Forget Never

Forget Never

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Tri-Lingual Mobile Exhibition

The Forget Never commemorative exhibition started its journey at The Green Centre in Basildon, September 2014. The exhibition was opened by MP Stephen Metcalfe and Sandra Hirons from The Heritage Lottery Fund.
MP Stephen Metcalfe and Sandra Hiron from The Heritage Lottery Fund open the WW1 exhibition in Basildon

The unique nature of this project, as recognised by the Lottery Heritage Fund (who awarded the project over £50,000), is that it also brings together Basildon with it's two Twin Towns of Meaux in France and Heiligenhaus in Germany to create a mobile, tri-lingual exhibition. Over the next four years the exhibition will grow as it travels to France and Germany as well as all corners of the Borough.

The exhibition explores life in the three townships; attitudes from three points of view and, most importantly, allows us to remember the people – those who died, those who suffered incredible injuries and of course those who survived and kept the communities running during this important period in our history.

Prominent displays in the exhibitions feature:
  • Images of what Basildon was like during the First World War
  • A display that discusses the Heiligenhaus Youth Visit held in August 2014, where youths from Basildon, Heiligenhaus and Meaux met to plan a youth conference for 2015 based on the themes of conflict resolution and reconciliation.
  • Research into 3 soldiers, George Burnett from Basildon, Louis Vallin from Meaux and Albert Kiekert from Heiligenhaus
  • Research, images and information on Basildon's MP during WW1, The Right Honourable Rupert Edward Cecil Lee Guinness, 2nd Earl of Iveagh 
  • Images and information on a commemorative cricket match held at Wickford Cricket Club to raise funds for a commemorative plaque for the club
  • Images of the 9 War Memorials across the Basildon Borough
  • A selection of properganda postcards from across Europe
  • A selection of artworks created by School pupils and local artists
The Art exhibition displayed in the centre, showcased local talent from all ages and how they had chosen to respond to the centenary of The Great War. Art works featured pencil sketches of the Lusitania, a model of a Zeppelin, a wreath made out of loom band poppies, a large canvas representing trench life, painting of poppies, paintings and drawings of soldiers from World War 1 (including relatives of some local artists) and a glass work that represented the 3 soldiers to feature in the projects Christmas Concert – George Burnett from Basildon, Louis Vallin from Meaux and Albert Kiekert from Heiligenhaus.
A local youth Matthew Edson read out a speech he had prepared on his thoughts and reaction after visiting Basildon’s twinning town Heiligenhaus in Germany in August. One of the stand out comments from his speech was how the group had been moved by the number of injuries caused to soldiers and how this is not taught in schools. As a result of the group’s findings, 3 secondary school within the area have now included this into their curriculum when covering WW1.
A variety of local archive and historical groups attended the opening to showcase research and findings relating to their parishes history during World War 1.

Local MP Stephen Metcalfe and Chair of Basildon Twinning Association Robert Sheridan

Staff and volunteers arrived at the exhibition in period dress.

Matthew Edson reading his speech to the audience at the exhibition in Basildon

A selection of the art works on show at the exhibition
The exhibition was open daily between 10am -4pm until the end of October 2014 before moving on to Meaux in France in December and then Heiligenhaus in Germany in February.

The exhibition was opened in Meaux by the town’s Mayor Jean Francois Cope in December 2014

 The exhibition all set up and ready for the opening in Meaux, France

Jan Heinisch, Mayor of Heiligenhaus opened the exhibition when it travelled there in February 2015

 We were delighted to have Fricklesome Amsel, the German folk band play a few tunes at the opening of the exhibition in Heiligenhaus

At the exhibition we met with Johnathon Horst and Jonas Lagos, two German youths who have liaised and worked with the team throughout the project

