‘Great War’ mementoes collected at Doncaster roadshow

Lucy Moore and Alison Fell help visitor to read writing inside box
Lucy Moore and Alison Fell help visitor to read writing inside box

A fascinating collection of First World War memorabilia will be on show next year following a roadshow in Doncaster attracting items from the “War to end all Wars”.

The Mansion House opened its doors as people brought in ‘Great War’ items after searching their attics for family heirlooms from the period.

Philip Abbott from Leeds Armouries explains an item donated

Philip Abbott from Leeds Armouries explains an item donated

Project manager of the roadshow, Jude Holland, brought in experts to interpret the stories behind all manner of objects and said: “Somewhere in those old family photo albums or neighbourhood attics there could be a precious piece of First World War history.”

And Jude, also the organiser of Doncaster 1914-18 – a four-year project supported by National Lottery players through the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), which has been bringing to life Doncaster’s First World War to mark the centenary – added: “We wanted to encourage people across the borough to seek out items from the Front and share them with us at the roadshow. They didn’t need to worry if they seemed small, insignificant, or a little bit worn – every object or tall tale was a wartime treasure that could help solve an historical puzzle and keep a memory alive.”

Jude further added: “We were, and are, still looking for items people would be willing to loan for our exhibition Keep the Home Fires burning opening at Doncaster Museum and Art Gallery April 2018 and running until July 2019. We want the exhibition to represent stories from families and areas across the borough. We’d also like to digitise people’s objects to add to our online community archive at www.doncaster1914-18.org.uk website. If people were unable to make the roadshow but have something they’d like to share with us, they can contact: info@doncaster1914-18.org.uk or ring 01302 734293 and ask to speak to a member of the Doncaster 1914-18 team.”

The Mansion House, venue for Sunday’s event, was a hub of activity during the First World War, at the heart of Doncaster. The first hospital treating wartime soldiers was housed in this building. The first Belgian refugees to arrive in Doncaster were welcomed with a tea at the Mansion House in 1914. Many fundraising events, including teas and dances were there to raise money for local regiments. And throughout the war, including on Christmas Day 1914, presents were distributed there to the children of serving soldiers and sailors. After conscription was introduced in 1916, tribunals were held to decide whether the claims of those claiming exemption from military service were valid. Conscientious objectors cases were heard there, including Conisbrough’s Bert Brockelsby who was imprisoned in Richmond Castle, as were those who were claiming exemption on the grounds of ill health or essential work. The Armistice was announced to the people of Doncaster from the Mansion House steps on November 11 1918.

Steve Erskine from Green Howards Museum identifying paperwork

Steve Erskine from Green Howards Museum identifying paperwork

At the roadshow, local people were encouraged to share family photographs, letters, medals, postcards and wartime memorabilia like trench art and souvenir mugs with a team of leading historians and experts who helped to unlock their secrets.

The experts included Hannah Rogers of York Army Museum, Philip Abbott of the Royal Armouries in Leeds, Steve Erskine from the Green Howards Museum, Lucy Moore of Leeds Museums and Galleries and Professor Alison Fell from the University of Leeds, who helped to identify star stories to be showcased at Keep the Home Fires Burning’ the grand finale exhibition for Doncaster 1914-18.

Jude said: “The Great War was a people’s war, touching the lives of every single person, so it’s only fitting that we pay tribute to local people in Doncaster 1914-18’s finale exhibition, with a chance for everyone to get involved.”

For those unable to attend the First World War Roadshow, there are still opportunities to share stories and photographs online and research Doncaster’s wartime history by visiting the www.doncaster1914-18.org.uk website. Also visit the website for more information on the Keep the Home Fires Burning exhibition and to find out more on the First World War and how if affected the people of Doncaster.

Stories being added to the project website

Stories being added to the project website

Following the closure of the Doncaster Free Press office in Printing Office Street staff will still be available to meet the public. Reporters will be in the Central Library in Doncaster in Waterdale on Tuesday, November 7, for a surgery from 9am to 1pm. The public can call in without appointment to bring in any community stories or any heritage copy and images for inclusion in the Free Press. Following this first surgery reporters will be there once a month and the public can bring in copy anytime.