Watford Museum is joining in the 100-year commemoration of WWI’s Battle of the Somme with an exhibition charting the town’s response to the war in 1916.
The exhibition, which runs throughout August until 24 September, brings 1916 to life with historical images of the town and fascinating anecdotes of the real-life experiences of Watford locals.
A highlight of the exhibition is the Western Front Violin, loaned by the Imperial War Museum, which was made in the 1980s by the former leader of the Watford Philharmonic Orchestra, Kenneth Popplewell.
Crafted using timber Popplewell collected from the sycamore and pine tree roots that survived the carnage of the Somme battlefields, the violin was gifted to the Imperial War Museum, where it is frequently played on Armistice Day. It will be used in the orchestra’s remembrance concert at Watford Colosseum in October.
As part of the commemoration, the museum is also putting the Watford Roll of Honour online, along with biographies and memorials. As well as the 830 Watford servicemen on the roll, there are around 500 more who do not feature but these will be added to the online database for people to search on ourwatfordhistory.org.uk.
Watford Council’s Luke Clark is the curator of the exhibition: ‘We are marking each year of the Great War in our yearly summer exhibition. The Battle of the Somme, the first day of which is the bloodiest in the history of the British Army, had a huge impact at home, with at least 160 Watford men losing their lives. Through local newspapers, personal letters and images, our exhibition gives people a rare insight into how Watford and its people coped.’
Elected Mayor of Watford Dorothy Thornhill added: ‘The tragic history of WWI continues to resonate strongly with people. Just as we played our part then, Watford is taking part in the international remembrance of 1916 and the Battle of the Somme with this very special exhibition. It can be easy to get lost in the sheer magnitude of WWI but this exhibition brings it to life by telling us of the town’s sacrifice and the personal stories of Watford locals, which is why it is so powerful.’