Brigadier Ian Inshaw, Chairman of the Soldiers of Oxfordshire Trust, and Louisa Fagan, Visitor and Museum Services Assistant, joined us for dinner and our meeting for the evening on Tuesday 25th August 2015.
The Soldiers of Oxfordshire Museum sits behind the Oxfordshire Museum in Woodstock. It opened in 2014 in a new building funded by a benefactor and it houses galleries, meeting rooms and classroom spaces.
Ian told us how the collections of the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry and the Queens Own Oxfordshire Hussars had previously not been easily accessible to the public so in 2000 the Soldiers of Oxfordshire Trust was founded to find a permanent home for the archives and collections.
Ian emphasised that the museum displays focus on the stories behind the medals and other items and he told us some of the stories:
Gilbert King, a soldier of the Oxfordshire Hussars who entered the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp when it was liberated. His diary shows the compassion of the soldiers and their ability to deal with what they saw in the camp.
Harry Stroud was born in Banbury, and he joined the Hussars aged 18. His WW1 diary shows he was shot in the thigh on 23 March 1918, the bullet lodged in his knee. He was carried some miles by fellow soldiers, then they found a stretcher and carried that more miles to an ambulance and field hospital. He lost the leg 4 April, went home and was demobbed. He had 3 daughters, and ran the farm. However he felt he wasn’t a complete person, and he committed suicide in 1931. Today, he would have been diagnosed as suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Lessons here are bravery and courage.
The D-day landing soldier who wrote in his diary that he ran ashore, and a German soldier ran out in front of him. He shot and killed the German, then realised hat he had just shot someone’s son, and wondered if that is what it was all about.
The museum is manned by staff and volunteers and it also conducts research for people wanting to trace family military history. The museum has lots of schools visit, and its staff and volunteers also go out to schools, telling the stories and lessons of war. Kenneth commented on how much fun his two children had at a recent event at the museum.
We thanked Ian and Louisa for joining us and for the great talk. We gave a donation from our charity account to Ian for the museum’s outreach work. We hope to organise a group visit from the club shortly, maybe combining it with a Sunday pub lunch in Woodstock.