In the last edition of Spotlight we outlined some of the early plans and ideas for local commemorations of the First World War as we approach the centenary of its start. Those plans continue as we learn more about the servicemen who gave their lives during the war, those men who served and returned and the people of Corsham who supported the war effort at home. A new website has been created to bring together research and events relating to the war: www.corshamcommemorates.weebly.com. It will grow as stories and information are built up. It has the names and information about the names on the Corsham War Memorial and other stories, which it is hoped will increase with help from families of servicemen who served in the war or from descendants of men and women who lived through that most difficult of times from 1914 to 1918. Everyone is encouraged to share their stories and family memories – one of the aims of the work during 2014 through to 2018 is to bring Corsham-related information together in one place for the benefit of current and future generations.
The contribution that Corsham made to the First World War effort can be bookmarked by the very early deaths of Frank Fisher and William Carter on board HMS Amphion on 6 August 1914, less than 36 hours into the war, through to Herbert Rumming, who died on 22 July 1919. It can further be characterised by the nurses led by Lady Goldney who staffed the Military Hospital established in the Town Hall and by the residents of Corsham who kept things going at home and who supported injured and recovering servicemen in the Hospital and gave lodgings to refugees from Belgium.
These people and times are the subject of ongoing research, and they will be remembered in events that are being scheduled over the next four years. A special commemorative service is to be held at St. Bartholomew’s Church on 3 August – the eve of the declaration of war in 1914 – and a reconstruction of a Recruitment Office in the Town Hall and a month-long exhibition in the Tourist Information Office will follow on 19 August. More details will follow about these events. Corsham Area Heritage is also providing a representation of a kitchen of the period in the Pictor Room at Arnold House during the month of August, and a pictorial display of some of the local men who returned from this horrendous period in our history.
Mention should also be made of the talk by Richard Broadhead about ‘Corsham and the First World War’ at the Pound on 25 July and of the Wiltshire Council and MoD Commemoration Service that will be held at Tidworth Military Cemetery on 30 July to which they hope to welcome up to 10,000 guests – a significant number, which matches the number of Wiltshire men who lost their lives during the First World War period.
While research can provide a certain amount of information and dates, it is only family stories, photographs, diaries or heirlooms that can ‘fill in the blanks’, and the hope is that people will be able to share those over the coming four years as commemorative events stir memories and prompt a desire to know more about family history and involvement in the war. Part of the project is to help people with that research and to share some of those stories that are emerging. If you have a local family story to tell or have plans or ideas about commemorative opportunities, or would be interested in helping with research about Corsham servicemen, then please contact Kevin Gaskin, who is helping to coordinate events for the Corsham area.
Kevin Gaskin, CCAN co-ordinator