Soldiers’ messages on display at station

Re-enactors at the station for the launch of the event
Re-enactors at the station for the launch of the event

The stories of servicemen heading to war 100 years ago to the date will be told to commuters in Peterborough as part of a unique history project.

Message books left at the tea room at the old Peterborough East Station, dating back to 1916, have been discovered, with unique musings and drawings left by servicemen as they went to - and came home from - fighting on the front line in the First World War.

Re-enactors at the station for the launch of the event

Re-enactors at the station for the launch of the event

Now screens have been erected at Peterborough Railway Station, which will display the messages to train passengers exactly 100 years after they were first written.

Historians are trying to trace living relatives and descendants of the soldiers who wrote in the books.

Beverley Jones, Project Officer said: “We are delighted to have traced 21 descendants so far, including several daughters and a son. The excerpts from the books have provided them with a brief insight into their relative’s thoughts and feelings at that time as they relaxed in the tea room.”

The two slim volumes contain over 580 entries from servicemen who visited a tea room which was run by the Women’s United Total Abstinence Council (WUTAC).

Re-enactors at the station for the launch of the event

Re-enactors at the station for the launch of the event

The men wrote messages of gratitude, poems and drew sketches as they waited for trains to take them to and from the front, to training camps or home on leave.

The servicemen who signed the books came from across the country, there are also entries from as far away as Australia, Canada and South Africa. There are many regiments and corps represented in the books along with entries from the Royal Navy, the Merchant Navy and two policemen from Warwickshire.

Jodie Slater, Station Manager, said she hoped the project would have an impact on people travelling through the station.

She said: “We are pleased we have this great opportunity to support the project in the local community. It’s a great piece of Peterborough’s history and we are delighted we can be a part of it.”

The research will be brought together for a final exhibition to be held at Peterborough Museum in the Spring of 2018.

The project will have other elements including special events, a touring display and the development of associated materials and sessions for schools.

Researchers are still appealing for people to come forward and help the project, especially if they recognise a name on the screens.

Beverley said: “We are particularly keen to receive photographs and further details to add to our research to help tell the stories of the men.”

For more information about the project, or to get in touch with the researching team, visit www.peterboroughww1.co.uk