On 28th June 1919, the Treaty of Versailles was signed in Versailles, France, officially ending World War 1.
With the support of the National Lottery Heritage Fund, we marked this momentous centenary with the West Sussex First World War Learning Programme, a local history focused project that told the story of West Sussex and its communities during the First World War. We put on 13 free talks across the county, 1 short courses and 3 free events, including a family day in partnership with the Novium Museum. We also worked in partnership with Littlehampton Museum for an all-day event of talks covering topics such as the Suffragettes, life at the front and the effects of the war on the local Littlehampton area.
The poppies displayed at our Chichester centre were central to our final event, to commemorating the end of the project and dedicated to those who lost their lives in World War 1. They were created by our students and were sold in order to raise money for the Royal British Legion.
And we want the learning to continue. This page will share the learning of the project alongside some suggestions for where you can go to enhance your learning even further.
Header photo © IWM (CO 874)
We held the Disaster on the Broad Fourteens by David Slade talk at both our Burgess Hill and Horsham centres. This talk is about the sinking of 3 ships on 22nd September 1914, HMS Cressy, HMS Aboukir and HMS Hogue, also known as the ‘Live Bait Squadron’, which killed over 1,000 men. It was an event so shocking that it changed the nature of naval warfare forever. Forces TV and BBC News covered the Live Bait Squadron Centenary Commemoration in 2014 and gave an overview of the disaster.
In the second part of the project, we held Poetry of the Great War and Introduction to World War I at our Burgess Hill centre near Remembrance day. If you are interested in reading some poetry from the Great War, try the Poetry Foundation which has some great suggestions with some historical context or the Imperial War Museum’s 9 Poets of the First World War article.
Did you know “that Zepplins were seen as a real threat to the city”?
In Chichester, we worked with the Novium Museum, a museum dedicated to the story of Chichester District built over the ruins of a Roman Bath. They provided a Family Day and three school workshops as well as hosting the Mobilisation and Mourning: Chichester during the Great War talk by Dr. Ross Wilson, Associate Professor and Director of Liberal Arts at the University of Nottingham, which highlighted the attitude towards Zepplins in the First World War. Feedback from the talk said that Ross Wilson had “a fantastic style of delivery” and this talk “brought the war to reality” and made the listeners “realise how it damaged life ‘at home’”. To see a list of Ross’s published articles, visit his profile on the University of Nottingham’s website.
At our Chichester centre, we hosted the Graylingwell War Talk 1915 – 1919 by Katherine Slay, an Archive Assistant at West Sussex Records Office. It taught people “about the evacuation of the psychiatric patients” and “how the patients spent Christmas day”. We also hosted this talk in partnership with the Fishbourne companions in January 2020 with people commenting that “Katherine told us information that had me welling up a bit but then had anecdotes that made us laugh and feel closer to the subject”.
The site of Graylingwell Hospital has now been mostly redeveloped but the history remains through the tiresome work of local historians who piece together the stories and the memories. The Imperial War Museum has a list of Graylingwell’s military patients on their online archive and Katherine herself has written about her research into Graylingwell War Hospital and its patients on the blog of the West Sussex Record Office, particularly about getting a Commonwealth War Grave for Driver George Slater who died at Graylingwell War Hospital. You can still see the site before the development began with the Time Chamber who photographed the site before the redevelopment began in the early 2000s and gives a brief overview to its history.
“All adds to the rich tapestry of the area.”
Crawley and its Great Houses in World War 1 by Helen Poole was held at Crawley Museum and Crawley Library with members of the Worth Park History Society in attendance. This project was all about local history groups and this offered us an opportunity to promote the work they do as the talk featured Worth Park and its history prominently. If you want more information about Worth Park, the history society host events often or visit Worth Park Friends who raise awareness of the history of the gardens. They have an overview of the park’s history as well as a list of the flora and fauna found there. There’s also some drone footage available which really gives you a sense of the park or the park.
“I was amazed at the level of inflation, I thought prices were controlled.”
In Littlehampton, our event at Littlehampton Museum had four talks by different speakers with widely different areas of expertise from local social history to the front to Suffragettes and made for a day full of new and interesting information.
Peter Walton spoke about his research project on the Littlehampton Museum’s image collection showing the effect the war had on the town and reminiscing about the town’s wartime history. The original project culminated in the release of “When I’ve Done My Bit”, a book available from Littlehampton Museum for £3 with all profits going to veterans charities. Some of photos from the talk and the book can be seen on the Littlehampton Museum’s website.
Angela Tester spoke about her research on the Suffragettes and people enjoyed “the passion & enthusiasm Angela has for the subject” and she “increased empathy for the Suffragettes”. Angela also has published a book “The Suffragettes at Littlehampton”, which is available at Littlehampton Museum for a donation to Amber House Women’s Refuge. If you’re looking for an overview of the Suffragettes and World War 1, try History Hub’s 3 Minute History. For more information on women in the war, the Royal British Legion and their history of Women in the Armed Forces or BBC Teach Women at Work in World War 1.
Barry Lane focused on the military history of the Lowther’s Lambs (the 11th, 12th and 13th Battalions, Royal Sussex Regiment) including their recruitment and their military action. BBC Teach have a video about Kitchener, recruitment during World War 1 and Pals Battalions, which the Lowther’s Lambs were, and British Pathe has a video of West Sussex Regiments during the war. Barry focused on Boar’s Head in 1916 and this article from the Chichester Observer goes into detail about the Royal Sussex Regiment’s participation in the battle. West Sussex County Council also have some resources about the regiment included war diaries, records and newspaper articles.
Neil Lindblom spoke at this event about the societal impact of the war but also spoke at our Littlehampton centre about the economic impact of World War 1 which gave learners a “better insight into effects of WW1”. Neil used sound recording from the Imperial War Museum archives as part of his talk as well as local history resources available at West Sussex libraries.