Gertrude Coggin’s Autograph Book

Gertrude Coggin’s Autograph Book

Autograph Book
This album belonged to Gertrude Bessie Coggin (1879-1963), a music teacher who nursed patients at Beaucroft Red Cross Hospital during the First World War.  Ms. Coggin remained in Wimborne all her life and never married.

Entries date from April 1911 to 1941 but the vast majority (circa 60) were inscribed by soldiers who were patients at Beaucroft Red Cross Hospital between 1914 and 1919. Some of the pencilled sketches and half-dozen small snapshots are a little faded but the inked entries are all fine.

Somehow the autograph album ended up in London (“Priest Marion Co. Ltd., 3 Farringdon Rd., Holborn LEC1” [written in biro on page one]), where it was purchased in the 1990s from a bookseller’s stall on Exmouth Market.  It was then bought on the internet in 2015 by a Wimborne resident.

For which kind deed, and the
Former care, ‘merce’ he would say
Ere he packs his kit, for camp
Or billet, and travels on his way.
And when the accounts of ‘inasmuch’
Are being reckoned up.
I hope the name of Beacuroft
House will be somewhere near.

Pt G Robinson
1/8 Middlesex Regt


Letter from Bessie Angell to the War Office

Letter from Bessie Angell to the War Office

Bessie Angell wrote this letter to the War Office after the death of her son, Harry:

Oct 8th 1916
In reply to your notice of this morning we are very please to know our Son was buried decent and in a Cemetery and we thank you very much for informing us about it we are deeply greaved at the lost of our son he is the second one we have lost with the 5th Dorset Regiment will you kindly forward us any thing that may be sent us soon as you can as we shall forget the quicker with many thanks we
Remain your’s respectfully
F & B Angell

View  Copy of Bessie Angell’s original letter – page 1
View  Copy of Bessie Angell’s original letter – page 2


First World War Conference

First World War Conference

‘Interpretation, Commemoration and Memory of the First World War by the Community’

WCT gave a short presentation about ‘What They Left Behind’ at this conference in August. Speakers explored the role of the local community, its museums and other organisations, in interpreting and remembering the conflict.


Professor Margaret Cox is Britain’s first forensic archaeologist, and founder of the world’s first forensic archaeology and anthropology department at Bournemouth University.

Professor Cox talked about the Fromelles Project, which is led by a joint Australian and British team identifying the soldiers lost at the Battle of Fromelles.

Professor Gaynor Kavanagh, a qualified and experienced curator, who for many years was part of the Department of Museum Studies at the University of Leicester spoke on memory and locality. She is author of ‘Museums and the First World War: A Social History’ and.

The conflict archaeologist and anthropologist, Professor Nicholas Saunders, focused on trench art, objects made by soldiers from the debris of war.

Other speakers included:

  • Tony Horitz, on Wimborne Community Theatre’s production ‘What They Left Behind’.
  • Alan Brown on research of Army and Navy ancestors Chris Copson from the Keep Military Museum, Dorchester.
  • Chris Brown presented the local story of Montague Edgar Randall, who was born in the parish of Wimborne Minster in 1883 and served in the Dorsetshire Regiment.

Saturday 20 August, 9.30 to 4.30



Musicians and Singers bring Diaries to life

Musicians and Singers bring Diaries to life

A wide ranging group of musicians and singers came together to perform in WCT’s production of What They Left Behind to bring to life the words of Olive Harcourt, and other women nurses and volunteers working at Beaucroft Red Cross Hospital, Colehill.

Singers from Wimborne-based, SteamHeat, and Shaftesbury based, Palida, both led by musical director, Karen Wimhurst, joined musical forces with Wimborne Ukulele Band (led by Robin Walter), an unusual trio featuring sax, flute and tuba from Wimborne Orchestra and a talented young pianist from QE School.

Original music composed by Musical Director, Karen Wimhurst, accompanied lyrics created from texts found in autograph books and diaries kept by women who worked at the Hospital.

Karen Wimhurst said:

It has been particularly moving bringing to life these words on the pages of these diary entries, both from one of the nurses during WW1 and the soldiers staying at Beaucroft Hospital. Both the humour and tragedy born out of this terrible experience of war come to life in this production.

Gill Horitz, WCT creative producer, said:

As the ward of Olive Harcourt, Joan Cocozza, collected her memories into a book, ‘A People’s History’, which she gave to the Priest’s House Museum; we are thrilled to include her words in our production.

