Your borough needs you – that’s the message from organisers of a new Doncaster-based project aiming to document the impact of the First World War on local people before memories are lost forever.
The four-year Doncaster 1914-18 project has been set up to uncover the past that shaped our future, with family events, touring displays, new exhibitions, education initiatives, a new interactive website, and even an archaeological dig lined up.
Project manager Jude Holland said: “The First World War fundamentally changed lives and places, and the impact on the Doncaster borough is still clear today, with industry changing to support the war effort, family roles turned upside down as men and boys enlisted, and even landmarks changed.
“Sadly, because it happened outside of our ‘living history’ we are slowly losing our connection to the people and places of our past, and forgetting that its legacy is still shaping our lives today.
“This is where we need help from people to re-build a picture of life across the borough during 1914-18.
“We need to find out about real people who lived and worked on our streets, or fought far away from home.”
A packed year-round programme of events and exhibitions have been organised and residents from across Doncaster or anyone with a local connection are being encouraged to investigate and share family stories or memorabilia, or volunteer on one of the projects.
Mayor of Doncaster, Ros Jones, said: “The Doncaster 1914-18 project is a valuable reminder of what our ancestors went through during the First World War, and the incredible sacrifices that are still being made today.
“It is vital that we remember those brave men and women who served their country so proudly, as we continue to support the Doncaster’s modern Armed Forces Community in the future”.
“Whether young or old, whatever your background or nationality – everyone in the Doncaster area will have a connection to the First World War,” adds Carolyn Dalton, Heritage Services Manager.
“It was a time of tragedy and tension, with many sad stories – after all, 1000 Doncaster men lost their lives in the war.
“But it was also a time of industry and innovation, a testament to the power of the human spirit that provides inspiration and hope even today.”
As a garrison town and industrial centre, Doncaster Borough played a significant role in World War One, and Doncaster 1914-18 will be exploring the frontline experiences of its soldiers – and especially the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry; but also the home front through the lives of those left behind, making their own sacrifices and contributions to the war effort.
Fiona Spiers, Head of Heritage Lottery Fund Yorkshire and the Humber, said: “Spanning the same duration of the conflict and beyond Doncaster 1914-18 will provide an insight into subjects ranging from rationing and zeppelin raids to family memories and life in a battalion.
“Doncastrians are at the heart of every step of this project – from unearthing memories at Scarborough Barracks to personally adding to the interactive digital legacy which will connect the community to their past.”
This year’s programme of events and exhibitions look back 100 years to 1915 and includes a series of events, detailed below.
l The ‘Great War on Tour’ roadshow will be travelling to a range of locations and events across the Doncaster area, including libraries, village halls, sports venues, fairs and carnivals.
Those visiting the roadshow, can meet the 1914-18 Project team to share their own stories, bring along First World War photographs and memorabilia to be added to a new online archive, or try wartime costumes, crafts and other hands-on family activities.
l ‘Doncaster at War’ a travelling exhibition, which will be updated annually with stories of the contribution Doncaster people played in the war, will visit libraries and community venues across the borough.
l Opportunities to investigate the astonishing achievement of local volunteer, Wyn Bulmer, who has painstakingly collected reports of all servicemen in the local newspapers during the First World War, and created an index for local people to use in carrying out their own research. The index records those killed, missing, wounded, taken prisoner of war and awarded medals for bravery.
l A new exhibition, ‘A Call to Arms!: The King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry at War 1914-15’ at Doncaster Museum and Art Gallery uses personal testimonies and original objects to chart the life of Doncaster men, and those from the West Riding of Yorkshire, in the army, from outbreak to stalemate in the trenches.