West Sussex wartime memories available to all

German and other enemy aliens being marched along Chapel Road, Worthing, to the town's railway station en route to internment, September, 1914
German and other enemy aliens being marched along Chapel Road, Worthing, to the town's railway station en route to internment, September, 1914

AN army of volunteers has helped bring West Sussex’s rich history of war to life.

Staff at West Sussex County Council Library Service, along with those at the county’s Record Office, are celebrating the contribution made by local residents who have worked tirelessly towards documenting the local effects of the First 
World War.

To coincide with August’s 100th anniversary of the start of the Great War, librarians and archivists are unveiling one of their most ambitious projects to date – digitising four years’ coverage of the war from ten local newspapers, enabling the information to be accessed far more easily, via discs available from large local libraries and West Sussex Record Office in County Hall, Chichester.

Historic back copies of titles such as the Worthing Gazette have been painstakingly archived and catalogued by local volunteers, including library staff who gave up their free time, before the information was sent to Holland, where it was formatted digitally.

Martin Hayes, the county local studies librarian, said: “This is the biggest heriage project the library service has ever undertaken. We have incredible support from authors, volunteers, and County Record Office staff.”

The project, which was supported by a grant from the National Lottery’s Heritage Lottery Fund, recently culminated with a roadshow event at Edes House, in West Street, Chichester.

More than 150 people volunteered on the project, performing tasks such as digitising 19,000 pages of original documents, and were able to index 25,000 events and people from extensive archiving of the local papers.

Photographs, such as the one left, taken in Chapel Road, Worthing, have been archived.

Photographs and documents were lent for copying by members of the public, some of whom generously donated items.

Nearly 100 case studies of servicemen and other topics were researched and written up during the course of this project, and 12 researchers came forward to write book chapters and offer talks.

For more details on the project, see www.westsussexpast.org.uk where the First World War archives have now gone live.