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Harrogate’s First World War experiences are brought to life at the Royal Pump Room

PUBLISHED: 00:00 13 August 2014

Brothers Eddie and George Chapman on home leave

Brothers Eddie and George Chapman on home leave


Ordinary people did extraordinary things during the Great War; a fact that’s being celebrated in a new exhibition at the Royal Pump Room Museum in Harrogate, where stories of bravery, spirit and gumption are being put in the spotlight.

Donald Bell, the first professional footballer to enlist and one of Harrogate's three Victoria Cross awardeesDonald Bell, the first professional footballer to enlist and one of Harrogate's three Victoria Cross awardees

Everyday life recorded in a soldier's diary from 1916Everyday life recorded in a soldier's diary from 1916

Letters, photographs and personal objects on loan from local families, as well as selected items from the museum’s own collection, tell the extraordinary stories of so-called ordinary people. They reveal why three local men were awarded the Victoria Cross, the highest military decoration for valour in the face of the enemy; how 19-year-old Betty Stephenson left Harrogate to work in a YMCA canteen for soldiers in France; and what happened to local brothers George and Eddie Chapman as they served in the Machine Gun Corp and the Royal Navy.

‘It’s nice to have them remembered as men from Harrogate; ordinary rank and file men who were doing their duty,’ said their nephew, who has loaned the museum photographs of his brave relatives for inclusion in the exhibition.

Visitors can read fascinating letters sent home to Harrogate by men serving in the war, revealing the conditions they were struggling with in the trenches and giving valuable insight into the daily dangers they faced.

‘We are focusing on personal stories relating to people’s wartime experiences and the impact of the Great War on people from the Harrogate area,’ said collections assistant Nicola Baxter. ‘There’s also a special section where First World War objects belonging to the ancestors of the museum’s staff are displayed.’

Among the numerous stories of valour is that of Captain Henry Watson Lindsley, a civil engineer in civilian life, who was awarded the Military Cross for carrying water from a shell-hole to douse a fire in an ammunition dump. When he returned home, he also made his mark on Harrogate by helping to create the new market hall that opened in 1939.

A Town at War: Harrogate During the First World War is at the Royal Pump Room Museum in Crown Place until December 31st. For more information, phone 01423 556188 or email


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