The Somme
The Somme

AN exhibition exploring the role of Teesdale in the First World War to mark the centenary of the armistice will be staged at The Bowes Museum next month.

The exhibition To Serve King and Country is to open on Saturday, October 20, and is the culmination of five years work by volunteers and staff.

It will commemorate the response of local people, the home front and heroism in the face of war. The exhibition will also help illustrate the impact of war on individuals and communities.

Judith Phillips, research adviser to The Bowes Museum’s First World War Commemoration Project, said: “Throughout the project, local people and many with Teesdale connections now living far away, have generously helped by allowing us to photograph letters, postcards, diaries, service records and artefacts.

“We have benefitted from the information gathered in many family histories, again generously shared with us and through the project, reached an audience across the world.”

Visitors to the exhibition, which will run until Sunday, March 3, 2019 will have access to the Roll of Honour of all those who served, the project’s website with an iPad provided for use in the exhibition gallery.

Soldiers’ equipment, trench art, medals, books of cartoons and other memorabilia will be included, together with material from the Embroiderers’ Guild’s prestigious exhibition – Calm During the Storm – as well as stories about some of the Teesdale men and women involved in the war.

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Ms Phillips added: “Throughout the project we have encouraged modern responses to the war and the project and will also be displaying a piece of community art created last year, as well as work done by school students.

“It is clear that at many times close-knit communities up and down the dale would have been devastated to hear the news of deaths, casualties and their men taken prisoner.”

The Teesdale Mercury often reported visits home by injured soldiers or a family shaken by repeated bereavement. The Mercury also showed how communities provided many kinds of support – from comfort parcels of food and clothing to raising funds for suffering families.

The exhibition also focuses on what happened at the end of the war. Many men were still serving in the armed forces a couple of years after the armistice. Prisoners of war could take months to get home. Women had also taken on men’s jobs during the war but would face a return to domesticity.

Ms Phillips added: “Perhaps you will find out something you didn’t know or maybe you can help add to our information as we pay our respects to everyone.”

Other activities organised to run during the exhibition include a session run by staff from the DLI Study and Research Centre where visitors will be invited to handle equipment, a piece of shrapnel and medals awarded during the war.