Postcard project unites young and old

Friday 15 December 2017

A group of wounded Veterans and Service Personnel supported at the Help for Heroes Recovery Centre in Catterick, have just completed a three-month project working with teenagers to create a unique tribute to those who served their country in the First World War.

The project was inspired by a collection of hand-painted postcards that were sent to Lt Kenneth Gordon Garnett as he lay paralysed in a London hospital after being shot in the neck during the Battle of the Somme in 1916. The Tynemouth soldier died, aged 25, a year after being injured.

Year 10 students from St John’s School in Bishop Auckland, County Durham, joined the group from Phoenix House Recovery Centre on trips to the archives of the Durham Light Infantry and to Durham Cathedral to find out more about Lt Garnett and WWI, and explore the importance of remembrance and commemoration. 

Each participant in the project then designed and crafted a glass postcard under the guidance of architectural glass artist, Sue Woolhouse.

The resulting cards, each telling a personal story, have been incorporated into a set of three steel crosses and were displayed at Durham Cathedral during this year’s Festival of Remembrance.

As part of the Festival, the students, wounded Veterans and Service Personnel, plus members of the local cadet force read excerpts from WWI diary entries, letters, and some of the original postcards that inspired the project. The Lord Lieutenant of Co Durham, Mrs Sue Snowdon, read a selection of the tributes paid to Lt Garnett after his death.

Funds have now been made available for the various elements of the project to be pulled together into a book – much to the delight of Veteran, Fred Bates.

"The project was a brilliant idea and perfect for me as I love both art and history,” he said.

The pensioner served with the Queens Royal Irish Hussars in the 1970s and 1980s. It wasn’t until 2010 that he began displaying symptoms of PTSD and OCD, attributable to events experienced during his service in Northern Ireland.

The lasting impact of the Postcard Project for Fred is the fact that the young people were genuinely interested in talking to him and very mindful of the sacrifices that people make in serving their country.

“If I pass teenagers in the street, they hardly notice me and certainly don’t bother about me. It’s hard to put into words what it meant to me for the youngsters who took part in the Postcard Project to communicate with me and to be interested in what I had to say. I am so pleased that the project hasn’t ended yet after all!”

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