University’s Alumni Team prepares to honour centenary of the end of World War One - and remember the fallen.

Posted on 1st November 2017

As Remembrance Day 2017 approaches, plans are already well underway at the University of Chester for a series of events next year to commemorate 100 years since the end of World War One, which will specifically acknowledge the sacrifice 77 former students and staff made when they fought and died in the conflict.

The Alumni and Development team at the University is working hard to ensure that the institution marks the centenary with a fitting commemoration in June 2018. Even though the events are not taking place until next year, the team has been on a journey of discovery over recent months, about those connected to the University who tragically lost their lives in the Great War.

The team is already receiving a considerable amount of interest in the project, from both alumni (former students and staff) and the relatives of the 77 fallen. Textile poppies are being made by alumni, staff and volunteers, to represent each of those alumni who lost their lives during the War. With nine months still to go, over 50 handmade poppies have already been produced. Once complete, the poppies will form a wreath to be unveiled during a special Service of Remembrance at the University’s Chapel at the Parkgate Road Campus, which will take place next summer. Following the event, the poppy wreath will then be placed in an oak display cabinet as a permanent memorial.

Alumni and Development Manager, Fiona Roberts, said: “When we initially suggested this project, we could not have imagined where this would lead us, from uncovering photos of our alumni, to meeting their relatives, and even reading their letters. It has been both inspiring and humbling, and we are so pleased that it has captured the imagination of so many people. We will ensure that the sacrifice that these men made will always be remembered.”

The commemoration project has been inspired by a memorial plaque in the University Chapel which lists the 77 former students and staff who were killed, or died from their wounds, in World War One. Members of the University of Chester Alumni Association (UCAA) felt that these individuals’ sacrifices should be marked in some way.

Fiona added: “Since last year, alumni volunteers have been researching the early lives and military service of the men listed on the plaque, and in some cases, tracing the men’s relatives.”

Alan Robinson, a relative of one of the 77 fallen alumni (Fred Bullough), will be attending the Service next June. Alan has a keen interest in tracing his family history and his research into Fred’s life has proven invaluable when piecing together the history of the 77 names on the plaque.

He recently visited the University to meet with John Lord, a member of the Alumni Association who has also been researching the names on the plaque. Alan, who visited with his wife Sandra, confirmed that they have a relative in Australia who is hoping to attend the Service next June.

Alan said: “It came as a surprise to me to learn that my great uncle, Fred Bullough, had trained as a teacher at Chester College. It is a wonderful idea for the University to commemorate its former students who died in the Great War, and I am really looking forward to the centenary events next June.”

Alumnus Steve Parker is also carrying out extensive research on each of the 77 alumni, and a detailed explanation of his work was featured on the University’s alumni blog in June. The Alumni and Development Team would like to incorporate his research into a website, which it is hoped will be designed and created by final year students at the University for their dissertation projects.

Steve said: “By the end of this research, we are hoping to provide detailed biographies for all 77 of the former students. So far they are remembered by name only, but we hope that by providing more details about their lives, they will receive the recognition they deserve.”

Alumni Association member, Sue Carmichael, has contributed significantly to the project too. After discovering that memorabilia for one of the names on the plaque - Joseph Henry Bratt - had been auctioned, Sue managed to get in touch with Mavis Mottram who had purchased the lot. Mavis generously provided copies and photographs of all the items she had relating to Joseph.

Mavis, who recently visited the University’s Parkgate Road Campus with her daughter, said: “When I bought Joseph Henry Bratt's World War One memorabilia from the auction, I never thought that it was going to take me on such an interesting journey, eventually leading me to the University of Chester.”

She added: “I had researched Joseph's attestation papers and wondered why they had been signed in Chester and not in his local area of North Staffordshire like my own grandfather’s had been. When I received the email from Sue it all became clear - Joseph had obviously been a Student Teacher at Chester College.”

The alumni researchers also discovered that the family of one fallen alumnus, Ernest Alfred Cash, was still in possession of a King’s Penny (a plaque given to the family as a tangible memorial of their lost loved one). After searching through memorabilia kept by Ernest’s sister, his relatives were able to locate and restore the Penny.

The Alumni and Development team is keen to hear from anyone who would like to be involved in the poppy project, or who might have any information relating to the names on the plaque. Please contact the Alumni and Development Office at alumni@chester.ac.uk or call 01244 511091, if you would like to get in touch.

The Service of Remembrance at the University’s Chapel on the Parkgate Road Campus, will take place in summer 2018, led by Dean of Chapel, the Rev Canon Dr Peter Jenner. Afterwards, attendees will be able to visit the institution’s Riverside Campus to view a collection of wartime artefacts relating to the 77 fallen alumni, some of which have been kindly lent by relatives, for the day. They will also have the chance to visit the University of Chester Riverside Museum, which is home to a remarkable World War One exhibition.

Admission will be by invitation only. Anyone interested should contact the Alumni and Development Office for further information.