Westfield War Memorial village documentary is an international hit

Hilda Leyel, whose work for disabled veterans would change the face of fundraising in Britain forever.
Hilda Leyel, whose work for disabled veterans would change the face of fundraising in Britain forever.
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An unlikely band of amateur researchers, whose ages range from 17 to 92, have put together a short documentary film that is winning international recognition.

The group came together at the start of the year as part of a Heritage Lottery funded project at the Westfield War Memorial Village Lancaster. Their remit was to research the oft-overlooked role that women played on what is a still thriving local settlement originally built for disabled veterans of the First World War and their families.

The figurative memorial at the heart of the Westfield settlement that was designed by a female sculptress.

The figurative memorial at the heart of the Westfield settlement that was designed by a female sculptress.

After months of original research, that turned up a great deal of previously unknown information and photographs, the project culminated in the completion of a short film entitled The Women of Westfield – Picking up the pieces after the First World War.

Scripted and delivered by the project participants, the film has already received hundreds of views via the Westfield website and YouTube. Now the audience is about to grow even further after it was picked up by the Western Front Association, which is the largest international body for research and remembrance of WWI.

In addition, the film is soon to be hosted on the website of the Herb Society, after the full story of the founder of that society, Mrs Hilda Leyel, and her links to Westfield were revealed in the film.

Dr Martin Purdy, Westfield historian and manager of the Women of Westfield project, said: “The response has been fantastic, but nothing less than the volunteers deserve – their enthusiasm and the things they managed to unearth about the community were amazing.”

A still from the documentary shows Mr Angus Redpath, a veteran of World War II, talking about coping with disability, his memories of his World War I neighbours, and the role of their wives.

A still from the documentary shows Mr Angus Redpath, a veteran of World War II, talking about coping with disability, his memories of his World War I neighbours, and the role of their wives.

Among the volunteers were some of the existing residents of the village, as well as former residents and local people with a general interest. They ranged from a 17-year-old school pupil to a 92-year-old disabled veteran of the Second World War.

Dr Purdy added: “The way that everybody mucked in and got on was a real highlight for me. I think a number of very strong friendships have been forged.”

The Westfield Village, situated on West Road on the outskirts of Lancaster city centre, was funded by acts of philanthropy and charity to support married local men who had returned from the battlefields of WWI with life-changing injuries.

More than 1.7 million men came back from the conflict with some form of disability, and Lancaster (which was then home to the regiment of the King’s Own) had its share.

The sacrifices made by such men is widely recognised, but not those of their wives and the women who led charities and fundraising campaigns to support them. The main memorial on Westfield was also the work of a female, which is highly unusual.

To view the film, go to: http://www.westfieldmemorialvillage.co.uk/education.htm.