Conan Doyle the campaigner

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A new exhibition in collaboration with the Royal Armouries about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s campaign to save the lives of British soldiers has opened this week at Bankfield Museum.

Conan Doyle is, of course, famous for creating Sherlock Holmes. Today he is less well-known for his campaign to reduce casualties during the First World War.

Conan Doyle used his fame as a writer to lead the campaign to save the lives of British soldiers who were “fighting for the freedom of the world”. This exhibition, funded by a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, tells the story of that campaign drawing on the writer’s personal papers held at the Royal Armouries and elsewhere.

Appalled by the 65,000 British casualties at the second battle of Ypres in 1915 Sir Arthur Conan Doyle proposed in a letter to The Times (July 27, 1915) that helmets and armour would reduce the number of wounds caused by shrapnel, rifle and machine gun fire. This was the start of a campaign which lasted throughout the war and which attracted the attention of the war time government.

Conan Doyle’s letters also led to a response not just from individuals but also from manufacturing firms making armour for private purchase by British officers.

The exhibition will be complemented by a free talk at Bankfield Museum on Saturday June 10 at 2 pm by Philip Abbott, archivist at the Royal Armouries.

Tickets for the event can be booked via Calderdale Museums website at http://museums.calderdale.gov.uk/whatson/events.