Carved in Stone project brings wartime history alive

A heritage project has uncovered the life stories of more than 500 First World War combatants commemorated on local war memorials.

Carved in Stone, run by Merton Council’s heritage service, aims to raise awareness of life in Merton during World War One and to show how the wartime generation influenced the development of our borough.

An extensive online archive has been developed with the support of an £80,900 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. The two-year project, which started in February 2015, was made possible by a team of 39 volunteers and 29 organisations which shared their knowledge, resources and historic documents.

A total of 512 stories are now available alongside 1,436 wartime documents on the Carved in Stone website, which was launched last May. Volunteers filmed interviews with the descendants of First World War combatants, capturing personal war stories which were previously unknown beyond the immediate family circle. Visitors to the website can also look at the Wimbledon and Merton Roll of Honour, which lists the names of those who fought in the conflict.

The project has also covered aspects of life on the Home Front, including recruitment venues and wartime industries, local charities, the contribution of women to the war effort, the work done by local hospitals and the experiences of war refugees.

Carved in Stone has been taken out into the community through a Merton at War Heritage trail which highlights local sites with wartime associations; project packs and artefact boxes for local schools. Popular guided walks were held around the borough and the centenary of the Battle of the Somme was marked with film screenings. There have been several exhibitions and more than 1,100 people attended a four hour heritage discovery event staged last May.

Merton Council’s Cabinet Member for Community and Culture, Councillor Nick Draper said: “Carved in Stone has not only increased awareness of an important period in Merton’s history but is also helping to honour the memory of a generation of men and women who did extraordinary things in difficult circumstances. At least 1,800 of them made the ultimate sacrifice and lied buried in military cemeteries, churchyards and unknown graves all over the world.

“Although the lottery funding has come to an end, Carved in Stone is an ongoing project and we would still be delighted to hear from local residents who may have family war stories, or memorabilia to share.”

Over the coming months, more filmed interviews, documents and combatant profiles will be added to the Carved in Stone website. A number of events are also being planned including a guided walk in Mitcham.

For more information, visit www.merton.gov.uk/carvedinstone where you can also sign up to receive the Carved in Stone e-newsletter.