East Riding Archives have unveiled a new online exhibition telling the previously untold stories of local service personnel who were involved in the First World War.
Since 2014, over 1,100 lives have been researched by a team of dedicated volunteers for the First World War Lives project. Using original documents held at East Riding Archives, and sources held online such as the census and military records, each individual’s life story has been uncovered. From librarians to farmers, shop assistants to police officers, and even professional soldiers- their paths all come together with their experiences of the First World War.
Alongside their portrait photos, the exhibition highlights a selection of 150 local military lives in connection with a variety of topics such as prisoners of war, women, health, and teenage soldiers. Their stories show acts of great bravery, but also highlight the tragic impact of the War on families back home in the East Riding.
One such life story featured in the exhibition is that of Driffield-born James Mortimer (1871-1916), the son of archaeologist John Mortimer ,whose collections now form an important part of the Hull and East Riding Museum. James rose through the military ranks and served as second in command to Lieutenant-Colonel Sir Mark Sykes of Sledmere before being promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel himself. In 1916, James was killed by a shell explosion at the Battle of Flers-Courcelette. Only three months before his death he was awarded the prestigious Companion of the Most Distinguished Order of St Michael and St George by His Majesty King George V.
In addition to viewing over 150 stories in the exhibition, online visitors can also download a free WW1 Research Guide and browse the ever-growing First World War Lives collection of over 1,100 biographies on the archives Online Catalogue.
Hannah Stamp, Archivist, said: “The lives researched by our fantastic volunteers is an invaluable contribution to East Riding history. I very much hope that the stories of bravery portrayed in this online exhibition and the wider collection will be a source of inspiration to our global audience. Whether you’re interested in tracing your military ancestors, or exploring the East Riding’s connections to the First World War, this exhibition has something for everyone.”
Councillor Shaun Horton, portfolio holder for coastal regeneration and tourism, including leisure and culture, added: “I would like to thank all the volunteers who have worked so hard to put this very significant exhibition together, and I am sure it will prove very popular, and a major historical record.”
The exhibition can be viewed online at www.eastridingarchives.co.uk/WW1Lives