Joan Cocozza, who lives in Bristol, said:

Hearing that Miss Harcourt’s work will be included in your production is frankly beyond anything I could have ever wished. Believing people’s writings are so personal it took almost forty years before I dared to open Miss Olive’s diaries, even though I had helped her on many occasions paste cards and articles into them.




The Face of Harry

The Face of Harry

The Face of Harry

A photograph onthe  flier for WCT’s recent production ‘What They Left Behind’ is of Harry Crowther, a WW1 survivor and the grandfather of one of the actors, Clare Small. Clare plays the part of Bessie Angell whose four eldest sons went off to fight in the First World War.

Through a strange symbiosis, two Harrys unknown to each other in 1916, meet in the making of community theatre performed by local people attempting to reflect on the lives of people living in Wimborne at that time.

Clare Small writes:

‘The face that looks out at you across a century is that of Harry Crowther. Harry was my Granddad. At the start of W.W.1. he was already in the army having joined, as a boy soldier at the age of sixteen, in 1912. Within days of embarkation Harry found himself camped with his regiment in the beautiful countryside near Ypres.

In those early days mechanization and mud-filled trenches were yet to come. Harry, a foot soldier, went into battle alongside of sabre-drawn horsemen charging through cornfields and woodland. The fighting was fierce and positions maintained at a great cost but eventually some were overrun. Harry was taken as a prisoner of war along with hundreds of others. They were marched away past the heaped bodies of hundreds of fallen German soldiers, discovering only then the might of their enemy. So ended The First Battle of Ypres.

Harry was lucky that day because as a prisoner he survived the war. When he was repatriated home in 1919 he weighed just over seven stone (43kg).

‘What They Left Behind’ touches on the story of another Harry, Harry Angell from Hillbuts, (near modern day QE school) in Wimborne, his Mum and Dad, brothers and sisters, friends and neighbours, elders and betters. The people of Wimborne, one hundred years ago.’


Dada Garden

Dada Garden

Over one hundred people attended the successful Dada Garden event on Sunday, April 24, 1.30 – 6 pm

Celebrating a centenary of Dada in a garden setting, with performances of improvised and experimental music, experimental video, dada manifestations and things left behind, one of a series of installations planned around Wimborne as a prelude to ‘What They Left Behind’.

Featuring: Gerauschhersteller, Nemeton, Matthew Shaw, Dead Sea Liner, Language Timothy!, Tom Daniel-Moon, Earhoof, Jack Chuter, Jason Hazael, David Rogers and more.

 Free entry at Priest’s House Museum Garden and Hilda Coles Centre.

From the Dada Manifesto (1916, Hugo Ball):

“Dada is a new tendency in art. One can tell this from the fact that until now nobody knew anything about it, and tomorrow everyone in Zurich will be talking about it. Dada comes from the dictionary. It is terribly simple. In French it means “hobby horse”. In German it means “good-bye”, “Get off my back”, “Be seeing you sometime”. In Romanian: “Yes, indeed, you are right, that’s it. But of course, yes, definitely, right”. And so forth.

An International word. Just a word, and the word a movement. Very easy to understand. Quite terribly simple. To make of it an artistic tendency must mean that one is anticipating complications. Dada psychology, dada Germany cum indigestion and fog paroxysm, dada literature, dada bourgeoisie, and yourselves, honoured poets, who are always writing with words but never writing the word itself, who are always writing around the actual point. Dada world war without end, dada revolution without beginning, dada, you friends and also-poets, esteemed sirs, manufacturers, and evangelists. Dada Tzara, dada Huelsenbeck, dada m’dada, dada m’dada dada mhm, dada dera dada, dada Hue, dada Tza.

How does one achieve eternal bliss? By saying dada. How does one become famous? By saying dada. With a noble gesture and delicate propriety. Till one goes crazy. Till one loses consciousness. How can one get rid of everything that smacks of journalism, worms, everything nice and right, blinkered, moralistic, europeanised, enervated? By saying dada. Dada is the world soul, dada is the pawnshop. Dada is the world’s best lily-milk soap. Dada Mr Rubiner, dada Mr Korrodi. Dada Mr Anastasius Lilienstein. In plain language: the hospitality of the Swiss is something to be profoundly appreciated. And in questions of aesthetics the key is quality.

Dada is the heart of words. Each thing has its word, but the word has become a thing by itself. Why shouldn’t I find it? Why can’t a tree be called Pluplusch, and Pluplubasch when it has been raining? The word, the word, the word outside your domain, your stuffiness, this laughable impotence, your stupendous smugness, outside all the parrotry of your self-evident limitedness. The word, gentlemen, is a public concern of the first importance”.