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.



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

Centenary of the First World War: Our Legacy

Stuart Hobley is Development Manager for Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) in the East of England. In this blog he outlines the sort of projects that HLF is supporting along with steps your group can take to make an application for funds.

As we begin Centenary commemorations, it is clear that many local groups want to learn more about the First World War and how it changed their community. The impact of the war was far-reaching; in many cases tragic but often inspirational and a source of pride for communities across the East.

To help communities explore how the War shaped all aspects of life, we have a number of grant programmes that can provide essential funds to support research, displays, special events etc. – a whole variety of activity that will give everyone the opportunity to be involved in this legacy.

If you're looking for funding take a look at the Heritage Lottery Fund's website

If you’re looking for funding take a look at the Heritage Lottery Fund’s website

What is your community’s story?

Here at HLF I get to talk to so many different groups about a wide variety of project ideas; what’s clear to me is the shear breadth of themes and issues that you can explore. From the lives of soldiers to those left behind to those who objected. There were extraordinary advances in technology and in 1915, the Women’s Institute was created to help support the country. There was tremendous impact on our agricultural workforce and many new organisations were formed to support the wounded and disabled servicemen who returned.

And what speaks through all of this? The lives of those who witnessed this devastating conflict… Olive Edis, the photographer from Norfolk, employed by the National War Museum (better known to you and me now as the Imperial War Museum) to highlight the British Women’s Service; Lance Corporal Sidney Smith whose letters home were often annotated with cartoons and caricatures (and the letters themselves can be seen at Norwich Castle); or what about Inspector O’Connor who kept the streets of Bishop’s Stortford safe whilst the war raged overseas.

I’m learning about stories like this through projects we’re funding! We gave £10,000 to a group in Mersea, Essex to help people learn about fighter pilot Edgar Roberts, who would often fly out in the company of his beloved dog, Mick. A letter by Edgar was found in an old jar in 1988.. and now local children across Mersea Island are discovering even more about the War.

The lives of ordinary people who were testament to the most extraordinary events… if you are planning a project, think about the stories and people from your community. What is their story and how can you share this with others?

What sort of projects can get funding?

The projects we support deliver a whole range of activity. This could be communities working together to produce an exhibition; or young people producing a play based on historical information. We can help to fund websites, digitising records, photographs and ephemera; maybe you have something that needs conserving? We have helped to restore a whole array of existing dedications to the conflict, including war memorials, rolls of honour, and parish records.

All projects we support must help people, and wider range of people to understand and be involved with their heritage.

We even have a new grant programme called First World War Then & Now which offers grants of £3,000 to £10,000. This has been specifically developed to help local groups mark their First World War stories.

HLF can support not-for-profit groups and so far in the East of England, more than 50 projects have received funding; from restoring war memorials to using archive material to create drama. We’ve funded museums to help schools understand the impact  and supported villages to research and remember the fallen.

We want to see collaborative projects that bring communities together, especially those that help young people to understand the conflict.

How do I get started?

If you want to apply to HLF, the first thing to do is complete a project enquiry. This is a short form on our website; tell us what you want to do and how much money you think you need: we’ll then let you know if it is the sort of project we might fund. This is an effective way of getting advice and feedback from us before you apply.

We also have many good examples of funded projects on our website, along with helpful FAQs about different themes and issues. You can read these here:


Some helpful links!

So, if you want to get started why not see what other projects are doing? Some examples of other funded HLF projects can be found here:

www.hertsatwar.co.uk and www.toendallwars.co.uk

You can learn more about our grant programmes here:


Not only that, but HLF is working in partnership with a new First World War Engagement Centre based at Hertfordshire University. They too will have a variety of useful resources and can help with research. Learn more about this here:


There are also many other helpful online resources including:



You can also follow us on twitter @HLFEoE and #understandingWW1


Colne Engaine War Memorial Project

Written by Spike Townsend, CEWM Chairman

The village of Colne Engaine in North Essex have commenced a community based project to build a War Memorial within in the village to be completed in time for the 100th Anniversary of the First World War.

