First World War Research by St Catherine’s Students

St Catherine’s College in Eastbourne are involved in an exciting new First World War project thanks to a Heritage Lottery Fund grant for Sound Architect Creative Media.

This new project centres around “Crime and Punishment” within the various British armies, which is still debated today, and is still perhaps controversial. How best to deal with those men who broke, or were perceived to have broken, military laws and expectations would see some soldiers being sentenced to death. The students will be examining and researching the laws by which soldiers had to abide with a particular focus on tracing soldiers from the local Sussex Regiment. They have begun by researching all about the First World War, including a trip to the Imperial War Museum in London, where they began making their own documentary films.

The War saw giant leaps in understanding mental health, from the first awareness of “shell shock” which has led to the understanding of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder: PTSD, as we know it today. The students will be able to research those men who were sentenced for cowardice and desertion, with new understanding of some of the causes. The stigma of being court marshalled and sentenced stayed with families, sometimes for generations, and the students will hopefully be tracing the descendants of some of these men to interview them with today’s understanding.

Joint Head of History at St Catherine’s Jenny Clifton said: “In this current age it’s hard for the students to really understand how it was to live through war. The First World War is sadly slipping from living memory, and it’s important to capture that before it disappears. This is an exciting opportunity for them to research an important subject and help to keep history alive and current for themselves, and for future generations.”

In addition to the students at St Catherine’s, the project is also supporting a number of local volunteers to research, learn new skills, and become part of this important heritage project. The charity Sound Architect Creative Media which is co-ordinating this project has 15 years’ experience in creating multimedia projects and making history come to life. Anyone who would like to be involved with the project, or anyone who has any memorabilia: letters, medals, or photographs for example, is encouraged to get in touch with them, on Twitter, Facebook, or via their website:

Michelle Roffe, Head of HLF South East said: “Thanks to money raised by National Lottery players, local communities are able to explore the continuing legacy of the First World War, in this important centenary year. We are pleased to support these young people as they explore the impact of military discipline in Sussex, and what war was like for local people 100 years ago.”

It was a very different time with different attitudes towards discipline and punishment. The students will be able to look at how attitudes were then, as well as how they are today, while honouring these brave men who were fighting in a terrible war in horrible conditions. It is important to honour their contribution to the world we live in today.