CELEBRATING YOUR PROJECTS
Alan Crosby takes a look at an innovative way that a partnership in Cornwall is marking the Great War
The innovative 100 Faces 100 Stories Cornish First World War project
We’re now very familiar with projects undertaken by family and local history organisations built around a First World War theme. As the centenary drew near, we began to see some really innovative approaches to the difficult question of how to commemorate the conflict and its human story, including quite a few that wanted to involve the Home Front as well as the military aspects and the experiences of soldiers.
One such project is 100 Faces 100 Stories, which results from a partnership between the Cornish Archives Network, Cornwall Museums Group and Penryn Museum. It was funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund’s First World War: Then and Now programme, Cornish Mining World Heritage, and the partners themselves.
The idea came from Jo Mattingly, one of Cornwall’s Museum Development Officers (I declare an interest – she’s a friend of mine) and it stemmed from an earlier project entitled A History of Cornwall in 100 Objects. The aim was to highlight the Cornish experience in the First World War, and the stories of Cornish people and those connected with the county, bringing together museums and archives in a project that would help to publicise their collections and knowledge in a shared way.
So, 100 subjects were chosen – and not just people, as some fascinating stories of animals are also included, too.
Jo told me that their philosophy was to enhance the understanding of the First World War and capture the widest possible range of experiences. She said that each story had to have some sort of Cornish dimension, even if the link came after the end of the war. They asked for ideas from archives and museums and about two-thirds of the stories were volunteered, while the rest came in after discussion. The stories, all of them with photographs or other illustrations, are now on the project website, and they give a really fascinating cross-section of people, animals, places and above all experiences. Their stories are not all tragic or sorrowful – some are amusing, and some have twists in the tail, while the text is lively and interesting.
One of my favourites is Billie Teague. The brief introduction to his story tells us that: “Returning wounded in February 1919 with a silver discharge badge, the last thing Billie Teague had in mind was marriage. His fiancée Lily Gay had other ideas and threatened to bring a breach of promise case against him. The marriage took place, two sons were born, and they lived unhappily ever after.” I love the irony there!
Then we have Albert and Captain, two horses who didn’t actually go to war. Instead, “at the beginning of the war, these two famous St Agnes heavy horses were hidden in a [mine] adit and cave close to Chapel Porth to prevent them being requisitioned by the army. Albert was the prized lead horse of a team that hauled machinery to and from Cornish mines, while Captain was a farm horse.” That gives us a quite different view of how the outbreak of war was received!
Of course, many of the tales are about the war itself – the young men who fought; the people whose paths crossed in the conflict, or were diverted by it; and the women who didn’t only stay at home but were also active in the war itself. This is an inspiring website, one that reminds us of the immense complexity of those harrowing times 100 years ago. It’s full of ideas, examples and insights into human life. I can recommend it to anyone.
The project takes in everything from Cornish soldiers on the front to horses who were hidden from the army
Billie Teague Teague, top left left, got married after the war, but only after his fiancée threatened him