on 11 November 1918. A beloved member of staff at Edinburgh Napier University, this month marks one year since Catherine passed. Her work and love for the collection will be remembered, and the new Special Collections team look forward to continuing – and building on – her legacy.
By Laura Cooijmans-Keizer