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Bermuda relics on display for war’s centenary

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Intrepid woman: Ellen Hollis, senior librarian at the Bermuda National Library, shows off the little-known war medals of Bermudian suffragette Gladys Morrell, the first woman to be elected to Parliament (Photograph by Jonathan Bell)

Forgotten stories of the First World War have been given pride of place at the Bermuda Historical Society’s museum.

The relics from the epic conflict, which ended 100 years ago with the Armistice of November 11, 1918, have been highlighted as the society prepares to explore Bermuda’s links to the conflict.

The BHS will deliver a lecture on the role the island played in the war, followed by two documentaries, from 5.30pm until 8pm at the Bermuda National Library in Hamilton’s Queen Street next Thursday.

Andrew Bermingham, president of the BHS, thanked Ellen Hollis, a senior librarian and a committee member of the society, for helping to organise the night’s events. He added: “Over the last 20 years, we have added to the museum’s older items with more topical pieces from modern history over the last 100 years.

“As well as Bermudian memorabilia of the 20th century, we have collected items from prisoners of war who were kept here.

“The idea of this First World War display is to remember the end of the war and give recognition to the less known features of the war in Bermuda.

“Very few people know about the German prisoners of war, or that Gladys Morrell was a veteran as well as a suffragette.”

German prisoners, kept on Ports Island in the Great Sound, carved cedar canes and other trinkets, identified by the marking “GPOW” for money.

Their handiwork is now on display at the museum, close to a display of Ms Morrell’s medals from her stint in France caring for wounded soldiers.

Another display at the museum on Queen Street commemorates Frank Dolan, a Bermudian veteran of the Boer War who joined the Merchant Navy at the outbreak of the First World War and a Boer War medal.

Mr Bermingham explained that Mr Dolan’s medal was only awarded to white troops, but that he had been given it as the authorities were unaware he was black. He said: “He was recognised for serving in the Royal Engineers.”

The museum will also display the medals won by John Moore, who served in the Bermuda contingent of the Royal Garrison Artillery.

Moore was sent to France in 1916 and returned home the following year. Mr Bermingham said Mr Moore’s medals were donated by “a relative who walked in one day off the street and gave them to us”.

However, not all the stories are Bermudian. Lieutenant Walter Tull, the British-born son of a Barbadian, was the first black footballer to play in the top flight of English football, 50 years before our own Clyde Best.

Lieutenant Tull, who served with the Middlesex Regiment, was killed in action in 1918.

A new acquisition is a headstone for Private George Wellington Linford, which has been recovered and renovated.

Private Linford’s grave is at Prospect and his broken and discarded headstone was recovered from the airport dump, repaired, and put on display.

Private Linford, who served with the East Yorkshire Regiment, died in June 1918 in a bid to rescue seven-year-old Thomas Stone from the sea off North Shore in June 1918. Both were drowned.

Mr Bermingham said: “We don’t have a huge amount of items from the First World War. But what we do have is very special for Bermuda. “It tells the stories from a time in our history that no one remembers now.”

For service: the medals of gunner John Moore, of the Bermuda contingent of the Royal Garrison Artillery (Photograph by Jonathan Bell)