Stephen Metcalfe MP for South Basildon and East Thurrock welcomed the public to the exhibition at Wat Tyler Country Park, Pitsea, to commemorate the end of the Battle of the Somme one hundred years ago on Saturday 19 November 2016.
The exhibition saw the end of the five month long project and was a show piece for all the research and work that had been put in by a number of schools in Basildon and community groups. The project inspired by Stephen Metcalfe was run jointly by Basildon Heritage Group and Basildon Borough Twinning Association.
The exhibition was attended by the War and Peace Trench, The Living History Society field hospital and recruitment tent, 10th Essex Battalion re-enactment group, Sentimental Journey, Harriet Bowman Make Up Artist and many other displays.
The Project started in June with the making of a CD called ‘The Padre’ by a German band from Basildon’s twin town of Heiligenhaus called Fricklesome Amsel in collaboration with school choirs from Lee Chapel Primary School and Beauchamps High School.
July saw a Memorial Cricket Match to Richard Bartlett who was a local Wickford cricketer who died on the Somme.
In September a group of Woodlands Pupils joined a group of pupils from The Gesamtschule in Heiligenhaus on a four day visit to The Somme. This was quickly followed by a class of children from Beauchamps High School visiting the Army Medical Museum at Aldershot. Commemorative trees were planted at various sites around the borough to remember local men who died during the Somme conflict.
A record of all these events was displayed in the exhibition.
The programme of the weekend included a live performance of ‘The Padre’ by Lee Chapel Primary School choir and a display by Wickford ATC Band. A Physical Training display of 100 years ago was put on by pupils of Woodlands School who were joined by Rio Team GB gymnast Brinn Bevan. Brinn was joined by Basildon Mayor David Harrison to unveil a plaque to commemorate sportsmen who fell on the Somme.
School children and teachers from Heiligenhaus who had joined Woodlands pupils on the Somme in September were in attendance as were two school teachers from Meaux. Soldiers from Basildon, Heiligenhaus and Meaux were commemorated on a glass memorial presented by Stephen to Basildon’s Mayor. The memorial lists all the fallen from the three twin towns.
Finally Emma Cook from The Heritage Lottery Fund attended as was impressed by the whole project and praised the efforts of the organisers and dedicated volunteers who had been engaged in the project and the exhibition.