Ilfracombe’s extraordinary First World War story is being told at a new exhibition at Ilfracombe Museum this summer and autumn.
Visitors to Ilfracombe’s Faces of War exhibition will see hundreds of images of local men who served in the British Army and the Royal Navy displayed together for the first time in a century.
This year and in particular this Remembrance Day, marks 100 years since the end of the First World War.
Visitors to Ilfracombe Museum will learn about how two men drove a unique recruitment campaign in the town that bucked the trend of low levels of volunteering in Devon.
The 550 images were originally displayed in the town hall as part of a recruitment initiative led by the chairman of Ilfracombe Urban District Council, Mr Andrews, who paid to have each framed identically.
The framed photographs are now held by Ilfracombe Museum and they have been reproduced to fill the Lundy Room gallery. Some of the original, framed photographs will also be on display.
In addition to the photographs, Mr Andrews, the headmaster of St Philip and St James School involved his pupils and the local newspaper in a remarkable letter writing campaign.
He used letters to and from the men at the front to foster a sense of the town’s engagement with the war that was unmatched in the rest of the county. Some of these touching letters are reproduced in the exhibition.
The story was uncovered by two volunteer researchers, Jane Dendle at Ilfracombe Museum and MA student Emil Sokolov at the University of Exeter.
The exhibition has been supported by the Devon Remembers Heritage Project with funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund.
The Devon Remembers Heritage Project enables people all across Devon to discover the county’s First World War stories.
Thanks to money raised by National Lottery players, the project has received a grant of £267,400 from the Heritage Lottery Fund.
It is run by South West Heritage Trust with additional support from Devon County Council, Torbay Council and the University of Exeter.
Ilfracombe’s Faces of War is open now and runs until November 30. Entry to the gallery is free with normal admission to the museum. Ilfracombe Museum is open Monday to Saturday, 10am-5pm (10am-1pm in November).