Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Stella Mayor of Dorchester is here :)

We had Stella Mayor of Dorchester, she said our project was "fantastic!"
We thanked her for the support the Dorchester Town Council Heritage Committee has given us

Thursday, 31 October 2013

More WW1 research written by Sara Biggs

This is what the horses in the war would have looked like
A Dorset volunteer Sara Biggs, pictured here riding a Dorset Cobb, similar to those that would have been used in World War 1.

On Monday we spent the morning brainstorming how to tell the story of the Dorset World War 1 soldier for our Geocache trail and app. For this we are collecting lots of facts, information, and poems from different sources such as Bovington Tank Museum. We have been interviewing people about their family memories and have visited our partner Museums, reading and selecting poems and snippets of  diaries written by soldiers that trained in Dorset to be part of the Dorset and Devonshire Regiments or the newly formed Tank corps.
A WW1 soldier drawn by Sara Biggs

The Military Keep Museum Archive collect and store items, letters, poems and records by Dorset soldiers. Collin Parr, the currator at the Museum provided us with this poignant poem written by a young Soldier serving with the  9th Battalion the Devonshire Regiment:

'I, that on my familiar hill
Saw with uncomprehending eyes
A hundred of thy sunset spill
Their flesh and sanguine sacrifice,
Ere the sun swings his noonday sword 
Must say good-bye to all of this; -
By all delights that I shall miss,
Help me to die, O Lord '

This poem was written by Lieutenant Noel Hodgson, MC aged 23.  He was on the battlefield in June 1916 preparing for the Battle of the Somme. It was believed that Noel wrote this poem 'Before Action' on 29th June, sadly he was killed in action on the 1st July 1916.Noel was responsible for keeping the men, his fellow soldiers, supplied with grenades during the attack- this would be especially important if they got into the German positions. Within an hour of the attack it is said that Lieutenant Hodgson was killed. He was aged only 23 and he would never get to see the sunset again.

After the devastation of this battle the British Army went back and developed their secret weapon, the tank. We learned more about this when we went to the Bovington Tank Museum the next day.....

Thursday, 24 October 2013

The Big Annual Quiz

By Jack Welch

It was that time in the Dorset Youth Association (DYA) calendar to once more come together for our Annual General Meeting (AGM) and to look back on the successes/challenges the organisation has faced over the past 12 months - and to also officially mark our 70th birthday! At WITS, there was much to look forward to - not only had we secured a pot of funding, with thanks  largely due to the Heritage Lottery Fund and other kind supporters including DCC, Dorchester Town Council Heritage Committee, Dorset Older Dorset Older Peoples Partnership Program, Microsoft and Little Waitrose Poundbury, but that also we will be presenting our work in an exciting and lively game-show format in the style of 'Who Wants to be a Millionaire?' to all the important guests including Mrs Jean Lang Deputy Lord-Lieutenant,Catriona Payne – High Sheriff, Cllr Stella Jones – Mayor of Dorchester, Cllr Ray Banham – Mayor of Weymouth and Portland, Cllr Pamela Dixon – Mayoress of Weymouth and Portland, Cllr John Wilson – Chairman of Dorset County Council, Cllr Spencer Flower – Leader of Dorset County Council, Cllr Su Hunt – Chair of North Dorset Council, Cllr Malcolm Birr – Leader of East Dorset Council, Nikki Hislop – NHS North Dorset, David King – UK Youth, Barry Williams – Ambition, Helen Horsley – Homestart West Dorset, Harry Susser – Space Youth Project, Ben Ling – Crossways Youth and Community Centre, Val Widger – Loders Youth Club, Martyn Mullender – Portland Rocks CIC

Jack (dressed for action!) located
at the WITS stand.
Alongside Rosie, Alex and Michael, Jack was also taking a bit of time out from his busy studies in Winchester and came back to celebrate this one off special event. Hosted at DYA HQ, both they and the WITS volunteers created the Twitter hash-tag of 'dyaAGM' in order to commemorate this milestone year by promoting our evening to the widespread number of followers who couldn't come. As the proceedings got underway, it was a great reason to celebrate DYA overcoming the various cutbacks they've faced and both the Chairman and Director announcing we were stronger than ever (not least because of our fantastic grant!)Once the official business of the AGM was over, it was now time to present to our audience the various questions about Walking in Their Shoes to reach £1 million.
With both Jack and Alex dressed in their army tunics, they were certainly dressed for the occasion and Rosie also helped us point to the options the guests had to raise their hands to answer the questions. Although the prizes were gold coins (chocolate ones, that is), some of our guests did need a bit of encouragement to answer! But besides any niggles in the evening, as our live tweeting didn't quite go to plan, it was an evening to remember as we ensured the message of our project reached wider audiences and we felt that's what matters most.

