This year brings the 100th anniversary of the end of World War 1 and there are many events organised to commemorate it. It was a great pleasure to attend the Hertfordshire at War Exhibition Launch at the British Schools Museum, Queen Street Hitchin last night. It is the biggest exhibition they have ever mounted and it is fabulous. It spreads across 9 rooms plus a trench and a dug out. It is a magnificent piece of work and a credit to all involved. I particularly liked the way you can experience the exhibition by following in the footsteps of a soldier. I chose Percy Buck as his surname was the maiden name of one of my oldest and dearest friends.I began my journey at the enlistment station where potential candidates were weighed, measured and had their eyes checked. Some would have been keen to embark on defending their country, some would have been absolutely terrified and I wondered which of those would have applied to Percy. In one of the rooms there is a magnificent quilt which lists all the boys who had attended the British Schools who were killed during the First World War. It is beautifully done and has great impact.
Outside a replica of a trench has been created and as you walk along it in the dark you can hear the rumble of gunfire. For us we know it is not real but for the soldiers who were actually there it must have been overwhelming. The noise, the gunfire, shells, gas, comrades being killed, mud and rats. Does any amount of training prepare you for that? Many of these soldiers were little more than boys. They have also created an Officers’ dug out which is also incredibly atmospheric
I followed Percy round the exhibition and was very sad to learn he had been killed in action but a very kind German soldier had found the card which was to be sent in the event of his death and duly ensured that his wife received it and although she would have been devastated at his death at least she was not left waiting and hoping. Sadly the young German was killed 10 days after Percy and I do hope someone fulfilled the same office for him.This is an excellent exhibition, do go and see it if you can. The Hertfordshire at War and the British Schools teams only had 6 weeks to get it up and running and it is a wonderful achievement for all concerned. We have lots of titles about the First World War but the ones featured in this article seemed to fit particularly well with the exhibition but do explore the others on the website.
Remembered with Pride by Jean M Handley
This book is about 68 young men who attended the Hitchin Boys’ British School and lost their lives during the World War 1. Each entry gives details of work and family, of their regiment, rank, battles in which they fought and where they are buried. This is not only an important book from a historical point of view but also for all the families represented within these pages See book
Jack’s War the Diaries and Drawings of Jack Halstead – a Great War Survivor
This book was only discovered after Jack’s death in 1963 and it records his war experiences in World War 1. He was a Hertfordshire man, born in Royston and was 18 when he joined the army in 1915. Jack was a gunner and he fought in Ypres, Lens and in both battles of the Somme. He was wounded and gassed several times but miraculously survived. This is a second hand copy but is in very good condition. See book
The Usborne Introduction to the First World War
I think it is so important that young people understand what happened during both World Wars. This book is excellent and covers all aspects of World War 1 from soldiers’ experiences to life on the home front. It is also linked to the internet and you can access the site using the links given in the book. I would say it is suitable for 10 years plus. See book