Jeremy Wright MP visited the Southam Heritage Collection to see the “Southam Women in WW1” exhibition. The exhibition, curated by Val Brodie, has been on display since May in Vivian House, Market Hill, Southam, and has received many favourable comments, together with a substantial number of visitors, some as far as the USA and Canada
Two years ago Val became aware of photographs in the Cardall Collection showing nurses and soldiers at the Grange VAD Hospital in Southam and decided to investigate this further. As a result many people have come forward and offered their stories and items for inclusion in Val’s exhibition. Over 1,000 soldiers were treated at the hospital during the last two years of the war while it was open and many scores of local women gave very substantial amounts of time and effort to facilitate their recovery.
Jeremy was guided around as Val and the Chairman, Bernard Cadogan, explained how the exhibition was constructed, how many people had come forward to offer their previously unknown stories and artefacts, and some of the very poignant stories revealed as a result.
Following the enthusiasm for the displays and exhibition shown by visitors, Val has decided there is a case for extending her work beyond focussing on just the VAD Hospital. She hopes to build a centenary archive for Southam to collect stories, and where possible artefacts, from the residents of Southam and surrounding villages to ensure these are preserved for future generations, and to build a much more comprehensive picture than is known at present of life in Southam during the “war to end all wars”.
Mr Wright said: “It is important to recognise the often forgotten local contributions to the First World War effort, and the need to retain the material that has been gathered.
“It is an impressive exhibition and I hope many will be able to see it.”