Honouring those lost in the Great War

York Press: Geneaologist Janet Lea walks past a First World War headstone at York Cemetery Geneaologist Janet Lea walks past a First World War headstone at York Cemetery

An exhibition at York Cemetery this weekend will look at the lives of some of those buried in the grounds.

MEN and women who gave their lives in the First World War are to be honoured at York Cemetery with special commemorative events to mark the Great War's centenary .

In total, 150 men and one woman have Commonwealth War Graves there and a further 255 casualties have memorials but are buried elsewhere.

An exhibition at the cemetery this weekend will look at the lives of some of those buried in the grounds. It will then re-open on August 4, to coincide with a Service of Remembrance at 2pm that day in the cemetery's Grade 2 listed chapel which will exactly mark the 100th anniversary of the declaration of war.

In the exhibition this weekend, poignant stories will be told through 90 exhibits of photographs, documents, posters and other memorabilia that reveal the details of the lives and deaths of many of the cemetery’s war dead.

The images will give an insight into York's history during the war and highlight its impact on families. Visitors can see the list of people with Commonwealth War Graves in the cemetery, which contains many interesting facts about these individuals.

Janet Lea, one of York Cemetery's genealogists, says: "We have thoroughly researched every one of the 151 people with war graves, so that we now have a detailed knowledge of many of the individuals and their families.

"John Calpin is a very interesting example: one of ten brothers from an Irish family who lived in York’s Walmgate area, who all signed up for active service at the beginning of the war. John died, as a result of the effects of gas, in a hospital near York on November 18 1916."

He and many members of his family are buried in the cemetery, although only John has a CWGC headstone on his grave.

The exhibition also will remember some of the women involved in the war effort, reveals Janet. "This war did not only affect men. Nellie Whitworth is buried and memorialised here with a war grave. She served in Queen Mary's Army Auxiliary Corps and died of ill health after returning from the front.

"Thirty-five women were killed, and many more injured, in an explosion at the Barnbow munitions factory in Leeds on December 5 1915. The women were involved in dangerous war work, filling artillery shells with explosives. Of those killed, six are buried in York Cemetery and four of these are buried in the same grave and share a memorial.”

Clive Dawson, chairman of the Friends of York Cemetery , says: "The exhibition gives an insight into their lives and illustrates the massive impact of that war on the people of York. It is very much a local exhibition. These are not simply commemorative plaques to people who died in foreign fields. Many were York people or people who died in and around York, often of their wounds later on."

Alongside these exhibits, First World War-themed artworks will be on display from the 1914-18 Commemorative Quilts and Textiles Group, from Scarborough, whose works are made painstakingly by people and groups from around the country.

“Using fabrics, wools and silks, they create complex and multi-layered interpretations of the war’s impact on both landscape and people," says group organiser Annie Parkinson.

"The works are intricate, colourful and beautifully made; a poignant series of images on soft fabrics illustrating a hard and brutal period for so many."

In addition, the chapel walls will be adorned with hessian poppies made by schoolchildren.

The exhibition is part of York Cemetery's World War One Commemorative Weekend, organised by Friends of York Cemetery, which will run on Saturday and Sunday from 10am to 4pm. It is then likely to reopen on August 4, the day of the cemetery's Service of Rembrance.

Cemetery trustee Jenny Hildyard, who has organised the August 4 Remembrance event, says: "We'll be extending the chapel with marquees to accommodate the many people we know will want to attend.

"The Archdeacon of York, the Venerable Sarah Bullock, will lead the service, which will be dedicated to those who died and were buried or have a memorial in York Cemetery. It will remember the profound effect of the conflict on the lives of so many families here in York and will be a very moving and special service, paying homage to those who sacrificed their lives in the Great War."

The occasion will be a "service with a difference" featuring not only hymns, poems and readings, but also classical flautist Simeon Wood, who will be accompanied by keyboards player Robin Dickson. Piper Stephen Roughly will play Flowers Of The Forest and The Last Post will sound out around the cemetery at the close.

"There will then be a laying of poppies on Commonwealth War Graves, which we hope will be a fitting end to what we believe will be a lovely Service of Remembrance. Afterwards, we're inviting everyone to complimentary light refreshments, including Remembrance shortbread. Those attending also will have the opportunity to enjoy the accompanying commemorative exhibition. "

* York cemetery's World War One Commemorative Weekend, organised by Friends of York Cemetery, runs on Saturday and Sunday from 10am to 4pm

In addition to the exhibition, there will be a number of other events. On Saturday, Year 10 drama pupils from Fulford School will give two performances of living history at 10.30am and 12 noon, based on the lives of a small number of people buried in the cemetery with a connection to the First World War.

On Saturday and Sunday, Great War-themed cemetery walks will be led by the cemetery’s expert walk leaders at regular intervals. The genealogy office in the cemetery gatehouse, normally open only on Fridays, will be open for general inquiries on both days from 11am to 3pm with special rates for genealogical information from the cemetery’s database on people buried or memorialised there.

Admission is free and complimentary homemade cakes and other light refreshments will be served over the weekend.


Remembered

AMONG those who will be remembered in the exhibition are Edward Hope Hawthorne, an elementary school teacher from Mount Terrace in York.

A Sergeant Major with the Royal Marines medical unit serving in the 2nd Field Ambulance, he died on active service on November 3, 1916, aged 45.

His cause of death is given as meningitis. he shares a grave in the cemetery with his parents, Hope and Annie Hawthorne, and his wife Margaret, who died many years later on April 26, 1941.

Grave number 20005 in the cemetery, meanwhile, is a 'public grave' containing the remains of no fewer than 16 people. Among them is Christopher Bridgewater, who died in may 1921 aged 37 years.

Christopher, whose father was a bricklayer and who grew up in Bilton Street, York, had seen service during the war as a private with the King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry. He survived the war, only to die three years later. The cause of his death is not recorded. But among the items on show at the exhibition is a letter Christopher wrote to the Lord Mayor of York thanking him for a gift of chocolate sent to serving troops from York at Christmas 1914.

"I received your most excellent present, which I was greatly pleased with, on 28-1-15," Private Bridgewater wrote in a scrawling italic handwriting. "I am going to keep the box as my... keepsake."

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