Appeal launched to find the missing people of Doncaster’s First World War

With Armistice Day just round the corner, Doncaster people are being asked to turn armchair detective to find the missing people of the First World War, and ensure they’re never forgotten.  In a UK first, a new free and interactive website - www.doncaster1914-18.org.uk – will help local people re-connect with ancestors from 100 years ago, who lived, worked and served on the home front and front line during the First World War, thanks to National Lottery Players. 

The new website is part of Doncaster 1914-18, a four-year centenary project, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), aiming to build a picture of Doncaster’s First World War history and legacy.  There’s also a little extra help navigating the wide world of the new website during The Great War on Tour Roadshow at Doncaster Museum on Saturday 14 November, 11am – 3pm.  At this special event, presented as part of the National Archives, Explore your Archives campaign, people can bring along their own First World War stories and photographs to upload onto the archive, or learn how to investigate their family history using online tools. There will also be the chance to view First World War documents from the Doncaster Archives collection.

“Armistice Day is all about remembrance.  So, with the help of local people, we’re building a digital memorial to the First World War, to ensure that the contribution of Doncaster’s people, and those who served in the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, is never forgotten,” says Jude Holland, the Doncaster 1914-18 project manager.  “Everyone today has a connection to the First World War, but as it happened outside of our ‘living history’ we are in danger of leaving behind the people of the past, and forgetting that their legacy is still shaping our lives today.  There are so many gaps in our understanding, and this is where we need your help.  Those fading family photographs or time-worn memorabilia could be an essential missing link to our First World War past. We’re looking for contributions, in the form of stories about people and places, and images of any First World War letters, documents, photographs and memorabilia people may have relating to their families, to add to a new online community archive, which will be preserved for future generations.”

Vicky Siviter, Digital Content Officer explains, “Nothing like this website has ever existed before for local people - it uses ground-breaking, intuitive technology that is so easy to use, but can connect people and places on a national, or even global scale.  It’s really simple to post your family stories and photographs to your own page on the website. If anyone else has a connection to your relative, they can add a comment and help you to find out more about your family's past. You can add your ancestor’s story to the website, share it with your friends and family, and they can then download your photographs from home. Through this, we’re hoping not just to reach a local, but also a global audience of people with connections to Doncaster all around the world.”

It’s the first time in this country that local people will be able to uncover their history in this way, connecting their photographs and stories to national records, and new research about Doncaster people's wartime contribution.  This research includes a vast new database containing the names of 22,000 local soldiers killed, missing, wounded, taken prisoner of war and awarded medals for bravery.  The database is the astonishing achievement of local volunteer, Wyn Bulmer who, over a decade, painstakingly compiled records from local newspapers; this is now available through the website for local people to use in carrying out their own research.  The website www.doncaster1914-18.org.uk also contains interactive maps, timelines, original photographs and a mass of background material to help people investigate Doncaster’s First World War and share their own stories, and has already taken historians and volunteers across Doncaster many hours to research.  “Bringing all of this information together reveals the area’s past as never before,” adds Vicky.  “As an armchair historian, you will become the expert!”

“Through summer roadshows across the borough, we’ve already been able to re-unite 30 people with their past, and you can read some of their inspiring stories on the website,” says Vicky.  “But the website launch now means that everyone can get involved. We want to create a vivid picture of life in the area during the First World War, hearing about the brothers, sons and husbands who served as soldiers on the front line, but also about everyday life on the home front during the war.  We want to know how families did their bit for the war effort, growing their own vegetables and fruit to deal with food shortages, or fundraising and making clothes and gifts to send to relatives at the Front. Or about Doncaster miners and railway workers in reserved occupations, who did valuable work to support the war effort and keep the country running and its supply chains moving.”

Local people can search thousands of  Doncaster names to find their own personal connection to the First World War; join in the Missing Persons Appeal, sharing their family’s story, photographs and memorabilia to help build a picture of life in the area between 1914 and 1918; investigate interactive maps and timelines, or link to national online archives, like the Imperial War Museum; and find out about events, workshops, exhibitions and the Great War on Tour Roadshow at venues across the borough.  Local people can also bring objects along to the Great War on Tour Roadshows to be scanned onto the online archive.

The Great War on Tour Roadshow: Explore your First World War Archives will take place on Saturday 14 November, 11am – 3pm at Doncaster Museum (DN1 2AE).  For more information about this event or Doncaster 1914-18, visit www.doncaster1914-18.org.uk

ENDS

Photographs are available by following the links at the bottom of this email, or from http://news.cision.com/doncaster-1914-18.

Notes to editors:

Generously supported with a grant of more than £900,000 by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) during the four-year project, Doncaster 1914-18 will feature an ever-changing programme of events and exhibitions, with future years uncovering the diverse experiences of Doncaster people on the Home Front, including women’s experiences of war, Doncaster’s role in the Battle of the Somme, Doncaster’s Royal Flying Corps and Airfield, the role of the local countryside and country houses, and Armistice.

About the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF)

Thanks to National Lottery players, we invest money to help people across the UK explore, enjoy and protect the heritage they care about - from the archaeology under our feet to the historic parks and buildings we love, from precious memories and collections to rare wildlife. www.hlf.org.uk @heritagelottery @HLFYandH

For further media information or photographs, please contact:

Jay Commins or Nicola Bexon

Pyper York Limited

Tel:         01904 500698

Email:    jay@pyperyork.co.uk or nicola@pyperyork.co.uk

About Us

Doncaster 1914–18 encourages the people of Doncaster to uncover and share their own First World War stories. A series of events, exhibitions and a new website will explore the role of the borough, its people and the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry in the conflict. Supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

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