The Keep Military Museum in Dorchester has launched a new service, based on the principles of the BBC’s Antiques Roadshow. The Director, Elliot Metcalfe is inviting people to bring military artefacts and papers to the Museum, where they can be examined and – he hopes – explained.
The first opportunity to do this was this week, when many different pieces were brought into the Museum. These included the possessions of Private Ernest New, which revealed a very sad story. Ernest, of East Street, Blandford Forum, served in the 1st Battalion of the Dorset Regiment and was killed in action five weeks before the Armistice in November 1918.
Among his possessions are his two war medals and a wallet which, in his pocket when he was killed, has been holed by splinters from a grenade or shell. In the wallet was a last letter from his mother, Rosa. That too was damaged and his family have never opened it for fear of damaging it further. With their agreement, Elliot plans to ask a professional conservator to see if the letter can be opened and its contents transcribed before it is put back together as it was on the day Ernest died.
Also in the wallet is a photograph of Ernest’s four sisters and mother, which he carried with him on active service, and a locket with two photographs of Ernest which his mother wore for the rest of her life.
Items like these, said Elliot Metcalfe, bring the past to life and, although very sad indeed, are fascinating pieces of the history of our Regiment and our County. We’re very much looking forward to researching Ernest’s life and telling his story to our visitors. And I hope very much that people reading this who have a family story to tell through an artefact or a document will follow Mr New’s lead and bring it to the Museum. We’ll be open again for another ‘Discover your military objects’ session on 17 January.