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Dorking Museum In February

The centenary of the Great War has yielded many poignant stories about the lives -and deaths – of the people of Dorking and the surrounding villages during those difficult years.  Reflecting the impact that the War had across the whole community, those revealed in the Museum’s programme ofWWI Home Front exhibitions and in our War Memorials Project have recently marked the centenaries of two very different local casualties.

Valentine Joe Strudwick has become one of the best known of the fallen, symbolising the ‘boy soldiers’ of the war.  The son of a gardener and a laundress, Joe was born in Falkland Road and attended St Paul’s School. He must have lied about his age when he signed up a month before his fifteenth birthday.  Joe joined the 8th Battalion the Rifle Brigade and, after only six weeks training, soon found himself at the front.  He died near Ypres during the daily rounds of firing between German and Allied lines on 14th January 1916, still a month away from his sixteenth birthday. His grave at Essex Farm Cemetery is one of the most visited in any of the First World War cemeteries, generally surrounded by numerous British Legion wooden crosses and poppies.

Lieutenant Commander Basil Harrison came from a prominent local family, the son of Commander Matthew Harrison and his wife Lucy (nee Wedgwood}.  On 30th December 1915, Basil was on the battleship HMS Natal in port at Cromarty, entertaining families and guests with a film show, when the ship blew up at her berth, killing over 400.  The cause of the explosion was never fully explained. His older brother, Lieutenant Commander Thomas Harrison had died a year earlier, when his obsolete armoured cruiser (one of the ‘live bait squadron’} was torpedoed by a U-boat just off the Dutch coast. The Harrison brothers are commemorated on the Coldharbour Memorial and in a memorial chapel built by their parents in British Columbia, where the family had moved before the war.

The Museum’s ‘Dorking  1915’ exhibition has been retained until Easter and ‘Dorking  1916’ will open in autumn. The War Memorials Project is online at www,

February Diary

Family Activities: Saturday, February 20th, ‘Shops in Dorking’ – Can you find the shops that were here when your grandparents were little? Look at old adverts and photos to find out how shopping has changed in Dorking. Make a shop in a box from times goneby. Drop in at any time between 2pm and

3.30pm. Ideal for families with children up to age ten.  Free with regular Museum entry.

Group bookings are welcome for our Guided Walks of Dorking and Museum tours, by appointment­

please see the website or contact admin@dorkingmuseum

Dorking Museum is at The Old Foundry, 62 West Street, Dorking RH4 IBS and on Facebook and Twitter. Tel: 01306 876591

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