World War I Records
A team from Bridgwater's Blake Museum has listed the articles about the war from the 'Bridgwater and the War' column in the Bridgwater Mercury. The Museum possesses an almost complete set of the cuttings, but they are too fragile for handling, so have been photocopied and the copies filed in binders. They cover from the outbreak of war to the Armistice. Copies of the list have been deposited in Bridgwater Reference Library, and in the Heritage Centre at Taunton, where they serve as a guide to the microfilms of the newspapers there. The information covers not only Bridgwater itself but also the villages of the old Bridgwater Rural District. The cuttings contain a wealth of material about how the War affected the town and neighbourhood. From the outset, men were in Belgium, Holland and France. Others served in Burma, India, the Middle East and the Balkans. A number were sailors who served in various sea battles. Several Bridgwater coasting vessels were fired on by German submarines in the Channel or hit mines and the sailors drowned. A feature of the articles is the number of letters printed describing servicemen's experiences, and also interviews with them when they returned home on leave or wounded. Bridgwater hosted a number of Belgian refugees as well. The paper frequently printed features, with photographs, about servicemen from one family, so it was common to read in one short piece about three, four, five and often more sons and sons-in-law. Each August, the Mercury published an updated Roll of Honour recording the fallen. These are valuable for they record where the servicemen lived. There is much material on the impact of the war on the town - a great deal of fundraising is recorded in detail. For example, the town was asked in 1918 to raise enough money to build 17 aeroplanes. In fact, it raised £118,639 5s 0d which was enough to build 47! There was a munitions depot at Dunball employing up to 1000. Bridgwater hospital had a succession of convalescent servicemen. During August of each year until 2018, the Blake Museum will be holding an exhibition commemorating each year of the war, covering the local story of that war year in some detail. This will be additional to the permanent display about it in the Museum's Battle Room.
Rolls of Honour, lists of names and extracts from the Bridgwater Mercury 1914 - 1918 are here
Original Postcard courtesy Dr P E Cattermole
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