‘BRING your keepsakes from the First World War’ was the invitation to a special roadshow at Bradford’s City Hall. And scores of people responded - clutching over 300 items passed down in families, from treasures medals to everyday things from the kitchen drawer.

Saturday’s roadshow was organised by the Commonwealth War Graves Foundation, in partnership with the University of Oxford, as part of its Lest We Forget: Keep Their Stories Alive project. Funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, the scheme is preserving items and memories of the 1914-18 war for a national digital archive.

As children, Liz Hall and her sister, Kate, played with a periscope used in the trenches by their late grandfather, William Whitfield. “We used it to spy from the window sill in the living-room,” smiled Liz. The periscope was one of several items she and Kate took to the WW1 roadshow. Others included a splatter mask, worn by soldiers in tanks to protect their eyes during combat, (William, from Thackley, was in the Tank Corps); a camera in its original cloth carry case; trench art - items made from bullet cases and shell cases which Liz and Kate have in our homes as ornaments - a diary kept by William when he was in France in 1918/1919; his de-mob papers from 1919/1920; a cigarette case engraved with his name and regiment; a silver coin holder; a 1915 newspaper; a poem and obituary clippings and a bag of buttons, uniform tags and cap badges. They also took photographs of soldiers in trenches, training fields and a French hospital at Christmas with nurses, and group shots in tanks.

“Other photos show life at home during the war, including our great granny working in a munitions factory,” says Liz.

“We took a box of medals - on the Whitfield side of the family our grandad, William and his two brothers were in France during WW1; one brother, Bateson, died out there. He’d been in the Army in the late 1890s, got bought out in early 1900 to work in the family business as a stone mason then went back in the Army when WW1 broke out - he was 32 when he died in a trench, just before the Battle of the Somme. We have letters from his dad asking the Army for him to be sent home. My grandad went on his only trip abroad to visit his brother’s grave at Aveluy, in 1969.

“We also took condolence letters and cards and an accounts book from the Whitfield builders documenting jobs during the war back in Thackley.”

Adds Liz: “The roadshow was amazing. We learned so much about William’s time in the war, as well as historical context around his medals and splatter mask. It’s hugely important for us to honour and remember our grandad’s service to our country. Archiving ensures that his story is never lost.”

Local volunteers were kept busy for several hours at the roadshow, writing up poignant family stories and recording details of objects. Almost 2,500 digital images were made from the event, opened by Lord Mayor of Bradford Councillor Zafar Ali who praised the way people across the district had shared remembrance together during the four-year WW1 centenary.

Organiser Bradford-born Elizabeth Smith, Public Engagement Officer for CWGC in the North, said the response was “overwhelming”, describing it as “Yorkshire brilliance in all areas”.

The roadshow was the second of four taking place across the UK. Once items are digitised, the stories are available to the public through a free-to-use online database.Those who couldn’t make Saturday’s event can upload their WW1 stories to the online archive at lwf.it.ox.ac.uk

The event featured displays by Bradford World War One Group and a powerpoint illustrating the role of the Indian Army.

Tricia Restorick, WW1 Group president, said: “From the hard work and enthusiasm of City Hall staff and volunteers to the patience of the long queues that formed, Bradford was at its best.

“Visitors came from far and wide. John White from Liverpool, an old boy of St Bede’s, commented on the resounding success of an impressive day. Margaret Harley came from Barnard Castle with photographs and documents relating to her father who served with the Ilkley Artillery Battery. She was delighted that treasured family memories were received with such enthusiasm and empathy.

“Some objects were extremely rare, including a 1920s cast iron sign from Lonsdale Cemetery on the Somme. An officer’s compass, and miniature versions of his medals including the Military Cross, were also among the dozens of family objects.”

Dr Stuart Lee, Deputy CIO of IT Services at Oxford, said: ‘Lest We Forget began as an idea in 2017. We want to record those stories, objects and memories that survive, not in museum collections or history books, but in the hearts and homes of the many families and individuals affected.”

Max Dutton, CWGC Assistant Historian, said: “Archives provide a vital link with the past. Lest We Forget allows us to preserve our First World War heritage for current and future generations. We hope this event has inspired communities across Bradford to learn more about their WW1 past.”