Designed by local architect, Philip Morphy, the memorial will include the original war memorial.

Designed by local architect, Philip Morphy, the memorial will include the original war memorial.


The memorial project has several aims:

  1. To be a community based project in design and build
  2. To become a focal point for the village to commemorate Remembrance Sunday
  3. To become a community use facility throughout the year
  4. To be built on a theme of Remembrance and Reconciliation
  5. To encourage the participation and support of young people within the aims.
  6. To support a local military covenant by use and participation in local service charities.
  7. Encouraging education and learning of conflict.

The cost of the project is estimated to be in the region of £25,000.

The committee is formed of village representatives from the Parish Council, Parochial Church Council, Youth Club, Historical Society and others, and our Honorary President is Lt Col Paul Morris, CO of 3rd Battalion The Royal Anglian Regt.


A group of residents have formed a Committee with the objective of renovating the old memorial beam that was removed in 1962, and then raising it to be incorporated within the new memorial that is to be located in the Parish Recreation Ground so that residents can use it as a place of quiet contemplation and for general community use.

The memorial has been designed by local architect, Philip Morphy, who has given his services free of charge to the committee.

We would hope that the structure will be used not only by parents and children using the playground, but by the school as an outside classroom when discussing the war and conflict. It could also be used as a small band stand for small concerts.

We have had a great deal of support from local trades people, including bricklayers and carpenters, keen to be involved and give their services free of charge. Skilled artisans are also involved in the creation of the new memorial plaque. The structure will be built using locally sourced materials.

Please follow us on Facebook:


Here you can follow one of our regular features, “The Men of Colne Engaine”  which tells the stories behind the men named on the memorial.

The story made the local press.

Maldon and the Great War

Our next Essex story comes from Deputy Town Mayor of Maldon and Independent Historical Consultant for the Maldon District, Stephen P. Nunn. Stephen is also the author of ‘Maldon, Heybridge and the Great War’.

Book cover

I have been studying the history of my home town of Maldon for the past 40 or so years. Towards the end of 2006, the Maldon Archaeological and Historical Group published my long-term research about the part that the area played during the Second World War; ‘Maldon, the Dengie and Battles in the Skies (1939-1945)’. In many ways that work is a very personal study, for it contains a number of references to the involvement of my own family in events on the home front during that conflict.

However, my ancestors were in Maldon long before the 1940’s and during my own childhood I can remember hearing my maternal grandmother, Agnes Crozier (1907-1986), talking about her life in Church Street during an earlier time – the so-called Great War “to end all wars” of 1914-1918. I even have a picture of her and her friends posing on a 14lb gun which was on display at the Promenade – a tangible relic of that conflict. Her first husband, my grandfather, Charles Lavender, was killed in 1944. Years later, in 1956, Nan went on to re-marry and, although I didn’t really appreciate it at the time, her second husband was a quite remarkable man.

'Uncle Clem' Last who survived the First World War

‘Uncle Clem’, James Clement Last who survived the First World War

He was James Clement Last, the then owner of the Promenade Tea Rooms. I remember “Uncle Clem”, as I was encouraged to call him, as a very kind and loving man, but as a young child I was always intrigued by his strange appearance. His left arm was missing and, to my young eyes at least, it made him look like a pirate! Little did I know the real truth to his story. He had in fact suffered that terrible injury whilst fighting in the bloody, mud and water-filled trenches of France during the First World War.  Each Armistice Day (the Sunday nearest to the 11th November) he used to polish his ammunition boots, don his very best black suit and clip on “Pip, Squeak and Wilfred” (his three general service medals which I still own). Then off he would go to the stark white war memorial outside All Saints church.

Maldon War Memorial

Maldon War Memorial

On at least one occasion I noticed when he returned that he appeared to have been crying. I often wondered why he was so emotional and why he would “pop up the town” to stand and stare at the town’s memorial – it just seemed “silly” to me then. But since his own passing in 1969, I have come to realise what was going on in his mind.

