Britain’s Imperial War Museum is launching its first major exhibition to mark the centenary of World War One.
Entitled ‘From Street to Trench: A World War that Shaped a Region’, it offers personal insights into the conflict thanks to memorabilia and letters provided by locals. They are displayed alongside national treasures, such as original manuscripts from the Bodleian Library.
Many of the visitors will be able to relate directly to history, like Carl Richardson whose great-uncle Mathew was a World War One soldier.
“Matthew was a keen sportsman, he played for Stretford AFC which is a local football team in this area, and he was just an ordinary bloke. It’s what happened to them in the totally unexpected horror of what was to come in 1914. I think it’s worthwhile seeing something like this to remind people of what people went through during that generation, and that war is a horrible thing,” Richardson said.
Mobilising an estimated 70 million fighters, the First World War was one of the deadliest in history. It was the first modern conflict fought with 20th century technology including planes, tanks and gas. The widespread use of chemical warfare was a distinguishing feature of the war.
Fourteen-year-old Erin Farrell carried out research for the exhibition as part of a school project. She found that her great-great-great uncle fought in the war – and was killed the day before it ended.
“It was amazing, finding out about my family. History is interesting anyway, but to find out that it was linked to my family as well – it was really nice,” she said.
Victor Brookes was awarded the prestigious ‘Albert Medal’ for trying to rescue colleagues from a gas-filled bomb crater during the Battle of the Somme – one of the deadliest in the history of mankind.
Brookes’ son Allan tells the story: “A bomb had exploded in the dug-out. Two people had gone down to rescue somebody, and they’d died. Dad eventually went down to rescue them and he succumbed himself. He had to be pulled out by an officer who also succumbed to the gas,” he says.
Chronicling the sacrifice and suffering of the people of north-west England, ‘From Street to Trench: A World War that Shaped a Region’ is on at the Imperial War Museum North in Manchester until May 2015.