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Poignant Wolverhampton WW1 exhibitions

By Black Country Bugle  |  Posted: June 18, 2014

The white feather and letter sent to Wolverhampton man William Weller

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WOLVERHAMPTON is set to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the First World War with a series of events over the next five years.

This August will be 100 years since the start of the "war to end all wars", and the centenary will be marked by events including acts of remembrance, exhibitions and stage plays between now and 2018.

The commemorations get under way when the BBC's World War One at Home tour comes to West Park on Saturday and Sunday, July 12 and 13.

It reflects on the dramatic impact the war had on families and communities, as well as helping people to explore their own relatives' links to the war.

Visitors will be able to visit the briefing room for presentations hosted by BBC personalities including actor Larry Lamb. Volunteer will be put through their paces on an outdoor parade ground and make their own ID permit to take away.

They can also learn about how medicine and communications were transformed during the war, including demonstrations of how carrier pigeons were an invaluable resource for sending messages.

As the nation prepares to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the day Britain declared war – August 4, 1914 – St Peter's Collegiate Church in Wolverhampton will be holding a prayer vigil on Sunday, August 3. The interfaith event will take place from 7.15pm-9pm.

Bantock House will stage its inaugural World War Weekend on Saturday and Sunday, September 6 and 7. Featuring, nostalgia, re-enactments, period costume, music and stalls, it will take people back in time to both the First and Second World Wars.

Meanwhile, Bantock House Museum is also working with Wolverhampton Archives and Local Studies with both venues hosting a series of exhibitions between August and November based on letters written during the conflict, including Letters Home at Bantock House from Thursday, August 14 to Sunday, November, 2. Bantock will also be staging free talks – Letters Home on Tuesday, September, 2, and 1914 And All That on Tuesday, October 7 and hosting The Trench Raiders, a sing-along featuring popular First World War tunes on Saturday, November 1.

One of the most poignant artefacts on display at the City Archives will be a rare white feather – given to men accused of cowardice for not "doing their bit" for the war effort – which was sent to local man William Weller, despite him being excused from military service on medical grounds and because his work in Wolverhampton was deemed vital to the war effort.

City Archivist Heidi McIntosh will be giving talks about the white feather at Wolverhampton Art Gallery on Friday, August 15 and the City Archives on Wednesday, September 10.

The role of Bilston's factories in the war effort and the experiences of people who worked in them will be the focus of a special exhibition at Bilston Craft Gallery, Craft and Conflict, from Saturday, September 13 to Saturday, November 22.

Wolverhampton Art Gallery will be presenting paintings by Cradley-born artist Brian Yale from Saturday, July 26 to Saturday, November 29 which were based on sketches made on the spot of some of the battlefields.

The Grand Theatre will be staging Pat Barker's Booker Prize-nominated Regeneration, telling how poet and soldier Siegfried Sassoon was institutionalised in an attempt to undermine his public disapproval of the war. It is showing from Tuesday to Saturday, November 4-8.

Many more events will be staged , culminating in the laying of permanent tributes to two Wolverhampton men who received the Victoria Cross during the First World War.

Wolverhampton City Council will be receiving paving stones to commemorate Lance Corporal George Onions, born in Bilston in 1883, and Lance Corporal Roland Elcock, born in Wolverhampton in 1899, who received the award for their actions on August 22 and October 15, 1918, respectively.

The paving stones will be laid in 2018 to mark the centenary of the award of the Victoria Crosses – two of just 628 bestowed during the entire conflict.

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