Window on the War activity day attracts over 4000 visitors!



The 14th July was a glorious Summer’s day, and visitors flocked to our A Window on the War activity day in their thousands. A wonderful mixture of locals, and tourists from all around the globe enjoyed a variety of activities both inside and outside the church.

Simon Cross, project researcher, took people on a WWI guided tour around key sites in Cambridge.

Dr Sean Lang, Senior Lecturer in History at Anglia Ruskin University, and the author of The First World War for Dummies gave a talk on Cambridge at the End of War. Trish Carn, co-warden at Jesus Lane Friends Meeting House spoke on the Quaker response to war in her talk, entitled Thou Shalt not Kill, and Simon Cross followed his walk with a talk on the people from Great St Mary’s affected by the war, based on his research to date.

Outside the church, visitors were able to experience an accurate representation of a WWI Casualty Clearing Station, complete with instruments and artefacts from WWI, and learn about how women contributed to the war effort as nurses. Also in the churchyard, a demonstration of basket weaving from Salix Arts, with hands on activities, where visitors found out about the women of Cambridge who made baskets and hurdles during WWI, and who used basket weaving as an occupational therapy for injured soldiers.

Inside the church, there was: a section of WWI trench, with a soldier for visitors to talk to and a civilian nurse, with a display of her instruments and a bandage making activity, portrayed by Jed and Jessica Jaggard of Up An’ At ‘Em! History; Martin Impey, illustrator, drew pictures with children, from his award-winning series of children’s books on WWI, written by Hilary Robinson; The Forgotten Heroes Foundation spoke with visitors about the Muslim contribution to WWI and showed their book, The Unknown Fallen; a craft activity to make poppies for a new altar frontal to be used in Great St Mary’s at Remembrance Day services; the Cambridge Blue Belles WI spoke to visitors about the history of the WI, including the women who fought for Suffrage and went on to run hospitals in WWI and then to form the WI; Caroline Armstrong, the mother of Christopher Armstrong of Great St Mary’s, who fell in 1916, was portrayed by Gill Fraser Lee of HistoryNeedsYou. The line-up was completed by music from WWI music hall superstar Vesta Tilley, portrayed by Rachel Duffieldaccompanied by her band, with musicians from A Merrie Noyse and Diabolus in Musica.The musicians were joined by Oliver Cross, who played harmonica, and Mags Martin on flute. Proceedings were overseen by Matthew Ward of HistoryNeedsYou, who portrayed Vesta Tilley’s manager, Walter de Frece. The event was filmed by Andrew Pilkington of Manicks Productions, and photographed by Andrew and volunteers from Linton Camera Club, led by Josephine Paterson.

Julie and Trevor Bounford spoke to visitors about our November photographic exhibition, which Julie is researching and curating with Caroline Biggs. More details on how you can contribute to the exhibition can be found here.


The day ended with a play, written by Matthew Ward, and based on research undertaken by Simon Cross. It told the story of Christopher Armstrong, played by Jed Jaggard, through his letters to his mother Caroline, played by Gill Fraser Lee. The letters were interspersed by music from Vesta Tilley and her band. A film of the play will be made available to view soon.

Logistics for the event were admirably provided by Anna Lovewell, Lorraine Walton and the team at Great St Mary’s Church.

Enormous thanks to all who contributed, and especially to those who visited us on Saturday. All 4000 of you! It was a pleasure to meet you.

Last but not least, thank you to National Lottery players for making the project possible.



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