Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Lest we forget

A couple of years ago we set out planning how the County Council would commemorate the start of the Great War 1914-1918.

We started a project to produce a book, drawing on all the information stored in the County Records Office, which would represent a portrayal of West Sussex and how the lives of all the residents were affected one way or another, whether at home or ‘on the Front’.

 With the generous support of the Heritage Lottery Fund we were able to get the project underway with the County Records Office and the Library Service working with the dedicated support of 150 heritage volunteers.

These volunteers were split into three groups: a digital camera team, case study researchers and indexers. The digital camera team captured 19,000 pages of records. The indexers listed 10,000  events and 14,000 people from local newspapers between 1914-18.

The case study researchers wrote nearly 100 original pieces of work, mainly of individual servicemen, but also of conscientious objectors and nurses and covered home front topics such as airships, coastal defences, rationing and treatment of enemy aliens. It really was an enormous project.

Every volunteer and author was affected by what they had discovered and the stories told.

The West Sussex Record Office staff provided a high level of support and provided access to the Royal Sussex Regiment (RSR) archive for the volunteers. 

A little known fact but the RSR Archive is one of the most extensive County regimental collections in the UK and includes lists of soldiers, battalion diaries describing the fighting day by day, personal diaries and letters written by servicemen, and photographs.

Having looked at some of the entries it is compelling but very often sad reading.

Twelve highly talented and specialist authors contributed a chapter each from the mobilisation, Royal Sussex Regiment, Home Front to the peace and celebrations.

On the 4th August I attended the launch of the book ‘West Sussex Remembering 1914-1918’ and was privileged to listen to a presentation on the book. It made for a fascinating morning and a real insight on how the Great War affected each and every one of the residents in West Sussex.

Every resident played a part and many paid a very big price indeed. Life changed in so many ways during and after this War, which is why we should and never will forget all the lives that were lost fighting for King and Country.

So I am very proud that West Sussex County Council has played a part in this terrific project. It is a fitting tribute to the enormous contribution every resident played in West Sussex during the 1914 – 1918 Great War. Lest we forget – this book will ensure we never will. The book is available from all West Sussex libraries.


Best wishes,


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