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General News > "To Serve King and Country": From 1914 to 2018 - Teesdale's First World War Legacy
An ambitious and poignant community project guaranteed to impact on almost every family in Teesdale is being undertaken by The Bowes Museum, in partnership with the Teesdale Mercury.
The five-year mission, marking the centenary of the First World War, involves seeking the opinions of dale residents in order to roll out the plan.
With the conflict barely a year old, the Museum’s first curator, Owen Scott, circulated a letter to the then 44 ‘townships’ of Teesdale, suggesting a Roll of Honour be created to record those serving King and country. His aim was to create a complete and exact register of all those serving in any capacity whatsoever, regardless of rank. Whilst copies of the Roll for some of those townships are in the Museum Archive, for reasons unknown, the Roll itself was not completed. However, as the centenary marking ‘the war to end all wars’ draws near, the Museum intends to finish the task started by Scott in 1915, and to expand it to those parishes since added to the dale.
The Museum will take a leading role in assisting and coordinating local community groups and members of the public to research the war’s impact on the local area. Acting as a focal point, it will utilise its superb Library and Archive facilities to draw together those interested in uncovering more about the dale’s role in this momentous period in history. Participants will receive training - complemented by workshops - in research techniques, with help and advice from the Museum’s friendly Archivist, Judith Phillips, and her team of volunteers. They’ll be equipped to forge links within or across townships, adding a social dimension to working on this fascinating yet poignant project.
By assisting and offering training to participants, a permanent record of the impact of war on the area will be created. By tracking the war’s progress on both battlefront and home-front, and making discoveries available to a wider readership, participants and the wider community will be given a meaningful opportunity for reflection and commemoration.
Schools and youth groups could link their work around the centenary to a larger project with a real and significant legacy, with the hope that material produced will prove useful in making a war of 100 years ago relevant to today’s pupils by relating events to real people - relatives or neighbours perhaps - and places they know.
The Roll of Honour will be unveiled at the Museum, where it will reside in the Library and remain accessible to the public. However, the legacy of the project is expected to be much wider than the list of names. The project will culminate in an exhibition and if sufficient relevant material comes to light a publication will be produced, providing a permanent and comprehensive record of the history of Teesdale during the war while marking the efforts of participants. A website and a digital record will be created, leaving a permanent archive resource for historians, schools and community groups.
Jane Whittaker, the Museum’s Principal Keeper, said: “We believe Mercury readers will agree that this project is a worthwhile way to mark the centenary of a conflict in which many Teesdale residents played a significant role, many paying the ultimate price.”
The Museum is applying to the Heritage Lottery Fund for financial support, but will also need to find match funding to ensure the project is of the highest quality. The support of the local community is therefore vital to getting the project off the ground, so the Museum would be grateful if readers would complete the following survey.