A Swindon in the Great War project, which will tell the story of the invaluable work done on the ‘home front’, has already begun.
Swindon Museum holds an important archive of documents relating to the efforts of volunteers in the town to support the troops abroad, including those captured and held as prisoners of war (POWs).
In October 1914 a committee was formed, its purpose to provide comforts for the troops of the Wiltshire Regiment.
Local schoolteacher Mary Slade (later MBE), of 63 Avenue Road, was elected as Chairman, with Miss FK Coleman as Secretary. Sadly, Miss Coleman was forced to resign in March 1915, due to ill health, and she died shortly afterwards. Kate Handley, of 50 The Mall, succeeded her, and Miss Gover of 28 The Mall, was elected as Treasurer.
Their aim was to collect items such as gloves, socks, scarves, and so on, and then send them to the Wiltshire Regiment depot at Devizes, ready to be despatched to the front. The Mayor of Swindon made a public appeal for items, which was answered immediately. He made another appeal in 1915 for money, which would be spent on food to aid the starving prisoners of war held in German and Turkish camps.
The museum’s collection is in the process of being digitised, but we offer a tiny taster, in the meantime, with two letters from the archive, which underline that the welfare of the prisoners continued to be a concern even after they returned home. Also featured is a photo of Mary Slade.
As well as giving an insight into the war, the archive will eventually also provide valuable social and family history information because detailed records were kept of hundreds of volunteers.
Click on any of the photos below to see the gallery as a slideshow.