Children from Manor Primary School in Uckfield are to take part in a World War 1 research project thanks to a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund and you can help too.
The project will research the lives, memories and stories of the Sussex women, children and families who remained behind whilst their fathers went to war.
Children and volunteers will be researching how it was to live then: the hardships, struggles, class differences, poverty, employment and all the social and political impacts of the many sacrifices that were made.
The children will look at the effect returning soldiers had on those who remained at home and recognise the efforts of these courageous women and families.
With many men away at war, the home population was struggling to cope with day to day life. Families were left without the support of their husbands and sons and the war pension committee papers reveal often tragic stories of the lives of those left behind.
Women and families sought financial aid from the Soldier’s Dependants Fund to cover the costs of living, including rent payments, clothing, food and health care costs. These papers provide evidence of wives in arrears with rent payments and in some cases the debts of their husbands.
Some women entered work for the first time in order to cope financially; others were encouraged to take in lodgers to help cover their costs.
Prior to the outbreak of war, women were still required to leave employment when they married and their role was at home.
It is estimated that at least one million women entered the British workforce between 1914 and 1918 working in areas such as transport, agriculture, banking and the civil service.
Whether this was seen as a necessity to provide for their families or an opportunity for greater independence, it was a huge change for British home lives.
Separation Allowance was paid to all married soldiers, their children and also any adults who could prove they were dependent on the soldier prior to his enlistment.
This allowance was increased in March 1915 and again in July of the same year to twelve shillings and sixpence. What did this buy? What was life like for these people, living at that extraordinary time? This is what the children and volunteers will be discovering.
Manor Primary School head teacher Margaret Coleman said: “In this current age it’s hard for the children to really understand how it was to live through war. ͞
“They will be able to walk in the footsteps of those living in incredibly difficult situations, making sacrifices that we find hard to understand now. It will bring history alive for all those involved, help us to remember the past, and honour those brave women, children and men of the time.”
There will be community days held to encourage sharing of information from this part of our past. Project co-ordinators Sound Architect Creative Media are keen to hear from anyone who would like to volunteer with this crucial aspect of our past.
If you have photographs or letters or anything passed down through the generations of your family, please contact the Project Manager: Susanne Crosby, through the website: http://www.soundarchitect.org.