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We Will Remember Them

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3:38pm 4th August 2014
(Updated 3:38pm 4th August 2014)

Cornwall marks the moment Britain entered the First World War... exactly a hundred years ago.

Across the Duchy there are almost 200 cemetries where those who gave their lives are buried, but soldiers also fell as far away as Basra and Baghdad.

In fact only one village in the whole of Cornwall suffered no casualties - that is Herodsfoot near Liskeard. In some, like Stithians, virtually everyone who went to war did not come back.

Among those that died in the trenches was 22 year old Truro nurse Cora Ball.

David Durden is part of a living history group from Launceston that is trying to recreate what life was like on the western front. He said: "You're fighting through up to your waist in mud, towards the enemy position through barbed wire, while under machine gun fire. The terror is unbelievable.

"These are moments that changed history and shaped the world. If you don't listen to history and learn the history then they say it is doomed to repeat itself. So many times in the past it has and you end up doing the same thing again."

What was called the war to end all wars also had a big impact back home in the Duchy, with defences at Tregantle and Polhawn Forts being beefed up.

Explosive works on Hayle Towans employed fifteen hundred people - and fishing boats were turned into mine sweepers.

Letters from a Cornish soldier written from the trenches have been discovered - describing the full horror.

The messages from Battery Sargeant John Glasson Thomas are the centre of a new exhibition in Falmouth.

It shows how Pendennis Castle had a pivotal role during the conflict.

Historian Paul Pattison researched it all. He said: "I think people will be surprised what went on here.

"The contribution made by soldiers, sailors and people of Falmouth and Cornwall was actually quite considerable. We want to bring that to people's attention and remind them of that so they do not forget."


Martin Alfrey is in charge of it, he said: "It has been very, very emotional actually, it's been a journey, because most of the projects we work on are hundreds of years ago, but this particular exhibition is about people who were around 100 years ago, and it sounds like a long time ago but actually it's very close to all of us, and they are very personal stories.

"It is a sad story but we want to tell that story in a very matter of fact way, and the way to do that is through these personal accounts, it's not all sad though lots of people did come back, you get very close to these people, it's immediate it's not dull history in books, this is the real thing."

Throughout the dark days of war Porthcurno telegraph station was in charge of keeping the Allies in touch.

Charlotte Dando is from the museum, she said: "This was the most important cable station in the world at that time, so all the cables that came through Porthcurno were ensuring that Britain kept in contact with all its allies and all its armies all across the globe.

"One of the cables they cut was one that linked Germany with the USA, Britain cut that cable on the very first day they declared war on Germany, the only way Germany could get messages through had to go through Britain, that meant we could intercept all their messages and decode them."

Pirate FM is broadcasting a special programme, marking the one hundredth anniversary of Britain's declaration of war, at 1pm on Monday.

3:38pm 4th August 2014

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