Benfleet’s War 1914 -1920

Tuesday 1st July to Wednesday 16th July

To commemorate the start of the First World War, Benfleet Community Archive in association with Essex Libraries are holding a two week show at Benfleet Library. The show covers aspects of life from 1914 to 1920 that affected people in Benfleet.

Benfleet memorial

The heart of the show is the personal stories behind all 37 names on Benfleet War Memorial: where and when they were born, their parents, where they lived, where they served and how they died. We have some information for every name, but it could still be enhanced. At the March Show, where we showed a smaller version of this exhibition, we were given a photograph of one of the men who died. So we are hoping this will spur more memories and documents from people.

As well as this we are covering issues of how women and children were affected in the war as well as displaying a number of posters from the war.

The team will be there on some days to show artefacts, show facsimile and real documents, run movies from the period and answer questions.

The days the display is open are:

  • Tuesday 1st July 9 am to 5.30 pm. From 10 am to 1 pm the members of the archive will be there and there will be an official opening by The Mayor of Castle Point.
  • Wednesday 2nd July 9 am to 5.30 pm.
  • Friday 4th July 9 am to 5.30 pm.
  • Saturday 5th  July 9 am to 5.30 pm. From 10 am to 1 pm the members of the archive will be there.
  • Tuesday 8th July 9 am, to 5.30 pm.
  • Wednesday 9th July 9 am to 5.30 pm. From 10 am to 1 pm the members of the archive will be there. Also it is Schools Day.
  • Friday 11th July Library is Closed.
  • Saturday 12th July 9 am to 5.30 pm. From 10am to 1 pm the members of the archive will be there.
  • Tuesday 15th July 9 am to 5.30pm.
  • Wednesday 16th July 9 am to 5.30pm. From 2 pm to 5 pm the members of the archive will be there to close down the show.

Please come along.

See Benfleet’s War Exhibition Poster


Blood From The Poppy

An art installation commemorating the fallen of WW1

by Artist Nabil Ali
29th July – 1st September 2014
Chelmsford Museums

Nabil Ali poster

The common poppy – Papaver rhoeas.L, a well known survivor that emerges on the ridges  of our fields, was one of the plants mentioned in the LDA (Liber diversarum arcium) [1] a 14th century art manuscript outlining art discipline with insightful knowledge into medieval workshops. This research led me to explore the innovative techniques and methods used
from that period to create a full bodied red ink, with elements tracing back to the 3rd Century AD [2].

The extracted juice from the plant when freshly made into a drawing ink is a rich crimson colour, and has been associated with death over the last 8000 years [3]. It is one of the most recognizable plants from around the world and is still associated with the memory of the Dead and found in many cultures around the world. Its small delicate petals resembling the colour of blood, are prominently visible across our landscapes, notably reminding us on how short life is.

This exhibition commemorates people across the world who were affected by the destructive force of WW1 that changed the world we live in. The painting will depict an abstract view of the poppy plant commemorating the dead with the symbolic meaning to society, accompanied with poppy ink made from old technology in a new way.  This is an introduction to ongoing research exploring ways in making colourants from Nature working with organic paint systems to create art.

More info from Nabil

[1] Original Latin text translated by Prof. Mark Clarke from New University of Lisbon.
[2] Leiden papyrus V.
[3] Saunders, N (2013) The Poppy: A Cultural History from Ancient Egypt to Flanders Fields to Afghanistan.
Oneworld Publication.

Southend at War: Zeppelins over Essex

The Forum event 20 Aug 2014

Remembering the Great War
Zeppelins over Essex : a talk at The Forum Southend Central Library by Robert Fleming, curator based at the National Army Museum. See poster for details and website for ticket info.

More events are detailed on our Centenary Events in Essex page

A tribute to Kate Luard

Another blog post about our Essex heroine, nurse Kate Luard, from Sue Light of The Great War Forum (2009)

This photograph is of Kate in her QAIMNSR uniform which appeared in the Parish News of Birch, Layer Breton & Layer Marney in November 2002.  For the full article 'Village People in World War 1'  see

This photograph is of Kate in her QAIMNSR uniform which appeared in the Parish News of Birch, Layer Breton & Layer Marney in November 2002.
The full article is in ‘Village People in World War 1

What a great nurse Kate Luard was – one of those women who, even having written two volumes of wartime memories, has received very little publicity over the years. Born in 1872, she served with the Army Nursing Service Reserve during the Boer War, and then having been mobilised during the first week of the Great War, she went straight to France, serving on the Western Front until her resignation in December 1918 due to the critical illness of her father. She was never a member of the regular QAIMNS service, but remained on the Reserve, but already known to the senior nursing staff from her time in South Africa she was singled out both for her nursing ability and her personal qualities, and was often posted to the most forward medical units, and worked under the most trying conditions. Her writings show her as always outwardly cool and calm, willing to adapt to anything, anywhere, and carrying out her daily duties with unfaltering composure and dedication to the patients she nursed. She was one of only a tiny number of women to be awarded a Bar to her Royal Red Cross, normally the realm of the Regular QAIMNS, and a sure sign that her work did not go unnoticed by those in high places. So much publicity seems to be conferred on those few nurses who died during the war, while the service of unassuming women like Kate Luard, which was on a grand scale, often passes by virtually unnoticed. She was truly the ultimate ‘worker bee’ of nurses during the Great War.

