Our first poem release!

We are very excited to announce that with just a few days to go until the centenary of the First World War, acclaimed Essex Poet Luke Wright has written his first poem for the project.

Entitled August Bank Holiday, Essex, 1914

You can read it on the official press release and on our new ‘Our Poems’ page.

This is what Luke said about his poem:

This is the first poem I have written for the project, it’s a sort of patchwork of scenes from the bank holiday weekend before war was declared. I thought it was fascinating that a lot of British people were on holiday that weekend. We know all know the sinking feeling of going back to work after holiday, these seemed like a very grim extreme of that. I wanted to get across the normally of life going on in Essex with this incredibly abnormal thing looming in the background. I think it’s hard for us to imagine what being at war in that way was like, so for this project I want to focus on the things we can get our modern heads around, to paint a picture of life in Essex at that time. By illustrating the happy normality war wrenched away from people I hope to get down to how awful it must have been. It’s a real challenge to write about something so big, but I hope that by focusing on small details I’ll bring it to life one hundred years later.

We are looking forward to more of Luke’s poems.

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Lights Out!

Have you heard about the Lights Out campaign?

People are being encouraged to turn out their lights for an hour on Monday 4th August, in order to commemorate the start of the First World War, leaving only one light or candle lit.

You can find out more in a number of places:

Follow the event on social media using #LightsOut

Herbert Columbine VC

The statue to Herbert Columbine VC will be unveiled by Field Marshal Lord Guthrie on Friday August 1st 2014 on the seafront on Walton on the Naze. In attendance will be  the Bishop of Chelmsford who will be dedicating the statue. There will be a military quartet from RAF Albrighton. The Walton on the Naze Sea Cadets will also be there as will Lord Petre and the High Sheriff of Essex. It is a public event and all are invited to attend.

 

Carole's book which tells the story of Herbert Colombine in greater detail.

Carole’s book which tells the story of Herbert Colombine in greater detail.

 

For more details go to http://www.carolemctbooks.info/herbert-columbine-vc/

 

Where The Poppies Now Grow

Author, Hilary Robinson, shares with us why she wrote her latest book Where the Poppies Now Grow.

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The Story Behind The Story

Seeing the beautiful and moving pictures of primary school children planting poppies as part of the World War 1 commemorations has been truly inspiring.

13.tifThe educational initiative by the Royal British Legion aims to help young people understand the impact but it will also, undoubtedly, encourage them to find out more about members of their community who were affected by the conflict.

If I’d had the same opportunity when I was a child I may have been inclined to find out more about my great uncle, Sjt, G B N Johnson who fell on the tenth day of the Battle of the Somme.  He was just 22 years old.

For it was many years later, at a family wedding, that my great aunt told me how devastated her mother Jane, my great grandmother, had been when she learned of the death of  Norman.

The shock was devastating.

Every morning, thereafter, for the rest of her life,  Jane would stand at the top of the stairs and visualise the excited commotion of the morning when Norman returned home on leave for what was to be the last time.  Gripping the bannister she would pause and say “it’s alright Norman I’ll be with you soon.”   And even then, frustratingly, I didn’t ask much more.

In 1914  Norman was working in a gentleman’s outfitters in Reading.   He’d volunteered to fight for his county, like so, so many others.

The great uncle of my illustrator, Martin Impey, also fell at the Somme.  Arthur Sainty died a few weeks later aged just 19.

And so it seemed wholly appropriate that we should dedicate our book Where The Poppies Now Grow, to them.

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The story, specially written for young children, is a work of fiction and, in homage to the war poets, has been written in rhyme. Through the words and the pictures we have tried to recreate the sense of duty and pride of the time and to celebrate the human condition.  That, no matter what, friendship is a more powerful force than conflict.

Martin Impey’s incredible artwork is true in detail – right down to the black buttons (instead of brass)  of the Rifle Brigade – of which both our uncles were part.03.tif

Our aim is the same as that of the Royal British Legion – to engage young children in that period of history so that they will develop an appreciation for the scale of suffering which was to shape the 20th century world.

It has been an honour to play a small part in the centenary commemorations and to indirectly support the work of the poppy planting initiative.  We were particularly humbled when one reviewer paid us the ultimate compliment by saying that after reading Where The Poppies Now Grow, “children will never look at the poppies in the same way again.”

Hilary Robinson

July 2014

Where The Poppies Now Grow by Hilary Robinson and Martin Impey is published by Strauss House Productions.

You can purchase Where the Poppies Now Grow, and Hilary and Martin’s other First World War themed book The Christmas Truce on Amazon. A third book will be available so watch this space…

 

Epping Forest District and World War One Community Project

Epping Forest District Museums Audience Development Officer, Francesca Pellegrino, tells us about their community project.

Epping Forest District Museum is working on a project to help document the links between the district and World War One. The Museum does have a selection of World War One objects within the collection but we felt it was important to discover any other stories, memories or objects that people had and make a record of these.

As part of the project the team will be going out and about into the district, holding Heritage Events in various venues for people to drop in with anything they might have to share with us. The objects will be recorded and stories documented and these records will become part of the Museum’s collection.  Once the Museum reopens after redevelopment we have plans to commemorate World War One through our displays but in the meantime the Museum has a small community cabinet exhibition planned for August this year. The exhibition will be put together from items discovered on these heritage documentation days and will be on display in the reception of the Civic Offices in Epping from August.

Our first event took place at Budworth Hall in Ongar on Saturday 21st June. The event was run alongside the Ongar Millennium History Society and we had around 100 people turn up on the day to hear about our project, the Museum’s redevelopment and see some of the objects on display from the History Society. In particular it was great to see the guest book from the Cock Inn in Ongar which is part of the History Society’s collection.

cock inn guest book

This image shows pages from the book, signed by soldiers from the South Mid. Royal Engineers passing through Ongar on 22nd August 1914.

Several people brought objects and memories to share with us and hearing the stories and seeing the objects was a special experience for the team, both fascinating and emotional. It was great for the Museum team to be able to document some of these stories. One gentleman had objects and papers relating to his uncle and father who both came from Ongar and fought in the First World War. Below you can see his father’s discharge papers.

discharge papers

Discharge papers for G. Perry

You can find out more on the website,  Museum blog or Facebook.

We are still looking for stories and objects connecting the Great War and the district. If you have anything you might like to share with the Museum team then please get in touch via email museum@eppingforestdc.gov.uk or telephone 01992 716882.