Bankfield Museum’s For King and Country exhibition is an authoritative, deeply researched retrospective on Calderdale’s part in the First World War, and the impact of the First World War on Calderdale.
It features over 200 objects, 200 images and archives and 60 local stories, each providing a fascinating insight into the ubiquitous and enduring effect the war had on the borough.
“The war impacted on everybody in some way, those that served, those that knew somebody who served,” says Angela Clare, collections officer for Calderdale Museums.
“Most people were involved in some form of production work, there were a lot of volunteers who were nurses, making packages to send to prisoners of war.
“We had refugees arriving, there was rationing - really tough times for people.
“Most of the churches were involved in fundraising, supporting those who were waiting for news.
“The impact of the war was on so many people. When they came back from the war, to have seen and experience what they did, changed them.
“A lot of people were then looking to work for themselves, do something different with their lives.
“Communities changed. It may have brought them closer together, having been through something like that.
“The sense of community would have been very strong, and you can see that in the memorials and rolls of honour, that people wanted to commemorate, and look after people that might have lost somebody.
“I think it brought people together.”
For King and Country was winner of the Public History Prize by the Royal Historical Society.
“It’s been really successful, a lot of people have come who haven’t been here for a long time,” says Angela.
“I think people are pleased we’ve had this exhibition. It’s the perfect time, 100 years on, the whole nation is aware of the centenary.
“Our exhibition is about the people who lived here and what happened in this area, as well as what was happening overseas.”
The exhibition features story after story of heroism, bravery and dedication from the people of Calderdale, such as father-of-three Maynard Percy Andrews, headmaster at Hipperholme Grammar School, who was killed in Flanders on August 14, 1915 whilst trying to help wounded men, Halifax Courier journalist Trevor Emrys Morgan, who wrote regular dispatches that were published in the paper, and stretcher-bearer Frank Kershaw, from Lightcliffe, who was awarded the Military Medal for bravery during the Battle of Messines in June 1917 for going to the aid of a man lying in the open despite being under fire and being shot in the process of dragging him to safety.
“There’s the existing understanding of the war, what the battles were, what the equipment and medical supplies were like,” says Angela.
“But what we’re interested in as a modern audience is often the individuals, what somebody your age did, what would I have done back then.
“With all the stories we have here, we’ve got the bigger picture but for each topic we talk about an individual. It may be somebody that lived in your village, your street or your house, somebody you were related to or went to your school, worked where you now work.
“Those are the connections that really bring it home. Seeing the photographs and thinking ‘that could be my dad, or my brother, or me being sent off to war’.”
The exhibition runs until the December 22. There is an open day of the exhibition on November 24.