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Nottinghamshire County Council - Proud of our past, ambitious for our future

Document of the month

August 2014: Photographs of First World War cemeteries, 1919

User AvatarPosted by Peter Lester at 07/08/2014 10:09:55
Photograph of Bois-guillaume Cemetery in 1919 and 1990

Reference: DD/WA/2/2/18

This month’s document of the month comes from the Patricia Wakefield Memorials Collection.

The collection which comprises over 130 folders is the product of work undertaken over a number of years by the late Patricia Wakefield (1932 - 2004) of Bulwell, Nottingham and is the result of her interest in members of the Sherwood Foresters who died in the First World War.  She visited war cemeteries in France and Belgium and recorded details of the graves she found; she also toured Nottinghamshire and surrounding counties photographing war memorials and recording information about the soldiers listed on them. 

The documents were depoisted by her family after her death and cataloguing the collection was made possible by funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund and involved volunteers who under the guidance of the project archivist undertook the preservation and rewrapping aspects of the work.  The volunteers were home educated young people from the local area, aged between 11 and 17 and they represent the first generation for whom the First World War is no longer in living memory. The cataloguing project ran from May 2013 to July 2014.

The collection includes information on the locations of graves of the Nottinghamshire and Derby Regiment (the Sherwood Foresters) as well as lists of cemteries in France and Belgium where Sherwood Foresters are buried and documents relating to memorials in Nottinghamshire and surrounding counties.  Patricia Wakefield also took a photograph of every Sherwood Forester's grave she visited and researched detailed biographical information for soldiers from different regiments. For 43 of them she also obtained their medals.

The document chosen is one of the most poignant in the collection; it is a montage of images from Bois-Guillaume Cemetery just north of Rouen in France.  One image shows the cemetery in 1919 with the original wooden crosses and headstones, like those which inspired Colonel John Macrae to write his famous poem “In Flanders Fields”. The other image was taken by Patricia Wakefield in the 1990s and shows the cemetery with its neatly tended Commonwealth War Graves Commission headstones.

Patricia Wakefield’s years of work in compiling this collection is testament to the promise made in Lawrence Binyon’s poem “The Fallen”:

‘…At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.’

You can read more about the Wakefield collection project on our blog.

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