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Opinion: Guildford Must Play Its Part In Commemorating WWI 100 Years On

Published on: 3 Jul, 2013
Updated on: 4 Jul, 2013

By David Rose

August 2014 sees the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War. The government has recently been outlining its plans to commemorate this important event and is encouraging communities the length and breath of the UK to become involved.

The government’s programme will last four years and will focus on educating schoolchildren about how the war shaped history to the present day, and the theme is reconciliation. The government says the memories of the war for future generations must be preserved.

Off to the front: a rare photo of soldiers marching toeards Guildford railway station in August 1914 at the start of the First World War. Picture: David Rose collection.

Off to the front: a rare photo of soldiers marching towards Guildford railway station in August 1914 at the start of the First World War. Picture: David Rose collection.

The UK’s Centenary Cultural Programme has around £10 million of lottery money available, which will be matched by fundraising. It will focus on three main periods: August 2014, July 2016 and autumn 2018.

Guildford must play its part in this import event.

For some time I have been talking to fellow local historians and those showing an interest in ‘WWI 100 years on’ asking them what we, in Guildford, can do. Interest is gathering without doubt. But the feeling is that whatever we do, it should be led by Guildford Borough Coucil. Its involvement is therefore paramount.

To begin with, and I am sure they won’t mind me naming them, plans by a number of people and organisations are already in progress. Guildford’s Circle 8 film group is to make a film about Guildford in the First World War. Local historian Mary Alexander has suggested that the parish of Holy Trinity Church and St Mary’s Churches may be able provide cultural, historical and topical events, and to encourage people to use the buildings. The Guildford Institute has a wealth of archive material relating to Guildford and the Great War and is keen to be involved.

There are others: Ian Nicholls has conducted a wealth of research into the names on the war memorial in Charlotteville. Some 10 years ago the war memorial at St John’s Church at Merrow was restored and re-dedicated, and at the time much research was done into those named on it.

For my part, I, with Martin Giles (Guildford Dragon NEWS) and others, have researched the Zeppelin raid on St Catherine’s Village in 1915. We would be delighted to give our illustrated talk on that at a suitable venue in the town.

Then there is the Queen’s Regiment Museum at Clandon Park. I have yet to speak to anyone there, but I am sure it has a wonderful archive of material just waiting to be made available.

On top of this will certainly be families in Guildford whose relatives fought and died in World War I, with, perhaps, lots of stories, memories and photographs.

How Guildford's local newspapers reported the deaths of soldiers from the town.

How Guildford’s local newspapers reported the deaths of soldiers from the town. Cutting courtesy Guildford Institute collection.

There is so much in and around Guildford that we can ‘pull together’ to contribute in the way that the government has outlined.

Opinion Logo 2Exhibitions, talks, commemorations, and even dramas, could all play a part of Guildford’s contributions. The venues are here – the museum, the Guildhall, the Electric Theatre, schools, the university and so on. It just needs the go-ahead and support from everyone.

I have just been told that Guildford Borough Councillor Matt Furniss will be lending his support on behalf of the borough – that’s great news.

Mary Alexander has suggested that interested parties may like to meet meet and discuss this further – remember August 2014 is only 13 months away!

I would like to see senior people in Guildford become involved in the planning stage, especially the local media. They can be closely involved and help promote and report on the events and commemorations. And I mean senior people.

I am hoping that Guildford’s schools will also offer their support. I know that the national curriculum dictates what they teach, but time must be found to study World War I and its effects in greater detail during the four-year period that has been outlined.

Nearly 500 Guildford men lost their lives in the First World War, not to mention hundreds more who survived, many returning with terrible injuries and scarred for life. They had to adjust to a changing world in the postwar years and their families’ battles then began as they tried to support and comfort them.

The Guildford Dragon NEWS is fully behind the events and commemorations that  must take place here. If you are interested in being a part of that, do leave a reply in the box below or contact me on or call me on 01483 838960.

Guildford's war memorial in the 1920s. Picture: David Rose collection.

Guildford’s war memorial in the 1920s. Picture: David Rose collection.

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Responses to Opinion: Guildford Must Play Its Part In Commemorating WWI 100 Years On

  1. Shirley and Brian West Reply

    July 4, 2013 at 6:03 pm

    Castle Green Bowling Club would love to be involved especially as our club is in the castle grounds.

  2. Simon Donal Reply

    July 4, 2013 at 11:48 pm

    I am not in a position to be the authority for the Surrey Army Cadet Force but I am fairly sure that as one of the counties three uniformed cadet movements, the Commandant, Colonel Alan Mulder would love to have the youth volunteers perhaps with their musicians available to mark this event.

    You are right to say it’s only 13 months away, which is no time at all, and so I suggest that early contact is key. He can be contacted via the e-mail address above. That is not his direct e-mail but his outer office.

  3. Ngaire Wadman Reply

    November 1, 2013 at 3:29 pm

    I’ve come across this article quite late, but can confirm that Clandon Park, which was a major military hospital in WWI, will be commemorating that fact with several projects, one of which will be a highly evocative display drawn from contemporary items, recalling the operating theatre.

  4. Andrew Norman Reply

    November 2, 2013 at 10:31 am

    As we prepare to mark this anniversary perhaps the key challenge will be to honour the government’s emphasis on its theme being that of reconciliation.

    I would hope that the churches and other faith groups will help to maintain that emphasis and not be hosting any flag waving or parading themselves.

    Fr Andrew, rector of St Nicolas’

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