Sue Light, Great War Forum, June 2009 







Merry it was to laugh there…

Jubilant Productions


Merry It Was To Laugh There

Cramphorn Theatre, Fairfield Road, Chelmsford CM1 1JG

Friday 4 July 2014 8pm

Tickets £13.50 Concessions £12.00

Box Office 01245 606505

Merry it was...

Jubilant Productions present Merry It Was To Laugh There, a poignant and evocative reflection on World War 1, using poetry and diaries written during the global conflict. Merry It Was… comes to the Cramphorn Theatre in Chelmsford on Friday 4 July at 8pm.

Merry It Was… marks the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War. Weaving together poetry, songs and diaries with archive imagery and pertinent facts about the lives of the men who were fighting and the women waiting for their return, Merry It Was… acknowledges the legacy of the written word which stands as a powerful archive of the experiences of ordinary men and women.

A devised piece, it captures the realities of war reminding us of the universal and enduring nature of the emotions expressed whilst acknowledging the unique and unimaginable conditions and situations of that time.

Merry It Was… moves from the poetry of the early war and the poet soldiers such as Wilfred Owen to the words of the soldier poets such as Woodbine Willy writing Trench poetry. It draws on the diaries of a serving soldier and gives a voice to those poems written by women who were finding a new role to play in the world while their men were fighting at the Front. It is an evocative, moving, at times funny, at times tragic, depiction of real life experiences of the war to end all wars.

Performed by two actors of great experience and depth, Christine Absalom (Radio 4, Mercury Theatre, Colchester) and Tim Freeman (Mercury Theatre, Colchester), Merry It Was... is a must for all who lovers of poetry, students of history and those who wish to learn from the past.

Tickets for Merry It Was To Laugh There are on sale now and cost £13.50 concessions £12. Book today by calling 01245 606505 or online at

Merry it was... 2

If you shed a tear…

Researcher, Ted Sparrow tells us about his online publications about the North Essex coast during WW1, in our next guest blog.

If you shed a tear poppy

If you shed a tear

In the first decade of this century a number of local churches produced memorial books telling the stories of those lost in the service of our country. To commemorate the centenary of the Great War an e-book has been produced entitled “If you shed a tear”. This is compiled from the memorial books of a dozen coastal parishes on the North Essex coast between the rivers Colne and Blackwater. It contains over 200 profiles of men associated with these villages killed in that war.

Those looking for a smooth narrative will be disappointed. This book is in fact a scrap book compiled by the local community and is dedicated to the Generation that endured the Great War. The odd press cutting, letter home or photograph still nurtured by their family is all that remains and is supplemented with such information that is readily available in the public domain.

The introduction describes the project to tell the stories of our Fallen. Thereafter the book is broken into 3 major sections. Firstly chapters1 to 8 discusses 1914 and how various groups in the community became involved in the war. The second section has profiles of other men lost in the 3 years 1915, 1916, and 1917. The final year of fighting is covered in the last section, which also summarise the cost to our community.

The title incidentally derives from a paragraph which reads: –






You are invited to download the book “If you shed a tear”.

There is no charge.

It is given free so that as many people as possible may read their sad stories and admire their sheer courage.

The file has some 385 pages and will take several minutes to download.

See link:

The Valiant Men of Essex

This book is published in the Centenary year of the outbreak of the Great War 1914 – 1918. It is intended as a tribute to all those who endured the horrors of that war and to honour the memory of those awarded the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.

The seventeen represented here are associated with Essex as encompassed by the county boundaries of that time. Two were awarded the naval version of the Victoria Cross from the Battle of Jutland and Gallipoli.

Those to the Army included the very first given, which were at Nimy Bridge Mons and the Battle of Le Cateau in 1914. On the Western Front they were earned in the Battle of Saint Eloi, Passchendaele and two in the crucial battles March 1918 during the German “Kaiserschlact” campaign.  Another was at Vimy Ridge while the last were in the final weeks of the war at Canal du Nord and at Havrincourt. Their ranks also include a padre and a doctor plus four from the Dominions. Thus this group is fairly representative of all those who earned the award.

One was earned in Palestine and another in Mesopotamia. In this last case he was seriously considered for a bar to the VC but Lt Gen. Sir S Maud, GOC Troops at Kut did not want to set a precedent – a double VC was unknown at the time.

So please read their stories that they may be remembered and so live on in people’s memories.

You can also find The Valiant Men of Hertfordshire and The Valiant Men of Suffolk on the website.