At the Tank Museum

2nd September 2013 by Jack Welch

For members of our group today, it was an exciting return to one of our partner organisations, the world famous Bovington Tank Museum. The WITS team were able to visit some of the impressive exhibits and facilities the museum had to offer. Guided by their expert Education Officer, Chris Copson, the group were taken around an interactive representation of the various environments as they may have looked throughout World War I. Taken from the recruitment branches to the full horror of the trenches, the group were able to get a better understanding of what it might have actually been like to have walked in the shoes of a first world war soldier. 

As our tour came to a conclusion, the group felt it was time to take time-out, as we recovered from our guide around the trench exhibit. We ventured outside to sit near their show-grounds as crowds gathered for the afternoon showcase of various military vehicles and tanks. As well as enjoying the display and being made jump by some of he loud tank explosives, the group were also overwhelmed by a swarm of wasps whilst trying to eat their lunches!

Once the show was finished, the group returned to work to uncover some of the articles and records the museum archive had available guided by archivist Janice Tait. We viewed some of the first hand experiences of soldiers recorded in letters and postcards. We saw a map of trenches dug nearby for trainees to be trained in trench warfare. We made the startling discovery by viewing some photo's, that there was a German prisoner in war camp in Dorchester. This very interesting primary source material can hopefully be utilised in our geocache app and boxes .  
On the trail through Moreton Forest!
Once we said goodbye to Chris for his kind assistance throughout the day, we left in the mini-bus for a short drive where a number of us were dropped off to begin a small expedition across Moreton Forest and experience the genuine route a soldier would have taken while learning his filed craft training. As it was a beautiful, sunny day, the walkers had little trouble crossing this footpath and we made it back to a secluded pebble shore in the area with ease. Our project officer and another volunteer was waiting to greet us with a few refreshments, then it was time to return homewards again. Our Geocache team out be hoping that we are granted permission to  place a geocache trail in the area, so you can follow in the footsteps of Dorset First World War soldiers too.

Ashley and Edward inside a First World War tank


County Show Excitement

7/8th September 2013 written by Jack Welch

Douglas and Sara with two of our
visiting interviewees.

The WITS team took to the road this weekend, as we accompany DYA trustee, Ray Seymour, to one of the biggest Dorset events of this year, the Dorset County Show. Volunteers Sara, Douglas and Alex were our trio on the Saturday and following that, Jack was our second trooper alongside Douglas. And you read that right - thanks to the generous donations from the Bovington Tank Museum, we were able to get into the spirit of our project by dressing up in the First World War tunics and hats we were given. Our objective for the course of these two exciting days was to now put the oral history skills we learnt at the Dorset History Centre and put them into practice - amongst members of the public.

Vicky (facing back) and Jack capturing
the wartime memories of one
We were all sadly aware that capturing memories of First World War stories would prove to be quite a challenge, as all current survivors from the 1914-18 period have now passed on, meaning that all evidence from we captured would be second-hand. And that wasn't all, as we also found that many older people were never told the stories from their relatives, due to the sensitive nature that some of the returning soldiers were reluctant to share their experiences with their families and were stories that would sadly disappear with them as they died.

But, thankfully, there were to be some successes to be had from approaching the visitors who passed by. We had a man who told us of the story when his grandfather volunteered for service when he was underage and many other fascinating tales including one from the Retreat from Mons, the Battle of the Somme and the Battle of Jutland have now all be captured for preservation in oral history recordings. In total, we managed to save 15 narratives that will hopefully be archived soon after our volunteer Michael Taylor with support from Julia Moore.

Also, we managed to promote the success of DYA's big 70th birthday, as we also had a loud speaker where Ray could attract the visitors from the day.

Some of our team at the Dorset County Show, Ray Seymour front far right did a great job attracting people to our stand

Pilgrimage in Cerne

4th September

Walking down to St. Augustine's
Another adventure for the WITS team this week, as we paid the village of Cerne Abbas a visit walking in the footsteps of our Anglo Saxon monk and first Bishop of Sherborne, St Aldhelm. Trying to piece together his movements is difficult as their is little written evidence or maps from this period of the "dark ages" We know he was busy visiting Christians in Dorset from 705 until 709 and going on his own pilgrimages during this time and earlier. So acting as history detectives armed with a few clues we searched for more evidence of an early Anglo Saxon presence in the area.

The village has some ancient paths converging on it and is a likely route for St Aldhelm to follow coming down from Sheborne on his way to Wareham to visit a nearby convent port and when he went on a long pilgrimage to Rome. Cerne Abbas besides being known for the famous giant on one of the hillsides, is also host to St. Augustne's Well which, founded later than our period but the spring would have been a source of clean water and could have been a  resting place in    St Aldhelm's time.

Outside the Saxon barn, otherwise
known as 'Beauvoir Court'.  

Besides taking in the beautifully preserved buildings of the different ages in the village, we also ventured up to visit a former Saxon barn, originally knows as 'North Barn' now known now as 'Beauvoir Court', as the WITS team found from their research that the building which could have been constructed as early as the 700's  as the stone work bears a striking resemblance to that of St. Lawrence’s Church, in Bradford-on-Avon near Bath dated 709. http://www.dorsetlife.co.uk/2011/05/1400-years-of-history/ St Aldhelm as well as being a musician and poet was also a builder, did he help draw up the plans?! The building later became linked to the Benedictine Abbey gate built in 987 a little bit of stone work it left of arch join. The building, which has been well-preserved under the ownership of the Lord Digby, was also ran as a vet surgery. Left is the group could admiring its fine masonry from the outside.

