Haunting faces of a lost generation going on display

Sidney Woodroffe, from Lewes, was awarded the Victoria Cross for heroism on the battlefield that cost him his life
Sidney Woodroffe, from Lewes, was awarded the Victoria Cross for heroism on the battlefield that cost him his life

A poignant exhibition, Faces of the Great War, is coming to Lewes Town Hall next month.

It is the result of four years of research by Cllr Graham Mayhew for Lewes Town Council on the county town’s casualties of the First World War.

The exhibition features 114 photographs and short biographies of Lewes men and women who died as a result of their service in the conflict and is being staged to mark the Armistice on November 11 1918, which marked an end to the fighting on the Western Front.

These photographs still only represent a minority of those commemorated on the Lewes War Memorial and the parish memorials around the town and Dr Mayhew is hoping that the exhibition will encourage more people to come forward with photographs of some of those missing from the displays.

He said: “When last year’s torchlight commemoration of those whose names are recorded on the War Memorial took place, many of those who took part wore armbands to show they were relatives of those killed.

“I am appealing to them and anyone else reading this to look through their old family photo albums and see if they have any photographs that might be relevant. A digital scan would be perfect or, if they are willing to bring a copy into the Town Hall it can be scanned there.

“Several people have already let me have copies of photographs of their relatives and there must be many more out there. It would be a fitting tribute to all those who died if we could produce a commemorative book with all of them in it, together with an account of their lives and what happened to them.”

Dr Mayhew continued: “The Great War was a cataclysmic event which ripped the heart out of communities all over Europe and caused pain and loss to generations of ordinary families who were affected. The human cost was immeasurable and it is only by seeing their faces and finding out about their lives that the true cost of war really comes home to you.

“Many towns produced Books of Remembrance after the war with the photographs of nearly everyone in them. I am hoping we can do the same for Lewes. Do come to the exhibition. Look at the faces and read about some of the lives that were so full of hope and promise that were cut short. And help in adding to the images we have.”

The exhibition is in the Baxter Corridor of Lewes Town Hall daily except Sunday from Monday, November 5, until Saturday, November 17, 9am until 5pm with early closing on Bonfire Night.