OXFORDSHIRE’S First World War past came to life on Saturday when relatives of soldiers remembered their sacrifice at the official opening of the Soldiers of Oxfordshire Museum (SOFO).
The museum, in Park Street, Woodstock, which cost £3.5m and has been more than a decade in the planning, opens its Great War exhibition today, featuring the stories of soldiers and civilians from across Oxfordshire.
Oxfordshire Remembers is the culmination of months of work by dozens of volunteers trawling through thousands of artefacts in the SOFO collection.
Funded by an £80,000 Heritage Lottery Fund grant, it tells Oxfordshire’s story of the Great War on 12 display boards exploring different units, men and themes.
Relatives joined with actors and musicians to officially open the museum and tell of the bravery of their family members who served.
Mary Bateman, 88, with Rob Langham, 26, part of living history actors, in front of a photo of her and her father Cpl Henry Timms, who was in the Oxfordshire Yeomanry
Mary Bateman, 88, of Kidlington, is featured in the exhibit holding a photo of her father, Corporal Henry Timms, who served with the Oxfordshire Yeomanry, also known as the Queen’s Own Oxfordshire Hussars, a Territorial Army cavalry regiment which lost 125 soldiers between 1914-18.
Cpl Timms signed up as soon as war broke out.
He served in France from November 1914 until the end of the war in November 1918.
Mrs Bateman said: “The exhibition was very impressive and I was rather pleased I went.
“My father was a farmhand at Launton before the war broke out.
“When he came out of the Army he was a groom in Sussex before coming back up to Oxford to work for the railway. He never, ever spoke about the war. That was quite common among men who had served.”
The exhibition focuses on soldiers who served in the Oxfordshire Yeomanry and the Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry as well as the lives of people on the home front as Oxfordshire dealt with the dramatic impact the war had on daily life.
Col Tim May, pictured with a photo of his uncle, 2nd Lieutenant Eric May, of the Royal Field Artillery
Personal possessions, many of which have never been displayed in public before, are being exhibited alongside the photos.
Colonel Tim May, who served with the Oxfordshire Yeomanry and is now vice chairman of the Soldiers of Oxfordshire Museum, is featured in the exhibit holding a photo of his uncle, Second Lieutenant Eric May, from Cumnor, who served in the Royal Field Artillery.
Two of 2nd Lt May’s brothers, Robert and Edwin, also served in the Army and his sister Dorothy was a nurse. Remarkably all four survived the war.
Col May said: “I think it was very successful and I hope it draws people’s attention to the war and makes them want to know more about it.” 2nd Lt May was posted to France in 1916 and served there until the end of the war.
He won the Military Cross for signalling to artillery colleagues from the top of a building in the face of direct fire from the enemy.
After the war he returned briefly to England before emigrating to New Zealand, where he died in 1977, aged 78.
The exhibition runs until August 31, 2015. Visit sofo.org.uk
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