Dunshaughlin exhibition underlined the tragedy of a disunited Europe

Story by Jimmy Geoghegan

Tuesday, 8th January, 2019 8:23am

Dunshaughlin exhibition underlined the tragedy of a disunited Europe

Dunshaughlin students who put the World War 1 exhibition together.

As 2019 picks up pace - and the Westminster vote on Brexit due next Tuesday - it's perhaps fitting that we should continue to reflect on one the more significant events of the past 12 months - the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day, 11th November 1918 when the First World War finally came to end. 

With Brexit looking like it's going to take place it's surely a lesson for us all to remember that a united Europe is better than a divided Europe - and an exhibition put together by students at Dunshaughlin Community College highlighted that point. 

The war, that started in 2014 was supposed to be over by Christmas that year but armies became bogged down on the western front.  The conflict dragged on and on; it led to the deaths of millions of people - including many who had a close connections with Meath. 

There were many exhibitions held to commemorate the courage displayed by those who left the Royal County. Among the best was one put together by an enterprising group of students from Dunshaughlin CC.
They showcased photographs and artifacts dating from the war years. They also researched stories of people who lived in the local area and were involved in the war. The exhibition  was organised by six Dunshaughlin Community College's transition year students - Charlotte von Kietzel, Aimee Capraro, Beth O'Donnell, Anna Fuchs, Cormac Hickey and Sorcha Love.

 Through their efforts and hard work they were able to source artifacts, stories and photographs from the school's student body and transform the collection into a colourful and engaging exhibition. 
The challenge of putting together the project was made to the Transition Year students by the their year head and Transition Year co-ordinator Kevin Reilly. He felt the school should mark the centenary of the Armistice in a way that would emphasise the local connection to the war. 

"This was a very good example of how Transition Year students promote self-directed learning and it was a wonderful effort by the students involved. They put in a tremendous shift here, in acquiring and presenting the artefacts," he said. 

Charlotte von Kietzell revealed how one of her forefathers fought in the war. Karl von Kietzell was born in 1874 into a family of Hesse army officers, and already his father, grandfather and great grandfather had served in the Hesse army. After the Prussian victory over Hesse,  they served the Prussian King.  

At the age of 12 Karl joined the cadet school, and served for a year at the Prussian royal court.  Karl recalled that he had to cover up the smoking habit of princess Charlotte, and when she went out for a cigarette, he had to warn her if anybody approached.

Later Karl became lieutenant colonel in the Prussian army, and headed an elite cavalry regiment. During the war, he was wounded three times, and almost died, when his horse collapsed over him. He received the Pour le Merite medal, the highest German medal.

 All the material curated for the exhibition was the property of various Dunshaughlin Community College students who graciously allowed their family heirlooms, tales and treasured photographs to be displayed in Dunshaughlin Pastoral Centre and in the library of Dunshaughlin Community College.

The display contained a vast array of physical artefacts such as a British Lee Enfield rifle, a morse code key (which was used to send Morse code messages by interrupting an electrical current passing through the device) and various helmets and medals.

 Also included in the exhibition, which was returned to the College, were fascinating letters and documents, some detailing the military service of a tailor in the German army. 
"Artwork was central to the exhibition, as the students strove to make the display as engaging as possible. The exhibition's beautiful title piece depicting a soldier, silhoutted against a sky of newspaper cover pages dating from the day of the Armistice, the 11th of November, 1918, was created by project leader, Charlotte von Kietzel and all other artwork including a timeline of events and display titles were completed by the group under her watchful guidance," explained Mr Reilly.

  The students were also presented with a series of six of the school's framed lino-prints, depicting scenes from the battlefield, propaganda posters and abstract representations of war. 
The exhibition was returned to Dunshaughlin CC and was made available for junior year group (first to third years). With the help of Kevin Reilly the TY students then organised a talk and included in that was local councillor and historian Noel French, Meath Chronicle journalist Jimmy Geoghegan and historian Jim Gilligan.

 "The unique exhibition marked the centenary of the First World War and quietly saluted the hundreds of thousands of men who lost their lives in the Great War, whilst bringing history to life by laying bare the connection of the people of Dunshughlin to the war," added Kevin Reilly.