The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) has awarded a grant of £10,000 to the Royal Engineers Museum for a major exhibition based around ten Victoria Cross recipients from the First World War. VC: For Valour – Sapper VCs of the First World War will be available to view between Tuesday 3 July and Friday 21 December. Made possible by National Lottery players through HLF’s First World War then and now programme, the project will focus on telling the stories that surround the awards and the lives of the Engineers who were awarded them. By focusing on the soldiers behind the medals, people will be exposed to a very personal exploration of the First World War and the effect it had on some of those involved.
The project will focus on the physical heritage of the First World War through the collection of ten Victoria Crosses received by Royal Engineers, all of which are held by the Museum. Through this, the individual stories of these soldiers can be told through personal items such as diaries, service dress and letters. The project will also allow the public a unique opportunity to see the genuine VCs on display within the museum.
Workshops will be held in the next few weeks allowing the local community to share their thoughts and feelings around the concept of heroism and how the Royal Engineers have helped to shape the landscape within Medway. Contributions will be recorded and selected videos will be incorporated into the exhibition. As well as engaging with the local community, the project will see consultation with current serving Royal Engineers to hear how they themselves view the modern concept of heroism and valour, reflecting on the role of the soldier as the centenary of the First World War approaches.
Museum Director Rebecca Nash said: “We are delighted to be able to embark on a project like this. The exhibition is a great opportunity for the public to see a rare glimpse of the actual medals awarded to the brave officers and soldiers and to find out about the men behind the medals. We are grateful to the Heritage Lottery Fund and the other sponsors for supporting us in marking this important anniversary. This is very much a community project and we would be keen for local people to get involved. If you would like to share your opinions and help shape the exhibition, we would love to hear from you”.
The Museum plans to work in conjunction with local students who will explore the idea of valour, whilst being given an opportunity to learn how to use local archives to carry out personal and professional research. Schools outreach sessions will be held and a dedicated learning pack will be produced based around local VC holder James McCudden, whose memorial plaque was installed outside the Museum gates earlier this year.
The Museum tells the story of the Royal Engineers and how they have helped the British Army live, move and fight for over 300 years. It is Kent’s largest military museum and, in addition to the Berlin Wall display, highlights include 25 Victoria Crosses, Wellington’s map of Waterloo, Zulu War weapons, amazing bridge-laying tanks, a Harrier Jump Jet and an enormous V2 Rocket. With interactive exhibits, indoor and outdoor play areas, café and gift shop, there’s plenty for all the family whatever the weather.
The Museum is open from 10am-5pm (last admission 4pm) Tuesdays to Sundays and Bank Holiday Mondays – full details can be found at www.re-museum.co.uk.
Michelle Roffe, Head of HLF South East said: “We are delighted to support this project, which, thanks to money raised by National Lottery players, will mean that more people will be able to get involved with, protect, and learn about the exciting heritage right on their doorstep.”