Members of the Bridport Heritage Forum turn back the clock to remember the men who fought in the Great War – and to recreate a snapshot of life 100 years ago.
The forum got a £10,000 Lottery grant to research the story of the 140 or so men on the war memorial and to create a ‘living’ exhibition as part of the centenary commemorations of the start of the war.
The first event will take place on August 3 in St Mary’s Church in South Street after the civic parade.
Forum member Sheila Meaney has researched the stories of all 140 names on the war memorial and will be unveiling them after the church service and concert at 2.30pm.
At the service there will be a story in words, music and poems of a young man enlisting after listening to the then vicar, Canon Henry Richard Farrer.
The Rev Andrew Evans will be reading extracts from his patriotic speeches. The text of his speeches came from Mrs Meaney’s primary research source – Bridport and the Great War by John William Rowson, a former editor of the Bridport News, whose own son died in the conflict.
Mrs Meaney will be telling the story of the first two Bridport casualties – Ernest Greenham, serving on HMS Hawke; torpedoed by U9 on October 15th 1914 and Joseph Jeans 1st Battalion Dorsetshire Regiment; killed at the Battle of Bassee, October 13, 1914.
Mrs Meaney said: “At the moment they are just names on the memorial but they were all people, brothers, sons, husbands. Hopefully by researching them it will bring them to life.”
On August 9 the main exhibition Keep the Home Fires Burning will open in the town hall.
The exhibition is a recreation of Bridport soldier Sidney Murless’ home, No Man’s Land, a trench, officers dug out, recruiting centre and French café.
Encore Theatre members are building the set, which will include a mannequin of Mr Murless in his uniform and his wife Rose, and all the artefacts people would expect to see in a trench – periscopes, tommy cookers, shaving equipment, trench maps, whistles, a, gramophone, pictures and letters from home documents for leave, bunk beds and swagger sticks.
Mrs Meaney said: “It will appeal to everybody. People can walk around, pick things up and touch them. The stewards will all be dressed up. It will hit lots of spots for lots of different people.”
Mr Murless came home from the war and lived until 1956 but he did suffer from mustard gas poisoning and trench foot, said Mrs Meaney.
Mrs Meaney has also used the 1911 census to make a plan of East, West and South Streets with the names of the shops and people who lived there.
She said: “It was incredibly interesting. There are many familiar names and businesses. George’s bakery in 1911 was owned by Mr George. Some places, the names may have changed but the actual business are the same - Rawles has always been a butchers and Leakers has always been a bakers.”
The exhibition will be open every day from 10am to 4pm, including Sundays, until August 25 The project funding lasts until December 2015, and there are plans to go out to villages. All the information will end up in education packs for schools and there are plans to apply for more Lottery funding to publish a book.