New European archive collects untold stories of the First World War
Saturday 10 November 2012
Thousands of moving war stories are being unearthed in a drive to gather a vast collection of First World War memorabilia from across Europe.
The Europeana 1914-18 Family History Roadshow, set up to answer the growing demand for an organised, free-for-all documentation of wartime history, visited Banbury Museum in Oxfordshire last Saturday. More than 250 people turned up, bringing with them their families' Great War treasures.
Approximately 4,000 images of their pictures, letters, postcards, souvenirs and other items were captured by experts from the Soldiers of Oxfordshire Museum, the Western Front Association and Oxford Museum Services for inclusion in the archive.
Among the most interesting were a nurse's autograph book, filled with messages from her patients, and an aerial photograph of the Battle of Neuve Chapelle in the Artois region in March 1915 – the first time that aerial photography played a prominent part in an offensive, with the entire German lines being mapped from the air.
Another visitor brought in a dented cigarette tin once owned by Lieutenant Arthur Mann, an officer in the Royal Artillery, who survived a bullet in the leg, a gas attack in the trenches and being shot out of the sky by the Red Baron. His life was saved for a fourth time when the tobacco tin he kept in his pocket deflected an enemy bullet.
Nurse Georgina Hill's autograph book, filled with mottos, anecdotes, cartoons and poems from the soldiers she treated, was a testament to the rehabilitation process, said her nephew, Richard Jackson. He added: "The rapport that she built with patients was obviously very important, and it's a refreshing side to the horrific sights soldiers and nurses had to deal with on a daily basis."
The roadshow is visiting museums across Denmark this weekend. For further details about the project, go to www.europeana1914-1918.eu/en
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