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WW1 Centenary Commemorated in Dorset

Tank Museum

6:25am 4th August 2014
(Updated 5:00pm 4th August 2014)

Around one million British people died in a War which started a hundred years ago today (August 4th 2014).

Commemoration services are taking place around Dorset to mark the UK entering into World War One.

Bovington Tank Museum is holding a day of special events including arena displays and talks. David Willey, curator at Bovington Tank Museum spoke to Wessex FM about the part Dorset played in WW1 efforts.

"A number of people go off, obviously to fight. We build factories for the first time in Dorset, down the road at Holton Heath we end up making ammunition, that changes the local economy. Here at Bovington, this was all open heath land in the first world war, early on in the period, it was perfect for training with this new secret weapon- the tank. So they came down, they weren't displacing too many people, it was well away from the public eye so that secrecy could be kept, and also the land around here wasn't that good for the war effort- it wasn't food production. So, in this particular area tanks came down to train. We've got other areas where we're supplying horses for the military, Bridport's making things like netting for the military- submarine nets- all sorts of things going on."

David summarised, "It's a national effort and Dorset plays it's part in gearing up for what was the biggest war this country had ever faced."

However, he also wanted to stress much can be leant from that period and is relevant to society today, "Before WW1 there was a major argument against women having the vote, by the end of the first world war nobody argued against it- women had earned their place. There's so much- military, social, family history- that people can pick up, and I really do hope that by the end of this four year period younger people older people we all get a much better understanding of what that generation went through, and what it meant to us."

The Royal British Legion conducted what they've termed a 'poppy explosion' at the end of a commemorative service. 1.1 million poppy petals, one for every casualty- military and civilian- during WW1 were released, our Abby Newbery was at the scene, "There are thousands of people around the main arena, with not an inch of grass to spare as British and German WW1 planes took to the air to do battle. on the ground a re-enactment took place as the British infantry, accompanied by a WW1 tank and some loud shooting, forced a German dug-out to surrender. A loud rumbling announced the arrival of the Challenger 2 tank- used in battle today. It rose to a mound in the centre of the arena flanked by the WW1 soldiers. After the last post was played a canon blasted an eruption of 1.1 million poppy petals over the tank- one for evey casualty, military and civilian, in the war. As the petals blew over the crowds people reached up to clasp their own piece of historu and the British legion raised  their flags. The final image of a modern day tank surrounded by WW1 soldiers reminds us, as the Museum's Curator David Willey says, 'this is a story which has not ended.' "

For all of Abby's photos of the Tank Museum's Commemoration Event click here.

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