Ian Judson writes:
The hardworking team of volunteers at Sutton and Wawne Museum have gone above and beyond this year, with their special Remembrance display which was open over the 100th anniversary of the Armistice which brought an end to hostilities in World War 1. The exhibit will run until the museum closes for Christmas next month.
After former Hull City Councilor Terry Keal started researching victims of the Great War from the local parish around the picturesque East Hull Village, certain names have been ‘brought home‘ in a very special display, which has brought the whole community together.
Earlier this month I visited the museum and found it to be absolutely thriving, with a new display of Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) certificates, along with stories of some of the newly found men from the area who made the ultimate sacrifice in the war.
Liz, the joint manager of the museum told me: “It first started four years ago, on the 4th of August, when we had the candlelit vigil at the war memorial. We said then, in four years at the end of the war, we’ll do another exhibition, and this is the result of a lot of hard work from our volunteers, and research into all the men.
“We’re having some of the descendants of the soldiers coming on Armistice Day, we’ve got one lady who is coming all the way from the Isle of Skye. It’s been a really big success so far, we’re open every Friday, 10am to 2pm, until Christmas, because people are coming in, who couldn’t get in previously.”
We were then joined by researcher Rob, another volunteer at the museum, to tell us about the specially knitted 224 poppies, which were made in memory of the newly found victims of the war.
He said: “Well for many years, we laboured under the impression that we had got all the men that should be honoured from the whole area of Sutton. As well as Sutton’s former parish of Wilmington, St. Mark’s and Stoneferry, but it turned out that we were actually missing twice the number again. So where as we had 182 names in the first place, including Sutton village itself, we had a number of missing men, that Terry Keal found on the internet. Men that lived and worked in those areas, the numbers that he found that were missing, that were never put onto any memorial, in the end it turned out to be 224. So we now know, the total to have been lost from all of these areas is actually 406, which is quite a jump up from 182.”
So just how emotional has this journey been for the team at the museum?
Rob told me: “I’ve been working through the database, I’m only up to the letter O, I’m making up a database sheet for each man of all the 406. I’ve been finding, when I’ve done two or three in an evening, I have to have a break from it. What I’m doing, we’re finding a medal card for each man. Because although a lot of the service records were destroyed in World War 2, somebody very clever found years ago, that if a man served abroad, in any capacity, he would have had a medal card. So there’s a medal card for every man who served in the first world war, if you can find it. So we’ve been finding a medal card for each of these men, a service record where one still exists, which isn’t many of them. But we also put onto the database, the reference link to the Commonwealth War Graves site. In many cases it just says a man’s name and his regiment, not even his age and not even where he lived. So a lot of these guys are not even remembered on the CWGC site, from Hull even, let alone Sutton or St. Mark’s. They’ve not even been remembered locally, like most are with their name on a stone cross.”
When an exhibition like this has so many visitors, what does it mean to this team of volunteers at the museum?
Liz told me: “We’ve put all this work in to do this, over the months, and then to see all the people here, it makes it all worthwhile. Everybody has said, how fantastic it is.”
Rob continued: “Remember we started this museum 18, 19 years ago, I started doing the website probably about the same time. One of the first things I did, was start putting up the list of, what I believed to be all the war dead onto the internet. For 18 years we’ve been misleading people, because there will have been people looking on the internet. They would have looked at our site, for reference to a particular uncle or grandfather, and not found him, and thinking well, he was nothing to do with Sutton then!”
Liz continued: “We’ve put their names on the knitted poppies, one for each man, they’ve all been knitted by, either ourselves, or craft groups.”
Rob then said: “When we talk about remembrance, of course they’ve been remembered by their families, they will have missed them. But they hadn’t been remembered publicly, in their own local area, and being as those areas have gone now, they were our areas, so we’ve brought them home now.”
Both Liz and Rob definitely agree, with the amount of local participation, it has definitely brought the local community together.
Rob Said: Oh yes, we’ve made a lot of new friends and a lot of new contacts definitely.”
Liz said: “A lot of people don’t know about these men, the ones that I contacted. In the gallery there’s three brothers that were killed there, and their family had no idea that they were killed in the first world war.”
Last year in Sutton, there was a commemorative paver laid in memory of Jack Harrison, because he won the Victoria Cross, did the attention on that help this project?
Both Liz and Rob agree it certainly did, saying: “Yes it did, one thing lead to another from that definitely, but don’t forget, this project started four years ago. It was Terry Keal that found these names, the councilor, it was Terry that did it, although he’s retired now. He was the one that made us aware that there were more than we thought.”
[Ian Judson for Sutton and Wawne Museum]