The Priest's House Museum & Garden, 23-27 High Street, Wimborne Minster, Dorset BH21 1HR
01202 882533  museum@priest-house.co.uk

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The First World War in East Dorset

Posted on 08 Aug 2014
The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) has awarded the museum a grant of £56,100 to uncover the history and stories of those who lived in the East Dorset area a century ago, at the time of the declaration of the First World War. The project, which is called 'The One Hundred Year Heritage of the First World War for Wimborne and East Dorset' will run throughout the period marking the centenary of the war, and will enable local people to research the effect of the war across Wimborne and East Dorset and engage them in learning about this part of their heritage. The project will begin with two 'We Want Your Stories' days, being held on Saturday 23 and Monday 25 August, between 10.30 and 3. Entry to the museum will be free for people attending the event. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission lists 254 men who 'died of wounds' or were 'killed in action' whose next of kin were in East Dorset; project organisers want to find out more about other casualties of the war, such as those buried with no known grave or commemorated elsewhere but who had family in East Dorset. Just as importantly they hope to identify the stories and experiences of those who served and survived, whether they were in the army, navy or Royal Flying Corps? The project also aims to research the roles played in the war by women and children; for example how many East Dorset women stepped forward to fill traditional male roles, by working in factories or in horticulture, agriculture and with livestock? The war could not have been won without the input of women who became VADs and nurses, and project participants will aim to find out about these women too. Also on the home front, the project will investigate the stories of the men in reserved occupations and those who stayed in Britain in defence roles. Researchers will try to trace those who were Conscientious Objectors, the reasons they gave for their beliefs and what happened to them, including the stories of those who worked as stretcher bearers or ambulance drivers. As well as telling the stories of the people who were affected by the war, the project will research how the local environment was changed. Volunteers will be able to look at the army camps and airfields in the area and whether Prisoners of War worked on local farms; whether local houses were used as hospitals or convalescence homes, or as billets for soldiers. With the owners' permission photographs, letters, diaries, postcards, medals and other links to the First World War that are made available to project researchers will be photographed and recorded via Imperial War Museum digital projects, ensuring that all information can be preserved for future generations. In addition all the stories, research and information collected will be retold through drama workshops and educational resources for schools, as well as through two conferences to be held to present the findings of the project. Commenting on the award, David Morgan, Chairman of the Priest's House Museum Trust said: "This project will help to mark the centenary of the First World War and remember the extraordinary sacrifices made overseas and at home by the people of East Dorset. With the help of the local community we aim to record new stories to add to existing research, and make both accessible through a series of activities encouraging all to participate in. We are extremely grateful to the Heritage Lottery Fund for making this possible." Nerys Watts, Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund South West, said: "The impact of the First World War was far reaching, touching and shaping every corner of the UK and beyond. The Heritage Lottery Fund has already invested more than £57 million in projects - large and small - that are marking this global Centenary; through our grants programmes, we are enabling even more communities like those involved in Wimborne and East Dorset to explore the continuing legacy of this conflict and help local people broaden their understanding of how it has shaped our modern world." For further information please contact the museum.