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Exhibition marks Bexhill’s war dead

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Three hundred and thirty one tiny bottles hang from the twigs of a tree.

Each bears a label.

Each represents a Bexhillian killed in the First World War.

The tree set amid a sandbag-and-stumps Western Front evocation is focal-point of Bexhill Remembers, the town museum’s exhibition marking the war’s centenary.

Artist Jane Churchill has employed Victorian “lachrymatoria” mourning practice – bottles of tears – to dramatic effect.

Museum members attending last Friday’s exhibition launch in the presence of MP Gregory Barker and Town Mayor Cllr Frances Winterborn discovered how war had an impact on the lives of the whole community.

The exhibition has been made possible by £35,000 Heritage Lottery Fund aid.

Museum project manager Rachel Heminway-Hurst and education officer Claire Eden and their team of volunteers have created education boxes for schools. Newspaper files have yielded stories of personal loss. Private Frederick Barker was killed a week before the Armistice unaware that his wife and infant son died at the same time at home.

Raphaelle Murray was awarded the Mons Ribbon for her work interpreting and supervising hospitals in Calais.

Bexhill Royal Naval Association’s tribute is the 14ft battle ensign flown by HMS Inflexible at the Battle of the Falkland Islands in December 1914.

Eric Woodhouse’s research shows that Deck Boy Herbert Eldridge, 16, was among 1,265 lost when HMS Queen Mary exploded at Jutland. Poppies on Eric’s cap badge display reveal how Bexhill’s losses were spread across many regiments.

Continuously-screened film footage shows men from the Canadian Officer Training School in Bexhill training in Egerton Park. Bexhillian Dr Luke Flanagan gained his PhD researching the Canadians’ exploits.

Opening an exhibition described by the MP as “brilliant,” Dr Flanagan congratulated all concerned and said it embodied the community spirit which typified Bexhill in war-time. See next week’s Observerfor more photos of the exhibition.

 

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