TPYF - Stevenage Museum appeals for stories of local World War I veterans

By Richard Moss | 11 August 2009
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a period portrait photo of a World War I soldier in unifrom and peaked cap

Pic courtesy Stevenage Museum

In the month that Britain said a final goodbye to Harry Patch, the last surviving veteran of the First World War trenches, Stevenage Museum is launching a public appeal to find out more about local men who also fought in and survived the conflict.

Researchers at the Museum want to tell the personal stories of the men in a new interactive exhibition, A Soldier's Experience, which opens on October 24 2009. They are looking for anyone who had family from Stevenage involved in the First World War to provide information, stories or photographs.

"We have done some research of all the names of the people on the war memorial in Stevenage but now we want to put together a picture of the people who survived the War," said Museum Curator Claire Sutton. "It is surprisingly difficult to research the men who survived, which is why we want people to come forward with their stories."

Research so far has focused on 12 local people, and the Museum is keen to find out more about their experiences. The stories will then augment the exhibition, which will invite visitors to travel through a recruiting office, a trench, a casualty post and a final section dealing with remembrance.

"The idea is that you will pick up a card with the details of one of the local soldiers and follow their experiences through the exhibition, which is very tactile and will have things like kitbags that you can lift up to see how heavy it was," explained Sutton. "We want to evoke the experience of joining up – and allow people to explore ideas of conflict, duty and remembrance themselves."

a period studio portrait photo of a World War I soldier in uniform, peaked hat and swagger stick underneath his arm

Pic courtesy Stevenage Museum

The research, which will be added to the Museum's archive, is part of the ongoing Their Past Your Future project which has already seen the Museum work with the local Nobel Secondary School to explore and contextualise educational visits to the Somme Battlefields of Word War One.

A video of their experiences will be shown in the exhibition, and staff are currently working on a follow-up intergenerational project in which veterans will meet with pupils to explore issues of remembrance.

A Soldier's Experience will also form part of the East of England touring exhibition programme, which is a Renaissance East of England scheme providing free-to-hire exhibitions for museums in the East of England region.

"I think the exhibition has a national context as well as a local one and we hope that local museums may want to use it and add their own local research," added Sutton.

If you are related to or know anything about any of the men below the Museum would like to hear from you.

Henry Shelford, Francis Males, Bertram Newberry, Reginald Newberry, Rupert Fellowes, Phillip John Deards, Frederick J Clarke, Hubert Clarke, Owen Eardley Gray, Harry Bates, Arthur Chouler, Richard Carpenter.

Call 01438 218881 or email

More on the venues and organisations we've mentioned:
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