Trent to Trenches exhibition tells people's story of the First World War in Nottinghamshire

By Richard Moss | 04 August 2014

The trench newspaper has been brought back to life as Nottinghamshire honours the heroes who represented the county during the First World War

a photo of a pin cushion in the shape of a heart
A pin cushion decorated and sent home from the front© Courtesy Nottingham City Council
When Captain Frederick Roberts and his second in command, Lieutenant Jack Pearson, of the 12th Battalion Sherwood Foresters, stumbled upon an abandoned printing press in the ruins of Ypres, it gave rise to one of the most famous publications of the First World War.

The Wipers Times took its name from British soldier’s slang for the decimated Belgian city, and for the rest of the war the publication poked fun at the conduct of the war and offered a wry trenched-eyed view of life on the front.

Everything from poems to mock advertisements for the sale of real estate in the Ypres Salient featured in the satirical rag, which was published from 1916 until 1918. 

The story of this and other episodes from the Great War are told in a new exhibition at Nottingham Castle, exploring Nottinghamshire’s role in the conflict – both at home and abroad.

The trench newspaper has been brought back to life for the exhibition in a special edition developed by army families of the Mercian Regiment - the modern descendants of the Foresters.

The famous Sherwood Foresters (Notts and Derby Regiment) emerge as just part of a rich narrative which takes in fighter aces, factory explosions and personal stories of ordinary men and women - many of them researched and developed with the help of ten volunteer groups from across Nottingham and Nottinghamshire.

a painted portrait of a young man in a Royal Flying Corps uniform
Noel Denholm Davis, Study for a portriat of Captain Albert Ball VC (1869 - 1917) © Nottingham City Museums and Galleries Collection
A newly-commissioned film about the Battle of the Somme and several paintings reflecting key battles that locals took part in - including the Somme and Passchendaele and a digital map showing the increasing number of local people sacrificed in the conflict – feature. More than 11,000 men and women from Nottinghamshire perished, with many more thousands injured.

A tragic episode at one of the country’s most prolific armaments factories, Number Six National Shell Filling Factory at Chilwell, reveals the cost paid by people on the home front.

In July 1918, the factory, which was responsible for an estimated 50 percent of all British shells fired during the First World War, was decimated by an explosion which killed 134 and injured 250 – many of them women.

The story of local boy turned flying ace Captain Albert Ball VC who died aged 20 years old in 1918 with more than 40 kills to his name, is accompanied by a plan to produce a large-scale mural of him within the grounds of Nottingham Castle.

The piece will be produced over two days on August 23-24 by graffiti artist Tony Allen (aka STEP39) – a descendant of Ball. 

Visitors can also get advice on researching their own family’s Great War history each weekend and every Thursday during the exhibition with volunteers on hand to help them discover relatives who were involved in the conflict.

With Trent to Trenches events happening right across the county, this exhibition is a fitting community response to the centenary of the First World War.

Visit the Trent to Trenches Community website for more stories of Nottinghamshire and the First World War.

  • Trent to Trenches runs at Nottingham Castle until November 14 2014. Admission free.

a photo of two men poking their heads above rows of piled up explosive shells
Men and shells at Nottinghamshire ordnance factory, Number Six National Shell Filling Factory at Chilwell© Courtesy Trent to Trenches
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