Orford: Impact of the First World War will be explored like never before thanks to ambitious museum project

Members of the Red Cross Ambulance Class of 1914, taken at Sudbourne Hall where a military convalesc

Members of the Red Cross Ambulance Class of 1914, taken at Sudbourne Hall where a military convalescent home was sited. - Credit: Contributed

EXPERIMENTAL activities carried out by the newly-created Royal Flying Corps, the appearance of German prisoners of war and the experiences of those left behind while loved ones fought on the front line.

The impact of the First World War on one Suffolk village will be explored like never before thanks to an ambitious project to mark the centenary of the conflict.

The venture is being co-ordinated by volunteers at Orford Museum but they are also enlisting the help of youngsters from local primary and secondary schools.

Together they will trace the stories of the men whose names appear on the war memorials in six local churches and look at what happened to the families that were left behind and those who survived.

They will also uncover facts about the early days of the Royal Flying Corps (the forerunner of the RAF), which established an airfield at Orford Ness and carried out a range of experiments on parachutes, aerial photography, machine gun sights and camouflage.

The lives of German POWs who were incarcerated on the Ness will also be explored, along with those of Chinese labourers used to build the river walls to protect the airfield from flooding.

The experiences of war-wounded soldiers who were cared for in a Red Cross convalescent hospital in nearby Sudbourne will also be documented.

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Those behind the project - which has been made possible thanks to £28,600 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) - are hoping to gather information from local families whose relatives served in the war as well as draw on details from the Suffolk Records Office and Orford Ness Archive.

Once gathered it will be used to create a special exhibition in September next year at Orford Town Hall to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War.

Michael Flint, chairman of Orford Museum, said: “We are very excited to have been awarded this grant and are very much looking forward to starting the project.

“It will allow us to engage directly with our community, researching a period of history that has had a profound effect on the area.

“It is our last chance to tap into memories that may still exist before they disappear forever, and involve the young in discovering why the area has such an interesting past.”

A commemorative book will also be published, a heritage trail created, education materials sent to local schools and “reminiscence” packs made available for older members of the community.

The HLF’s Robyn Llewellyn said: “The upcoming centenary of the First World War provides a timely opportunity for all of us to understand the extraordinary impact it had on local people.

“Young people from Orford and surrounding villages will learn about the real lives of those involved and the contributions their community made to the war effort.

“Working with Orford Museum and Suffolk Records Office will enable all of us to share in these remarkable stories.”