2014 was the centenary of the start of World War I and many activities were undertaken in preparation for this. Midhurst U3A decided to support local communities by searching out the stories of the huge number of men and women from our area who were casualties of that war.
Midhurst, Petworth and the surrounding villages all have at least one war memorial. This is where our research started. We have been looking deeper than has been possible before into the backgrounds of the casualties on the memorials and the impacts of their deaths. We have been searching out details of the casualties’ families; their military service; where, when and how they died; and the impact their deaths had on their families and their communities.
We started with the parishes of Bepton, Cocking, Lodsworth, Midhurst, Petworth, Rogate and West Lavington, and subsequently added Elsted & Treyford, Graffham & East Lavington, Heyshott, Iping & Chithurst, Selham, Stedham and Trotton. We hope in the future to extend this to other villages.
A great deal of work has previously been undertaken around the country, as demonstrated for example by Chris Comber’s Roll of Honour website. All of this is feeding into our researches. We are also helped and inspired by books and articles already published in our area by others, particularly the excellent A Richer Dust by Michael Oakland, based on his many years’ research of the Lurgashall war memorial.
We have been producing a one to two page story of each casualty, as well as an account of the erection of each war memorial itself. These stories are available for churches, schools and communities to help them prepare for commemorative services and displays. But they will also become a permanent part of local and national archives.
Indeed we are sharing the results of our work with the Imperial War Museums’ War Memorials Archive and West Sussex County Council’s Great War Project, led by Emma White of West Sussex Libraries.
If you are interested in participating in the project or if you have information, articles or photographs which may help our team in its researches, please contact the team.