Master work about town at war is priceless ‘legacy’ for schools
10th July 2019
LOCAL historians Pam Mills and David Swarbrick have written a 1,000-page history of Tonbridge during the First World War to serve as a ‘legacy’ for schools.
The History of Tonbridge and its People in the Great War, which is published in two volumes, has been donated to 15 schools across the town.
Mrs Mills, who was deputy Poppy Appeal organiser in the town for the last six years, was the force behind Tonbridge 100, a living history weekend held last year to mark the centenary of the Armistice.
She was supported in staging the extravaganza by Mr Swarbrick, a retired schoolteacher from Hildenborough with a passion for researching family ancestry.
The remarkable book is the culmination of the 100th anniversary, and Mrs Mills will be holding a talk at the Angel Centre on Thursday July 18 to mark its publication.
'There were troops based here for 18 months, it was like a garrison town, and there was a lot going on'
The launch coincides with the centenary of the signing of the peace agreement to end the war, the Treaty of Versailles, and the Peace Day celebrations that were held across Britain on July 19 1919.
The talk will look at the end of the war, the parties and the part played by schools. Mrs Mills said: “This book is the ultimate summary of the Tonbridge 100 project, it’s where everything comes together. It’s a vast document.
“The first volume is a narrative about how the town contributed to the war effort, while the second is a record of all the police officers, firemen, people who worked on all the committees, cemetery workers.
“History is for sharing,” she added. “It’s about normal people. There were troops based here for 18 months, it was like a garrison town, and there was a lot going on.”
The authors first worked together on a volume called The Tonbridge Fallen in 2014, the first book to research those who died during the Great War.
“While we were writing that, we came across so many stories and we were building up an archive of background material around the fallen. And we had the foundation of our latest work. It was a long labour of love.”
The master work has received National Lottery funding because of its educational value. Mrs Mills explained: “When I applied to the Lottery Heritage Fund for Tonbridge 100 last year, they said they would fund the book if it was for schools because it was a legacy to keep the learning going.”
She added: “I’d like to say a big thank you to the Lottery, Kent County Council’s Engagement fund, the Lions, Clarke Williams insurance and Warners Solicitors, and everyone who contributed by sharing photos or narratives of their ancestors or by adding to or confirming our research. It’s been a great pleasure meeting families who I have interviewed and who have shared stories with us.”
The hardback edition published by Tunbridge Wells company Heronswood Press costs £350.
But for a small donation to the Poppy Appeal there is a PDF version that can be downloaded from Mrs Mills by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org
The talk starts at 7pm in the Angel Centre’s Riverside room and entry is free.
However, places should be reserved by contacting the same email address.