The Weald & Downland Open Air Museum awarded £9,000 funding to deliver First World War Centenary events

Event flyer

Event flyer - Credit: Archant

The Weald & Downland Open Air Museum is delighted to be awarded funding of over £9,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to deliver their First World War Centenary events, which will run from 2 – 8 June 2014.

Awarded through HLF’s First World War then & now programme, the funding will be used to support week-long activities involving school groups culminating in a weekend event ‘Horses at War’.

Visitors will have the chance to understand how people living in the South Downs contributed to the war effort. There will be free activities for school groups, including recruitment and training of troops in Sussex (learning drills and filling sandbags) and the opportunity to find out about the effect of the war on food available in a recreated field kitchen both provided by Andy Robertshaw Battlefield Partnerships. There will be various displays across the site (e.g. from Singleton WI which was the first one to be founded in England in 1915) and demonstrations of charcoal-burning, hurdle making and forestry (including the Women’s Timber Corps), and visitors can discover how three of our buildings (home, church and smithy) were affected by the conflict.

Commenting on the funding award, Museum Director Richard Pailthorpe said “We are thrilled to have received the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund. This special weekend event to commemorate the centenary of the outbreak of the Great War and to celebrate the courage of horses on the battlefield and the home front, promises to be both a unique and extremely exciting occasion. Visitors will be able to see a spectacular collection of restored horse drawn agricultural and military vehicles dating from this time as well as displays of horsemanship by the 16th Lancers. In addition, visitors are invited to bring along medals, photos, war records and other ephemera to the Military Ancestry Road Show for identification or advice. I personally have letters written back home from the trenches by a great uncle who was killed by a sniper and will be bringing them along to find out more about his war service and where he is buried.”

Amongst the activities will be the opportunity to visit the Queens Own Royal West Kent Regiment Living History Group display and see their restored Great War horse-drawn water cart in action in the arena during the weekend. Fort Nelson Royal Armouries Museum will be displaying their First World War 16 Pounder Gun & Limber, a rare opportunity to see a horse-drawn Horse Ambulance, a 1900 Bognor Coal & Transport Dray will be on show by Sarah Billingshurst, there will be the opportunity to view Royal Corps Museums GS Wagons and readings on Saturday the 7th in the church from South Wonston with ‘Voices from the Great War’ - in both poetry and prose.

Visitors will be able to see the agricultural mechanical advancements made between horse power during the war and more state of the art machinery in WW2! The Many Fronts Living History display will be showing three elements of the British Home Front during WW2: An Air Raid Precautions (ARP) Post, dedicated to the protection of civilisations from the danger of air raids, a Women’s Voluntary Services member at her relief post for bombed out families and a member of the Home Guard patrolling the village checking the identities of strangers.

During the event, as visitors walk around the Museum, they will discover how the Home Front in the South Downs was involved in the war effort. Focusing particularly on the supply of charcoal and hurdles for the trench warfare, and how the Women’s Land Army and the Women’s Forestry Corps were founded at that time.

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Explaining the importance of the HLF support, the Head of the HLF in the South East, Stuart McLeod, said “The impact of the First World War was far reaching, touching and shaping every corner of the UK and beyond. The Heritage Lottery Fund has already invested more than £47 million in projects – large and small – that are marking this global Centenary; with our new small grants programme, we are enabling even more communities like those involved in Horses at War at the Weald & Downland Open Air Museum, to explore the continuing legacy of this conflict and help local young people in particular, to broaden their understanding of how it has shaped our modern world.”