A new exhibition at Somerset Rural Life Museum explores the many ways in which rural Somerset was affected by the events of the First World War. Echoes of War: the Somerset Countryside 1914–1918 is open until 2 June.
Using objects, archive documents and photographs, the exhibition reveals how the First World War profoundly changed the county’s rural communities. Visitors can discover more about life on the home front and the ways in which Somerset people supported the war effort.
Somerset’s landscape was used as a place of respite and recuperation for wounded soldiers. Red Cross hospitals were set-up across the county and many country houses and schools were converted for military use. A remarkable collection of watercolours illustrating daily life at Hinton House Red Cross Hospital near Crewkerne will be digitally displayed for the first time. The drawings, by Nurse Dorothy Maud Hole, will be accompanied by her diary detailing hospital admissions and autograph books signed by the soldiers.
Curator of Military History at the South West Heritage Trust Sam Astill added: “The Somerset countryside played an important role in the rehabilitation of thousands of the wounded. Soldiers from the allied nations came to Somerset to recover and the sight of soldiers in ‘convalescent blues’ became a familiar sight in villages.
“Local people organised special events such as garden parties, concerts and whist drives to support them. Items to comfort soldiers and sailors were made by people of all ages and backgrounds. Socks, balaclavas, blankets, shirts, towels and even plum puddings were sent from Somerset to local men serving abroad.”
Echoes of War is part of series of events and exhibitions from the South West Heritage Trust that reveal more about the First World War and its legacy. The Trust is part of the First World War Centenary Partnership led by the Imperial War Museum. The Partnership is a network of organisations from across the world which have joined together to remember the war and help people to discover its significance.
For more information about the South West Heritage Trust visit: www.swheritage.org.uk