Last Friday I was invited to give a presentation about this website and the holdings at Norfolk Heritage Centre that can help with WW1 research at a conference called ‘Norfolk’s War’.
The day, organised by Keith Simpson MP for Mid Norfolk and eminent military historian, with support from the Forum Trust fell in to two distinct halves – the morning focusing on national commemorations and fund-raising, followed by a talk by local historian Neil Storey setting the scene for the afternoon’s presentations given by myself, Liz Budd of Norfolk Record Office and Kate Thaxton of the Regimental Museum about local sources for research.
The keynote address was given by Dr Andrew Murrison MP, a government minister at the Ministry of Defence. He gave the audience an insight into the commemorations planned at a national level, whilst reminding us that the government is keen that commemoration of the First World War is done at a community level.
Having said that, Dr. Murrison told the audience about some big ‘set piece’ events that are planned, starting on 4th August with a service at Glasgow Cathedral at the end of the Commonwealth Games. Commemorations will also take place that day at St. Symphnorien in Belgium where the first and last British casualties of the war are buried. A service will also take place that night at Westminster Abbey, starting at 10pm. Senior members of the royal family will attend each of these events which will be televised.
Over the four years of commemorations there are events planned for April 2015 to commemorate Gallipoli. 2016 will see events to mark the Battles of Jutland and the Somme, whilst 2017 will commemorate Passchendale. Amiens and the road to Armistice will be remembered in 2018. Commemorations will continue on a smaller scale to 2020.
Dr. Murrison also spoke about the educational programme that has started. The programme, jointly funded by the DCLG and the Department for Education will see children and teachers from maintained schools visiting battlefields in Flanders. On their return to the UK, it is anticipated that the young people who have taken part in the visits will become ambassadors for the commemorations, sharing their experiences and what they have learnt not only with their peers but also with their parents.
Programmes supported at a national level such as the 1418Now Cultural Programme (we blogged about their fantastic ‘Letter to an Unknown Soldier’ project earlier this year) and the Centenary Poppy Fund were highlighted, along with the HLF Centenary Fund, which has already issued grants of c. £50 million to over 700 projects (including Wymondham’s wonderful commemoration event). Money is being invested in sprucing up War Memorials and £35 million has been granted to rejuvenate the Imperial War Museum in London, which the cabinet of 1917 decided should be founded as the National War Museum. It re-opens on the 19th July this year.
However, Dr. Murrison stressed emphatically that it is the smaller projects going on at a local level that will give the country’s WW1 commemorations their richness.
He concluded by stating that key to our commemorations must be ensuring that future generations understand the enormity of the First World War and ensuring such a thing can never happen again.