John Dargan

Western Heights
The Battle of Le Cateau

‘Responding to what is around me is key. Being open to new possibilities, new situations, new ways of developing ideas is vital and a means to exciting outcomes and an exciting life! Using drawing, painting, film, animation, artist books, photography and interactive events, helps manifest responses appropriate to a subject, place or space.’

John Dargan is a Senior Lecturer in Lens-Based Media at the University for the Creative Arts at Canterbury. Recently he has been working on more socially engaged projects like ‘Sham Fever’, an interactive digital media project in Faversham, and has shown his artist books at the London Art Book Fair in the Whitechapel Art Gallery.

Associated Museums: Western Heights, PWRR Queens Regiment Museum

Associated Projects: The Battle of Le Cateau,

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Western Heights

The Western Heights of Dover is a series of forts, strong points and ditches which together form the largest Napoleonic fortress in Britain, first developed in 1804 to protect the country and the port of Dover from invasion. They were an essential base for the British Army throughout the nineteenth century and a vast training ground during WW1; it is now a local nature reserve maintained by the Western Heights Preservation Society (WHPS). The prominent Drop Redoubt (owned by English Heritage) is one of the two forts on the Western Heights – linked to the other, the Citadel, by a series of dry moats – and is so far the only structure that the WHPS has been able to open to the public. The WHPS works to both maintain and raise public awareness of the Dover Western Heights, carrying out ongoing research to help better understand their development throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Further information and details of open days can be found at:

Associated Artist: John Dargan
Associated Project: The Battle of Le Cateau

The Battle of Le Cateau

The Western Heights is a beautiful and terrible place. Silent, brooding, thought provoking and rugged; resonating with layers of history. It was a locus of military activity in World War 1; it was a significant through point for troops going out to France.

Thinking about this traffic, evident in the graffiti and remnants around the Drop Redoubt I read Phil Eyden’s (Western Heights Preservation Society) history of the Western Heights in WW1. An account of the Battle of Le Cateau in 1914 caught my eye and I began to see the possibility of an animation as my response to the Western Heights.

The account, by a lieutenant from the Kings Own Royal Lancaster Regiment formerly stationed at the Heights, had at its core an injustice; an animation could bring this story alive and be a resource the WHPS could draw on in the future.

I wrote a script, culled from Phil’s book and online accounts. Finding visual imagery to work from was difficult; Pathé or the Imperial War Museum owns much of what is available. With permission from both I started to make sections of the film allocated from the script.

I recorded the script and edited the sound to about 2 minutes. In the edit, piecing the sections together, I could see gaps and added footage using more experimental imagery from the start of the project. I made animated title sequences giving introductory information and created a more textured soundscape to finish the film.  John Dargan

Battle of Le Cateau : Film by John Dargan

Associated Artist: John Dargan
Associated Museum: Western Heights