IWM’s ‘Western Front’ Violin


IWM's 'WESTERN FRONT VIOLIN' and bow. IWM catalogue reference EPH 709. Original source https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/30080949.. 9

IWM’s ‘WESTERN FRONT VIOLIN’ and bow. IWM catalogue reference EPH 709. Original source https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/30080949.


Rather it is a unique memorial to the dead.

Made in 1983 – almost seventy years after the conflict broke out – from pine and sycamore that grew at La Boiselle, Authuille and in a copse at Bois Quarante near Ypres on the Western Front, the violin was crafted by professional musician Kenneth Popplewell. (1)

Born in Hammersmith, London in May 1914 he had already showed his talent for music by winning a number of competitions by the age of 11. However this was in the mid 1920s and he felt compelled to follow his father’s advice and find a job that would provide some degree of financial security. Thus he became an apprentice printer at 14.

The Second World War interrupted his career as it did for millions of others. Following service in the King’s Royal Rifle Corps he decided to follow his dream of being a professional musician and became a member of Britain’s Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in 1946. He would continue playing for the RPO and the BBC Symphony Orchestra before becoming the leader of the Waford Philharmonic Orchestra in 1982.

He created the violin to honour all those who lost their lives during the First World War. His original idea was to raise funds for war charities through concerts and then putting the violin up for sale. (2)

The Imperial War Museum originally had the violin on loan before being gfted the instrument in 1992 following Kenneth’s death.

The associated bow was made by Charles Bazin, one of three members of the family with that name. (3)

Marked ‘C Bazin’ it is possibly made by Charles Nicholas Bazin (4) or his son Charles Louis Bazin. (5)

Kenneth’s violin has a special place in IWM’s collection. Visitors have heard it played at the annual IWM London’s Remembrance Day Service in November and on special occasions such as IWM’s Night Before the Somme centenary event in 2016.

STEPHANIE CHILDRESS plays IWM’s ‘Western Front Violin’.
Images copyright © Richard Maddox 2016. All images used with permission.

There Stephanie Childress (pictured above at the event) played Fauré’s Aprés un Revê, Op 7 just before midnight on 31 June 2016.

More information

More information about conductor and violinist Stephanie Childress can be found at her website and on that of her agent, Harrison Parrott, https://stephaniechildress.com/en/home/ and https://www.harrisonparrott.com/artists/stephanie-childress

As usual IWM commemorates the Armistice of 1918 with short ceremonies IWM North, IWM Duxford and IWM London that give opportunities to reflect.

Details can be found at:

IWM North:

IWM Duxford: http://www.iwm.org.uk/events/iwm-london/armistice-ceremony-at-iwm-duxford

IWM London: http://www.iwm.org.uk/events/remembrance-ceremony-london-2019


(1) https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/30080949 – retrieved 11 February 2019

(2) http://www.optimamagazine.co.uk/read/features/history-and-heritage/1525-strings-from-the-somme – retrieved 11 February 2019

(3) https://tarisio.com/cozio-archive/browse-the-archive/makers/ – retrieved 11 February 2019

(4) https://tarisio.com/cozio-archive/browse-the-archive/makers/maker/?Maker_ID=44 – retrieved 11 February 2019

(5) https://tarisio.com/cozio-archive/browse-the-archive/makers/maker/?Maker_ID=45 – retrieved 11 February 2019

Dr Anthony Noble Frankland, RAF navigator, author and Director General of Imperial War Museum

Richard Maddox

Dr ANTHONY NOBLE FRANKLAND died at the age of 97 on 31 October 2019.

He is remembered at IWM for his tenure as Director General of the Imperial War Museum from 1960 to 1982 – before the museum at Lambeth in London had expanded to five sites – and during this time revising the museum and putting in place the foundations of what was to become a world-class institution.

Field Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery, 1st Viscount Montgomery of Alamein, KG, GCB, DSO, PC, DL and Dr.Anthony Noble Frankland CB, CBE, DFC. Image via IWM's internal website.

Field Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery, 1st Viscount Montgomery of Alamein, KG, GCB, DSO, PC, DL and Dr.Anthony Noble Frankland CB, CBE, DFC. Image via IWM’s internal website.

During the war he served as a navigator in RAF Bomber Command on Avro Lancaster bombers. Flying with No. 50 Squadron RAF one of his colleagues was Frank Lieutenant Michael Beethan who would later become Chief of the Air Staff. (1)

An accomplished historian and author, he also co-wrote the official history of the bombing campaign against Germany, a process he attributes in part to a study he wrote on the RAF’s bomber offensive and its part in the collapse of Germany.(2)

In addition he was an advisor on the landmark television documentary series ‘World at War’ broadcast first broadcast in 1973 (3)

On 21 November 2019 the Guardian newspaper published an obituary for Dr Franklin.(4)


(1) https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obituaries/11957795/Marshal-of-the-RAF-Sir-Michael-Beetham-obituary.html – retrieved 5 November 2019.

(2) https://www.rafmuseum.org.uk/documents/Research/RAF-Historical-Society-Journals/Journal-17-Dr%20Noble-Frankland-on-writing-official-history.pdf – retrieved 5 November 2019.

(3) https://www.theguardian.com/books/2007/nov/10/featuresreviews.guardianreview5 – retrieved 5 November 2019.

(4) https://www.theguardian.com/culture/2019/nov/21/noble-frankland-obituary – retrieved 5 November 2019.