Graham Baron Ash's war diaries

Balloon exhibition at Packwood

Twenty eighteen marks the centenary of the end of World War One, and on this significant anniversary we remember all those affected by the war.

Packwood’s last private owner, Graham Baron Ash served in the First World War, initially a volunteer in the medical corps and then, for a short time, as a pilot in the Royal Flying Corps. After wrecking four aircrafts during his time in this role, he was transferred to become a Balloon Observation Officer. This was a particularly dangerous role, but Ash survived his time and returned to Packwood following the end of World War One in November 1918.

Close up of one of the balloons made by artist Jennifer Collier
Balloon exhibition at Packwood
Close up of one of the balloons made by artist Jennifer Collier

We are very lucky to have Ash’s 1918 diary here at Packwood. It is one of the very few personal items left behind after he handed Packwood to the National Trust in 1941. In this diary, Ash kept a first-hand account of his war experiences as a Balloon Observation Officer. His diary provides an opportunity to reflect on a different side of Ash, as he documents friendships, loss and his travels throughout France, as he moved with the conflict.

There are dozens of balloons suspended in the Great Hall
Balloon exhibition at Packwood
There are dozens of balloons suspended in the Great Hall

In this exhibition, we have worked with artist Jennifer Collier to present Ash’s diary and war experiences as a Balloon Observation Officer in her creation of a fleet of World War One observation balloons made from copies of the pages from the 1918 war diary. We have worked with the Royal Shakespeare Company to light the exhibition so that as snippets of text are revealed in the beams of illumination, there are also dancing shadows for you to hide between and experience the piece more fully.