Carved in Stone: Merton WWI memorial project looks back at ‘chilling’ war-time heritage

A new heritage project exploring the ‘chilling’ realities of Merton in the First World War was launched at Morden Library on Saturday.

The Carved In Stone project remembers war-time residents and is supported by the council and a Heritage Lottery Fund grant.

Morden Library, in Merton Civic Centre, is the first of three venues to hold a War Story Day, where members of the local community can contribute memories and historical items or just learn more about the period.

Project leader Sarah Gould said: “There are no surviving war combatants anymore and a lot of their immediate family are now of quite a considerable age so it is important to capture those stories before those people who are able to pass them on disappear forever.”

The project aims to build up a wealth of resources which can be digitised and used for educational purposes in local schools.

Some unsettling discoveries have already been made, pictures have emerged which show that local lads trained in ‘practice trenches’ before being shipped over to the battlefields.

Ms Gould said: “It’s a bit chilling when you think about the people who practiced in those trenches on Wimbledon Common – a lot of them went to war and didn’t come back.”

The Carved In Stone team also discovered that Private S Lewis, at just 13, was fighting in the trenches at the Somme.

Cherrie Morris, from Colliers Wood, said: “I came to discover how much history there is in Merton in relation to the First World War, how many people died, the soldiers who died who lived in the vicinity and how it all fits together.”

Ms Morris’ grandfather lived in Colliers Wood when he was called up to join the Royal Horse Artillery. He was one of the lucky few who managed to survive the Great War.

For those without war stories, the days offered lots to explore including access to archive footage as well as photographic displays and illustrated talks.

Activities for children include the opportunity to make wartime biplanes and characters.

Further War Story Days will be held throughout the summer. On June 20 the team will be at the Acacia Centre, Grove Road, Mitcham from 10am-4pm.

The final date is August 1 at Wimbledon Studio Theatre from 11am-5pm. Admission is free.

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