The Surrey in the Great War initiative aims to bring together local people of all ages and backgrounds to discover how the county was affected by WW1
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16-18 April The story of Surrey during the First World War is to be brought under the spotlight thanks to an ambitious heritage project.
Made possible following a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, ‘Surrey in the Great War: A County Remembers’ aims to bring together people from across the county to learn more about the region during one of the most turbulent periods in history.
Officially launching in May, the Surrey County Council-led initiative will see the creation of a dedicated online ‘hub’ for participants to share research, plus books, newsletters, drama performances and public events over the course of the next four years.
While a wide variety of topics will be covered, the project will have a particular focus on life on the home front, and how the war affected ordinary communities.
“We want to try to highlight the roles of those who dont don’t neces necessarily appear in the official records,” Surrey Heritage’s Phil Cooper told Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine. “This includes children who were at school during the war years, as well as those regarded as being on the m margins of society, such as conscientious o objectors.
“We wantwan to find out: What changed? What remainedremai the same? How did people in Surrey cope withw the loss of loved ones?
“Also, we want to look at how the community c coped with the consequences of the people who came back from the war with missing limbs or mental illnesses.”
Participants will be encouraged to find the answers by transcribing records, photographing memorials and even searching through cupboards for diaries that capture the experiences of ancestors during the conflict.
Ensuring that residents of all ages and backgrounds can benefit, the team behind the initiative will be working directly with local societies and disabled groups, while young people will also have the opportunity to earn credits for the Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme through volunteering.
Although the campaign runs until November 2018 and is centred on the modern county of Surrey, Mr Cooper said he hoped that the project website can act as a lasting digital resource which can be used by researchers across the globe.
“People from all over the world were starting to arrive in Surrey at the time, and they are also part of this story,” he explained. “Belgian refugees came here just one month into the war, and we also have the oldest purpose-built mosque in the country in Woking, so the Muslim community was also a strong presence and were very supportive of the war effort.
“With Canadian and New Zealand soldiers here as well, suddenly this Surrey project becomes global.”