Photographs and artefacts help tell Great War stories

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POIGNANT photographs and artefacts tell the story of Steyning people affected by World War One.

Steyning and the Great War is a new exhibition at Steyning Museum, telling the story of the soldiers in France and Belgium, as well as the people left back at home.

An original letter on display reveals the thoughts of soldier James Taylor after his capture by Germans.

“I am in none too good a way until my clothes etc come through from the regiment,” he says in his letter.

Desperate for a smoke, he adds: “I couldn’t half go a Woodbine.”

The Daily News had reported that his comrades had last seen him ‘lying unconscious in the trenches’.

The stories of Sgt Frank Wood, who received the Military medal and the Croix de Guerre, and Sgt Pickard, who received the Distinguished Conduct Medal and Medaille Militaire from the French, are also told.

One of the oldest soldiers mentioned is Rifleman Edward Holloway, of Castle Lane, Steyning, who served in India in his mid-40s. He was a maltster at Steyning Brewery but fell ill with pneumonia and died in hospital in 1918.

The photograph of the Steyning Football Team of 1901-2, taken after they had won the Sussex Junior Cup, is a poignant reminder of local loss

Curator Chris Tod said: “ Of the 11 team members, four died during the war – Walter Watson and his brother Samuel Watson, Edwin Duke and team captain Herbert Flowers.

“Others also suffered losses within their families.”

Local newspaper reports of the time rarely included a quote indicating the response of family and friends to the losses they endured during the war, which reflected the stoicism generally shown when dealing with loss during the war.

Examples of trench art and war trophies include two German shell cases from 1918, decorated by a British soldier.

Mr Tod revealed the soldier was lucky: “The bullet heads, which were still in place when they were given to us, were still live when he was hammering away at the cartridge cases.”

Photographs featured include those taken on the front line by John Stanley Purvis.

He wrote the poem Chance Memory, expressing his thoughts about being on the front line. It refers to Mouse Lane, Steyning, as the ‘narrow lane from Steyning to the Ring’.

Mr Purvis wrote the poem in December 1915 and it was first published in 1916, under the pseudonym Philip Johnson.

Mr Tod said: “”He sets the peacefulness of the Downs against the horror of the trenches.”

Steyning Museum, in Church Street, is open all year. Visit www.steyningmuseum.org.uk for more information.