Meet the Home Front Legacy Champions
Home Front Legacy Champions have been key to the project’s success. Our Champions have helped by recording sites in their local area and promoting the project.
To highlight their hard work we asked our Champions to introduce themselves, explain how they got involved in Home Front Legacy and show us their favourite Home Front site.
I was asked by the North Norfolk District Council to help them put together a First World War pillbox trail as part of the centenary commemorations, and this in turn led me to find out about Home Front Legacy.
When I started recording Norfolk’s defences in 1990, I was amazed how generous fellow enthusiasts were at sharing their research. Henry Wills even sent me his enlarged survey for my area. For my researches I have recorded Norfolk’s First World War fixed defences, but had no further plans to publish this information, so Home Front Legacy has been a fantastic way for me to give back a little of this generosity. I hope it will make it possible for other researchers to build on my finds, and for anyone to be able to access this specialist information. And as a result of Home Front Legacy, Chris Kolonko alerted me to seven further long lost Norfolk pillboxes I would never have found.
My favourite site is the hexagonal pillbox at St. Olaves (HFL 8138) as it was the first one I ever recorded, all of 28 years ago! It is easily mistaken for a common Second World War type 22, but is a fascinating reminder of the easily forgotten invasion threat of the previous war.
I live in Tonbridge and at the start of the centenary for World War 1 in 2014 I noticed no research had been published on the fallen of the town . So along with a friend Dave Swarbrick, we set about research . Our books were printed and given to the Parish church, Royal British Legion & library for reference, along with summaries posted on Tonbridge historical society website. Since then I have embarked on much social research about the fascinating town in which I live, I have helped Kent WW1 launch historic walks & do talks to schools & youth groups. It is my ambition to work with Dave again to compile a book about Tonbridge in World War 1, so people can read it, close their eyes and imagine the sights, smells and events that took place .
Bringing history to life is exciting & recording key places of interest in sites such as Home Front Legacy means anyone can access the information. It is so important we don’t re-write history but we do remember it. This project has given focus to my research & a visual platform to record places of interest. It was so easy to get involved & every little bit of information helped build a bigger picture of areas of hidden history that can now be visible.
I’ve always had an interest in fortifications, and anything military really. I am also fascinated by the defences of the Firth of Forth, in particular the First World War battery at Hound Point, near Dalmeny. Although the domestic site is long gone, the gun platforms and magazine are still in good condition. I often visit just to see how it’s weathering.
I was involved in the Defence of Britain Project back in the 1990s, which succeeded in recording many of the surviving Second World War anti-invasion sites in the UK.
However, there were still large gaps in the database caused by a lack of surveyors and a lack of knowledge or information; not everyone could visit the National Archives, and the internet wasn’t available.
I was asked to join the Home Front Legacy project in April 2016 by Chris Kolonko (Home Front Legacy Officer), and I saw it as an opportunity not only to create a database for the First World War, but to try and surpass the achievements of the Defence of Britain project. I decided to concentrate on Scotland, as there were not as many sites recorded at that point in comparison to the rest of the country.
Thanks to the number of local history sites online, national monument records, official history sites and the project handbook for pointers, I was amazed at the sheer amount of information that is available these days in contrast to the ’90s. It might not be 100% comprehensive, but I genuinely feel the project has put the First World War Home Front “on the map” for future generations.
I became aware of the Home Front Legacy project in 2017. For the previous year I’d been researching a book about the history of the Women’s Land Army during the First World War, and it was fascinating then to actually plot the training centres, the hostels, and the farms where these women worked onto the Home Front Legacy map. The technology was easy to use and the exercise made me think about the geographical stretch of the Land Army’s work, its regional variations and the practical challenges that it faced.
Lots of projects have connected communities with the wartime experience of their ancestors over the past four years, but this one is special in that it draws attention to the physical and tangible remnants that still surround us. In some cases these are forgotten sites, mouldering away unseen, but the project also made me look again at well-known locations as it placed them in freshly vivid historical context. Personally, it left me with a sense of scale: showing the extent of the impact of the war and how it pervaded so many aspects of everyday lives. Learning how these events touched the familiar and the local truly brings this history home and makes it matter.
I have a couple of ongoing studies to record surviving Great War Drill Halls and Auxiliary Hospitals on Geograph as part of our Great War Centenary project. A trip to the CITiZAN workshop on Merseyside gave an opportunity to record my last Drill Hall in Liverpool although having visited the site, further on-line research revealed it was instead a building taken over as a Quartermaster’s Store. Sometimes there is a good reason why there are no recent pictures for some buildings as I found out with the nearby Auxiliary Hospitals as the first was hidden by trees, a second was behind padlocked gates and a third converted to flats with electronic gates, high walls and fences.
My other interest is working with the other Chase Though Time volunteers to record features from the Great War Camps on Cannock Chase in Staffordshire. The site comprised two 20,000 man camps with at least eight full rifle ranges, a railway, hospital, sewage works and training trenches spread over a wide area of heath and woodland. We have been trialling the incorporation of photographic and site recording forms with the LIDAR survey and Historic England interpretation onto their ArcGIS mapping. We also plan to record a section of full size practice trench and do some more geo-physical survey of possible earlier iron smelting sites.
We Need You!
The Home Front Legacy team would like to give a big thank you to our Champions for their continued support and for telling their story.
There is still time to become a Home Front Legacy Champion! We are looking for motivated individuals, groups and schools to record their local Home Front sites and help others get involved. We are happy to publicise the work of our Champions and share the projects they are involved with.
Please contact the Home Front Legacy team if you would like to become a Home Front Legacy Champion.