The exhibition in Heiligenhaus

Christmas Truce Re-Enactment 2014 - Meaux

The Christmas truce was a series of widespread but unofficial ceasefires along the Western Front around Christmas 1914. In the week leading up to Christmas, German and British soldiers crossed trenches to exchange seasonal greetings and talk. In areas, men from both sides ventured into no man's land on  Christmas Eve and Christmas Day to mingle and exchange food and souvenirs. There were joint burial ceremonies and prisoner swaps, while several meetings ended in carol-singing. Men played games of Football with one another, giving one of the most enduring images of the truce.
As part of the Forget Never project we wanted to remember these brave men, who took the stand over Christmas 1914 and put down their weapons for a few hours. Linking with Basildon’s twinning towns Meaux in France and Heiligenhaus in Germany, it was agreed that a football match between the allies and our German colleagues would take place. We were overwhelmed with the interest and support this project received from the three towns.
The match was too played as close to the history of the original matches as possible. An old leather football was purchased, a muddy field found, uniforms consisting of plan white or grey shirts and braces were supplied – and most importantly no referee!
The ladies that attended the event were provided with period nurses aprons and head scarf’s and enjoyed watching the match and singing on the sidelines – some even ended up in goal
The match played out between the two teams, with reinforcements arriving on the British side from the French. The official score 4-2 to the Germans. But this match was not about who won or who lost. It was to show how far our three towns have come since 1914, to emphasise the reconciliation, friendship and partnership between the three towns. How the towns have worked together through tough times. How the towns support each other in the present day. The match was about the little stories the players told each other after the match. Swapping mementos. Showing of pictures of their families. Exchanging email address. Building bridges and creating long lasting friendships.
We were delighted to have donated to the project several bars of chocolate from Sainsbury’s who had recreated the Cadbury bar from 1914. These were exchanged and in return our GERMAN colleagues provided a treat and a poem written in all three languages which simply said:
Friendship means peace
Create as many friendships as you can
Give the wars in the world no chance
Merry Christmas and a peaceful New Year 2014
SV Hoesel – A Juniors – Ratingen – Germany

Preparing at the start of the match – each team proudly holds their flag

The match is played on a muddy pitch in the rain – just like 1914

The nurses rush on to help an injured player   

Four German nurse take to the goal – well  we did say no rules!!!

The nurses, Laurent Guillame and Mayor of Meaux sing Silent Night whilst the football match is in play

The end of the match and the players no longer fly their countries flag but unite behind the European flag.

Outreach in the Community

The Forget Never project has worked closely within the local community throughout the year to create a sustainable legacy for future generations. The team has lisased with the Education team based at Wat Tyler Country Park to build a range of literature and worksheets for young people and teachers to use when visiting the park. Alongside producing education packs on The Wat Tyler Country Park Explosives Trail, the team have delivered a range of outreach sessions to local schools and clubs – providing educational workshops on the projects and its findings.

Painting pictures in remembrance of World War 1

Engraving “shell” trench art in a local school based on images from WW1

  Creating soap sculptures of trench art and WW 1 Imagery at Kidz Club in Wickford

 Planting poppies at Pitsea Junior School with Local MP Stephen Metcalfe

Outreach projects, to date, have included the team dressed in WW1 costumes showing young people how to research the lives of their ancestors through heritage websites - enhancing the children’s computer skills whilst engaging young people in learning about their heritage and history. The team have delivered a wide and diverse range of art and craft workshops which have included creating loom band poppies, painting a dazzle ship, sculpting soap trench art sculptures even recreating a the Tower London Poppies at a local school with MP Stephen Metcalfe.  

The team have also provided a range of talks to schools and community groups discussing what life was like in the three towns during WW1, the importance of the Explosives Factory at the Park, the crashing on the Zeppelin in Billericay and the objective and goals of the Forget Never project.

Throughout the project a group of 6 youths from Basildon have volunteered with the team to help engage youths, home and abroad, in the project. We took our team of youths to London on November 11th to lay wreaths outside Westminster and to visit WW1 sites across the city.