In time of war - Ballymoney 1914

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An exciting new exhibition opens on Friday 1 August in Ballymoney Museum which reveals how World War One affected Ballymoney and district in the first few months of the conflict.

On display will be artefacts from the period and a fascinating selection of battlefield and militaria which have been kindly provided on local from local collectors such as the war historian Robert Thompson.

When World War One broke out on 3 August 1914, the people of North Antrim quickly realised that nothing was ever going to be the same. Within a few weeks, newspapers carried stories of the horrors inflicted on the people of Belgium and plans were made by local people to help the thousands of refugees fleeing the war zone.

Some Belgian families were re-homed in Ballymoney and concerts and fundraisers raised generous amounts of money to support aid organisations.

The Ballymoney Solders’ Help Association was established and began to send supplies of clothes, cigarettes, food and essentials to the men at the Front. In 1914, only a few local men had been stationed abroad with the British Expeditionary Force. They had been regular soldiers or in the Army Reserve when war broke out and had immediately been ordered to the Front.

However, hundreds of other men were urgently needed and serving soldiers did their best to encourage them: “I hope plenty of recruits are pouring in at home, it’s numbers that count here. If they only knew what I have seen, they would not hesitate in doing their duty. It is wicked the work the Huns have done. What would happen if they got into our country? The best way to keep them out is to send plenty of men over here and give the Germans their fill of it.”

Bombardier S. Kirgan, No.7 Heavy Battery

The call for recruits was quickly heeded and hundreds enlisted. They spent the next months training at camps such as Clandeboye, Co. Down before they landed in France in 1915.

The war brought other changes. People were encouraged to watch for spies and the authorities became nervous if strangers were spotted in the district.

Anything German was treated with suspicion and derision. Farmers faced a labour shortage as young men left for the Front. The best horses in the area were taken by the army to use in the cavalry regiments.

As we approach the centenary, the exhibition “In Time of War – Ballymoney 1914” is an introduction to a pivotal date in our history. It was the beginning of four years of bloody conflict before the Armistice of 1918.

The exhibition runs at Ballymoney Museum from 1 August – 27 September 2014. Opening hours are 9am-5pm Monday-Thursday & Saturday, Friday 9am-4.30pm. Admission is free.

For further information, please contact Ballymoney Museum, Ballymoney Town Hall, Town Head Street, Tel: 028 7266 0230 or Email: museum@ballymoney.gov.uk.