I was honoured on Monday evening to join veterans and local people at the Old Market Square in Worksop to commemorate the centenary of the start of the First World War.
The ‘Lights Out’ event was organised by the Royal British Legion and the Council as a poignant way to mark the start of the conflict. At the same time millions of people joined in as lights went out across the country.
At the start of 1914 there were around 16,000 towns and villages in Britain. By the end of the war fewer than fifty of them would emerge without having lost someone to the war.
Worksop had its own heroes and this year is an appropriate time for us to learn more about them. I wrote last week about Worksop-born Sergeant William Henry Johnson, who having worked in Manton Pit was awarded the Victoria Cross for exemplary bravery in the most dangerous of circumstances whilst fighting in France. There are however many more stories and more to appreciate and local schoolchildren have been leading the way in the commemoration.
Earlier this year local pupils joined me in a campaign to research and clean up war graves. I invited them to examine their local cemeteries and report back on the condition of the graves. I intended it as a practical way for pupils to find out more about who died for our country and they did a brilliant job.
Last month St Augustine’s school in Worksop also organised the Veterans’ Event to respect the service of our local modern veterans, and pupils from several schools planted wild flowers – including Flanders poppies - in the Queen Elizabeth II Jubilee Playing Field.
Families will be able to make use of the Bassetlaw Museum which this week unveiled a special exhibition on Bassetlaw in the First World War. The museum has brought the experience of the soldiers in the trenches to life whilst also giving visitors the chance to understand the lives of those who were left behind. Readers have until January to visit the exhibition.
This weekend “Retford War Weekend” will provide a host of events only a short trip away for those who can make it. There will be everything from a ration book trail to living history sets and is sure to be an interesting and enjoyable weekend.
This year adults can also take further education courses online for free with the BBC and four top universities. The courses, which focus on different aspects of the First World War, really are an excellent opportunity and anyone who is interested should contact my office on 01909 506200.
At this time we can all consider the sacrifices that the men made in trenches, on the seas and in planes. It is also important to commemorate those who made the war effort possible at home – Worksop’s miners, factory workers and nurses, and the women who carried out jobs previously mainly reserved for men.