Like many other aspects of our investigation, Cerne Abbas is one great puzzle yet to be unravelled...

A volunteer making a prayer wish at the
well that St Aldhelm may have rested by

The group resting at the well

Thursday, 25 July 2013

The published column!

The column about our project was published on Wednesday 17th July in the DT1 supplement of the Dorset Echo.

Hopefully it is readable!

If not here is the transcription:

We are a group of young volunteers aged between 15 and 25 who have raised our own money to carry out a project called ‘Walking in Their Shoes’ supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund. We meet weekly at Routes Youth Cafe in Dorchester supported by the Dorset Youth Association. We are exploring Dorset’s ancient pathways by walking in the shoes of the Saxon pilgrim, St Aldhelm and a soldier from the First World War who journeyed along the same route. The First World War touched the lives of every family in Dorchester. We will be utilising our oral history training to record passed on family memories of the war at Dorchester care homes and we will run listening posts at events such as the Dorset County Show and the Dorchester Anonymous Festival. These memories will be incorporated into an interactive GPS treasure trail. We work closely with local heritage organisations including The Tank Museum in Bovington; one of the stops along our route. The museum staff visited Routes to share their plans for an exciting new War Horse exhibition. We especially liked their idea of positioning mechanical horses in the exhibition as they would surprise visitors by talking to them in first person about their experiences of the Great War. We are also planning a First World War creative writing workshop for young people in the first week of August. To find out more about our project please visit: http://walkingintheirshoes.blogspot.co.uk. If you want to join our group call us on 07788203003. 

At the bottom of the article the visit from Bovington Tank Museum is mentioned. They visited us at Routes to discuss their plans for a new War Horse exhibition which will hopefully be on display early next year, in line with the 100 year anniversary of World War One. As well as the talking horses they are hoping to have two tanks on display, one of which featured in the film War Horse itself.

The staff bought in original artefacts and photos from the Great War as well as photos taken on the set of the film. We found the images very moving as several featured injured soldiers or horses. However, we thought these highlighted the real, serious nature of the war and the harsh consequences the soldiers faced by fighting for their country. We found the artefacts very interesting, particularly the sword and rifle!
The museum staff were very enthusiastic about their new exhibition and spoke animately about the history of World War One, it was like our own private history lesson!

Hopefully the author of War Horse, Michael Murpurgo, will be able to visit the exhibition and see the work he has inspired!
We know we certainly can't wait to see it!

We have also decided that the WW1 creative writing workshop will probably run later this year so we have longer to get artefacts together and make it more fun!

Look out for our next column which should be published in the next four weeks in the Dorset Echo DT1 supplement.

Please follow us on Twitter @DorsetWitS for project updates!

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Royal Garden Party at Moreton to celebrate 70 years of the Dorset Youth Association

Yesterday, the Dorset Youth Association played host to a royal garden party for around 200 guests at Moreton Gardens. The event was held to mark the 70th anniversary of the Dorset Youth Association and many organisations under it's umbrella attended, with a special visit from His Royal Highness The Earl of Wessex (Prince Edward).

The event was run very successfully and we were able to inform the Prince about our new project.
Jenny and Issy were the press officers for the day and showed the Echo reporter and Dorset Life editor around the marquees displaying information from various DYA organisations. During this time they were able to share information about our project. They were even offered the fantastic opportunity to write an 1000 word article about DYA's incredible 70-year history for the Dorset Life magazine with a deadline at the end of August.

Edward was in charge of Geocaching on the day and set a mini Geocaching course for young people to get a taste for GPS treasure hunting, which proved very popular.

Connor and Alex were welcoming people on the gate, helping the caterers and talking to people about the history involved in our project.

Jack was presented with a certificate which acknowledges his hard work volunteering with youth services.

We were even treated to a delicious array of mini nibbles, including sandwiches, scones and cakes with squash and lemonade. Very refreshing on a hot day!

There was a range of games available for young people to play in the gardens which some of us tried ourselves as they looked too fun to resist!

The event was even featured in the Echo with some quotes from us about the project!
Read the article here:


The food and band marquee!

The plaque unveiled by the Prince

Our project board!

Routes - 'Walking in their Shoes' project group in our marquee at the garden party

70 years of DYA!

Prince Edward makes his entrance and talks to volunteers about their projects

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Project Update!

We have updated our twitter account for our new project so please visit: https://twitter.com/DorsetWitS for updates and tweet us @DorsetWitS.

We also have a new logo for the project which is coming soon.

There will be a column in the Dorset Echo DT1 supplement tomorrow about the project. We are hoping to publish a new column every 4-6 weeks.

Please continue to visit our blog for more updates and information about the project.