Amongst the 146 Maldonians listed on the town memorial as having made the ultimate sacrifice for their country is one “William E. Last”. Just a name but one that was very special to Clem – it was in fact his younger brother, Ted. Years later and a bit more mature, in November 1977, whilst a Cadet Flight-Sergeant with number 1207 Squadron, Maldon Air Training Corps, I was privileged to lay a wreath at the memorial to Ted and to all his Maldon comrades in arms. It was then that I started to realise that there was nothing “silly” about this at all.

'Ted', William E. Last. Killed in action

‘Ted’, William E. Last. Killed in action

My aim ever since has been to re-tell the stories of Maldon and the Great War. The events on the Home Front and the human sacrifice made by what was in reality 248 Heybridge and Maldon men. It has resulted in a further book; ‘Maldon, Heybridge and the Great War (1914-1918)’ (2009) [ISBN 0 951 1948 8 7], the unveiling of additional plaques to missing names on the war memorial, lectures, newspaper features, radio and television productions, work with schools, battlefield tours and a current campaign to try to get the government to award a posthumous VC to one of our Maldon casualties.

Stephen P. Nunn in Flanders

Stephen P. Nunn in Flanders


You can find out more about the campaign by joining the Facebook group, Forgotten Hero Victoria Cross Medal For Benjamin Cobey

Searching for the ‘Lost Boys’ of Chadwell Heath

It’s interesting what you uncover when you start to research a subject or even people.  Nicky Scowen, a resident of Chadwell Heath, part of historic Essex, but now part of the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham, was asked to research the 97 men who were commemorated on a brass plaque in St Chad’s Church.

Her story is told in her own words:

One sunny Saturday afternoon I agreed to help someone out, not realising that a simple “yes” would change my life so dramatically.  I was at a local history fair when I got chatting to a lady who mentioned, in passing, that the local history society wanted to research the WW1 memorial in the church.

The intention was to look at the then newly-released 1911 census, see where all the men lived and learn a little bit about them.  Without a second thought, I said of course I would help; Family history has been my “thing” for a number of years and as a subscriber to various family history related websites it wouldn’t cost me anything.  One thing that seems to define all local history societies is a combination of genuine enthusiasm and lack of funds!

I wasn’t expecting to be sent a list of 97 names, but off I went to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission lists looking for likely candidates.  The CWGC, the 1911 census, 1901 census, 1891 census… after all, once you’ve started it seems rude not to do the job properly.  Then there are army records, medal cards and war diaries. Oh, and electoral registers and church records and local newspapers; these men were starting to take over my life!  In a couple of cases I had to go backwards forty or fifty years to find a starting point before I could come forwards again.

Once I had information on most of the 97, it seemed only right and proper that I should try to find where they were buried, pay my respects and add photographs of their final resting places to the other information I’d found.  We had visited the battlefields and cemeteries of the Western front on several previous occasions, but had never done a trip quite like this before.  The coach company we went with on our first mission didn’t really know what they had let themselves in for; as is normal practice on these tours, we were asked if we were taking the trip to visit a particular grave or memorial.  When I said I had a list, it caused a few raised eyebrows, but by the end of the trip, as I clambered back into my seat after yet another unofficial stop, there were cries of “Did you find another one?” and the whole coach wanted to know the story.

Grand Seraucourt

Grand Seraucourt

What I hadn’t been prepared for was the difference between the beautifully manicured war graves of France and Belgium and the appalling destruction I would find at home.  I wandered in circles around one East London cemetery in tears at the sight of broken headstones and ruined graves.



One name was high on the memorial at Tower Hill so I co-opted a taller colleague to come and help me take a picture.  Some men are named on more than one memorial, so I’ve visited stations, schools, cathedrals and churches (having managed to convince the local clergy that I’m not there to steal the plate!)

After three years the research decided (on its own) that it should become a book.  The Imperial War Museum have accepted a copy for their library so the research will be available to anyone.  It is important that we don’t forget.

More on this story can be found on the Barking and Dagenham Post website.