Our project 'The One Hundred Year Heritage of the First World War for Wimborne and East Dorset' is part funded by a £56,100 grant from Heritage Lottery Fund. Our aim is to uncover the history and the stories of those who lived in our area a century ago.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission lists 254 men who 'died of wounds', or were 'killed in action' and whose next of kin were in East Dorset, but we want to know about everyone else. The soldiers with no known grave, the sailors who were lost at sea, those commemorated elsewhere but with family in East Dorset. Or those who had lived and worked in East Dorset but the link has been lost. We want to know about those who served and survived, were they in the army, navy or RFC? What did they look like? What were their experiences?
In addition to the men who served, we want to know about the roles played in the war by women and children. How many East Dorset women stepped forward to fill the traditional male roles, working in factories, as VAD's and nurses, and in horticulture, agriculture and with livestock? The war could not have been won without their input, we want to find out about these women and tell there story too.
Because there were many private estates, farms and gardens in East Dorset it is possible some men would have stayed and carried out the important role of maintaining the land, providing food and fodder for the war effort and to top up the rations at home. These men would have been in reserved occupations, and they could also be in Britain in defence roles. We want to trace those who were Conscientious Objectors and the reasons they gave and what happened to them. Were any stretcher bearers or ambulance drivers?
Our final area for research is how our environment changed. Where were the army camps in the area? Did we have Prisoners of War working on our local farms? Which houses were used as hospitals or convalescence homes? Did the army billet any soldiers locally? Were there any airfields in East Dorset? What happended to the large estates, did they fall into decline during the conflict?
To make sure that the precious photographs, letters, diaries, postcards, medals and other links to the First World War are recorded we aim, with the owners permission of course, to take digital photographs of the artefacts and memorabilia and ensure these are recorded, firstly on our own database, (see menu bar) and by the end of the project shared with the 'Lives of the First World War' Imperial War Museum digital project ensuring all information can be preserved for future generations.
Some of the stories, research and information we collect will be told through drama workshops, and educational resources for schools. In addition we aim to present our research findings in two seminars to add to the academic knowledge and understanding of the First World War.
We cannot deliver this project without your involvement. If you would like to be part of this, and would like to find out more, please click on the Volunteers link above on the menu.
If you have any information that could contribute to tell East Dorset's First World War story please contact the Priest's House Museum directly, or use the contact link above.
We will be very happy to hear from you.
The Priest's House Museum & Garden is holding a First World War conference on Saturday 20 August 2016.