Ashby and the First World War

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.

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 centenary of the First World War, 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 Galleria Doria Pamphilj, and toured to other locations during the year.

In 2017, the exhibition was presented to HRH The Prince of Wales as part of an official visit to Italy.

The Ashby images of First World War will be soon available for consultation on our digital collections platform.

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