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John Hampden Grammar School awarded £3,500 for new project on how the Battle of the Somme affected High Wycombe

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The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) has awarded John Hampden Grammar School £3,500 to work with a group of local organisations on a new project, ‘Tell them of us; Wycombe and Somme‘.

Awarded through HLF’s First World War: then and now programme, the project will focus on telling the story of how the battle of the Somme affected the town through the stories of the men who fought and their families.

The school will work with Wycombe Abbey School and Flackwell Local Area History Group, supported by Wycombe District Council and Wycombe Museum to investigate how one of the bloodiest battles in human history impacted on the town.

The many burials and memorials in Wycombe’s cemetery show how the Battle was the first significant loss of life for the ordinary men in the town who had answered Kitchener’s call. The information will also be made available for people who wish to do their own tour of the cemetery.

Pupils will work with local historians to research some of these men and their families and then present the stories to members of the public in a costumed tour of the cemetery. The tours will be held on Sunday 3rd July, 100 years after the Battle.

One of these stories covered the Bates family who lost three sons in the War. In 2016 we will be hearing the tale of Gilbert Bates and his experience of the Somme. Gilbert died during the main attack on Delville Wood on Thursday 24th August 1916. His body was never identified and his name is on the Thiepval Memorial and on his brother’s grave in Wycombe Cemetery.

Andrew Wright, Assistant Headteacher at JHGS, said, ‘We are thrilled to have received the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund and this will allow us to find out and share some of the stories about this significant moment in the town’s history. For the pupils this is a chance to work together on something that is very different from a usual school project.

Sally Scagell from Flackwell Local Area History Group said, ‘This is a great opportunity to really bring the past to life. Wycombe families suffered many losses at the Somme and the WW1 graves in the cemetery reveal that, although some men made it home, they did not survive for long and sadly died from their injuries. There are a good number of interesting stories to tell.

Cllr Julia Adey, Wycombe District Council’s Cabinet Member for Community, added: ‘We are delighted to support a project that encourages young people to delve into the history of our local community.  I’m sure that everyone involved will find the project very rewarding and no doubt uncover some interesting and surprising stories.

Stuart McLeod, Head of HLF South East, said: ‘The Battle of the Somme was one of the First World War’s most notorious and destructive battles that changed the country in so many ways. We are pleased to be supporting this project so that pupils can embark on a journey of discovery and find out the full impact of the battle on where they live.

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