Monday, 11 April 2011

News - Major recruits army of Notts volunteers to tell story of the Great War (Notts)

THE war memorials and plaques honouring those who fell bear silent witness to the part the men and women of Notts played in the First World War.

Those who served on the front line were among the bravest of the brave, those who were left behind kept the wheels of industry turning.

The centenary of the start of what was supposed to be "the war to end all wars" is three years away, but already plans are being drawn up to commemorate the part local people played.

In 2014, Nottingham Castle will be the venue for an ambitious exhibition reflecting every aspect of the local contribution to the war effort.

The man tasked with organising the exhibition is serving officer Major John Cotterill of 2 Mercian (Worcesters and For esters), a career soldier and military historian.

Although the event, scheduled for August to November 2014, is still three years away, Major Cotterill says his preparations have already begun and he is hoping to quickly recruit local enthusiasts to provide support and help.

"I will need lots of volunteers," he said. "The exhibition will run for between two and three months, every day.

"The exhibition will, of course, feature artefacts and memorabilia from the First World War – but they can wait. What is important now is for me to talk to people interested in becoming involved.

"I need ideas. We will be taking over the whole of the first floor at the Castle, it is a big space to fill.

"The only limiting factor will be funding, so we will be relying on people's goodwill."

Archival material from the Sherwood Foresters Museum, which is located in the Castle, will be readily available, but Major Cotterill wants stories from as many other regiments as possible, along with ships of the Royal Navy and squadrons of the Royal Flying Corps.

And from the home front the contribution of local industry will have to be recognised.

From 1914 to 1918, Raleigh, Boots, Players and other manufacturing centres all turned their machines and employees to war work.

The shell-filling factory at Chilwell employed thousands of local people; hospitals were stretched to breaking point as they cared for the injured.

It is Major Cotterill's ambition to create an exhibition that will honour all contributions, and reflect on the war's impact on our community.

"This exhibition gives us an opportunity to explore all of the facets of Nottinghamshire's involvement in the war that changed this country more than any other," he said.

"Men from the county fought on land, on sea and in the air and very few families do not have an ancestor – known or unknown – who did not come home again.

"Men and women worked in the shell filling factory at Chilwell or in other war-related industries.

"Women filled the jobs of men who went away, in the fields and the factories as well as nursing both at home and abroad.

"Women also joined all three of the Armed Forces themselves for the first time.

"There is a tremendous amount of interest in the Great War and knowledge about it throughout Notts. We are keen to tap into this enthusiasm in the very early planning stages so that the Centenary Exhibition can be as comprehensive as possible."

If you would like to become involved in the Great War Exhibition, or have any memorabilia to loan for display, contact Major Cotterill c/o RHQ Mercian (Nottingham), Foresters House, Chetwynd Barracks, Chilwell, Nottingham NG9 5HA or email

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