Rat the size of a cat arrives in Doncaster

Steven Abell, volunteer, pictured with some World War One rats. Picture: Marie Caley NSST 02-01-15 VC Museum MC 4
Steven Abell, volunteer, pictured with some World War One rats. Picture: Marie Caley NSST 02-01-15 VC Museum MC 4

Probably the biggest rat to have been seen in Doncaster in many a long year has been spotted in the town.

Luckily, it had been dead for about 100 years when it arrived in the borough from Belgium this week.

The rodent, described as being about the same size as a cat, is the latest arrival at the borough’s new Victoria Cross museum, at Ashworth Barracks.

It is part of a collection of about 15,000 items from World War One to be put in what will be one of the UK’s biggest collections of exhibits relating to the conflict.

The animal was stuffed by a taxidermist after it was found by soldiers fighting in the trenches during the war.

Gary Stapleton, chairman of the Victoria Cross Trust which runs the museum, highlighting soldiers who won Britain’s medal for the highest level of military bravery, said he expected the giant rats to attract a lot of attention from visitors to the museum.

He said: “People described them as four or five times the size of ordinary rats. They fed off the dead bodies in the trenches and in no-man’s land.”

The first 8,000 pieces of the collection of World War One items have now arrived at the museum site , a former primary school building on Cedar Road, Balby.

The museum opened in November, but work is now being done to create a special area on the site for the World War One collection which has come to Doncaster from a museum in Ypres. It is appealing for wood to help complete the job.

Other items still to be brought to the museum have work to be done on them before they can be brought across, such as restoration work on uniforms.

Admission to the museum is half price, while the work on the World War One section is carried out.

It is expected to be completed by the end of January.

Meanwhile, talks are being held with bus company First, which officials at the museum hope will bring a bus service close to its site.

Mr Stapleton said they were looking to enter a partnership with the bus firm.

The museum was opened in November by relatives of the Afghanistan war hero James Ashworth, who was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross.

The Ashworth family donated items which are exhibited there.