Forget Never

Forget Never

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Remembering The Great War

The First World War had a profound impact on the history of the UK and Basildon. Although the last human witnesses are no longer with us, the First World War remains etched in the collective memory of our nation.
The Great War has had lasting effects on world geography, attitudes and brought about worldwide social change, confirming the importance of international cooperation, partnership and solidarity.
The Basildon Borough Heritage Group plans to deliver a series of commemorative projects linked between the twinning towns of Basildon, Meaux and Heiligenhaus – launching on Thursday 24th  March at The Green Centre at Wat Tyler Country Park between 10am – 4pm. The concept initiated by local MP Stephen Metcalfe brings officials and members of The Basildon Borough Heritage Group, Basildon’s Twinning Towns Coordinator and Wat Tyler Country Park together to work in partnership to deliver the projects to the residents of Basildon and East Thurrock.
Stephen Metcalfe explains “The concept of linking our project to our Borough’s Twin Towns of Heiligenhaus in Germany and Meaux in France has ensured that we are not only able to offer different insights  into the causes and consequences of the conflict but also to enable the communities living in the three townships to explore how the war affected their towns. They will also learn how to appreciate the need to examine views and opinions different to their own.”
During the course of the year we have a number of projects being undertaken and it is hoped that many residents from the three towns will be involved.
The Education Team at Wat Tyler  Park are constructing a trench that will operate throughout the four years of the project and possibly even longer.
The Council at Heiligenhaus are organising a history conference in August
Basildon will host an end of year Concert in St. Martin’s Church involving musical and dramatic contributions from all three towns.
Meaux will host a re-enactment of the Christmas Truce from 1914 which will include a football match.
Basildon Council are running a series of events around the Borough and a Jail Break will be organised between Chelmsford and Basildon in September. A very busy but exciting year ahead is planned.
The main thrust of our work, however, will be an exhibition that will be mobile. We are asking residents of the three towns to explore what their town was like in 1914. It is important that we all value that populations from England, Germany and France were affected by the conflict and that as a result of the War our societies changed forever. It is important that we explore the Geography and industries of the time, the lives of our residents who lived at that time – soldiers and civilians alike. It is important that we explore attitudes, propaganda, information and mis-information. The exhibition will involve photographs, letters, artefacts, historical research based on many different subjects, art and writings reflecting opinions and thoughts as well as factual information.
We want to hear from you if you can help out with any of the following projects:

1. Exhibits, artefacts, poetry, writings, objects etc from or about what life was like in Basildon during World War 1. These will form a mobile exhibition that will visit all three countries featuring the exhibits.
Examples of Trench Art
2. Young people ages between 16-23 that are currently studying history to take part in a conference for young people in Heiligenhaus in Germany. The pupils (aged between 16-23 years) - will discuss the impact that World War 1 had on each town. These discussions will facilitate an understanding of diverse opinions and perspectives of WW1, leading ultimately to the creation of visual art and theatrical productions.
German and British Soldiers during the Christmas truce
3. Residents of any age to participate in the Christmas Truce re-enactment. Footballers of any age 16 and upwards. This will take place in Meaux in France, so residents will need a valid passport. After the match participants will have the opportunity to discuss their thoughts and feelings after the football match – to think about what they would talk about with their German counterparts and what (if anything) they would swap or show to them on the football pitch. The football will be played in a form of uniform and will not be limited to 11 a side.
The Christmas Day Truce
4. We are also specifically looking for support from dress makers and singers and actors for the Christmas Concert.
Through these events the BHBG aim to broaden people’s understanding of the war, to commemorate and remember those that were caught up in it, to tell well known stories from fresh perspectives and to inspire and encourage learning in the years ahead.  To inform, educate and share findings with the public through the mobile exhibition, film, educational resources and social media – creating a sustainable legacy

If you would like to get involved in any of the three projects listed about, or have artefacts that you think may be of interest, we would love to hear your stories, please contact Lisa Smith, Project Manager at for more information