AN EX-SERVICEMEN’S association has hit out at a £400,000 project to mark the 100th anniversary of the First World War and says its members will not support the plans.
Hartlepool Combined Ex-Servicemen’s Association, which represents seven forces organisations, criticised lottery money being used to commemorate the start of a conflict which cost over 2.5 million lives.
Hartlepool Borough Council is leading the project on behalf of five local authorities in Tees Valley after being awarded £394,775 from the Arts Council England’s Renaissance Strategic Support Fund.
It will pay for exhibitions, special events and commemorative performances over the next two years.
The council says the project will help educate a new generation of the sacrifice and tie in with national commemorations.
But Tug Wilson, secretary of Hartlepool Combined Ex-Servicemen’s Association, said: “As an ex-serviceman who served in several theatres during my service, I would ask who in their right mind wants’ to remember the start of a war that cost over two and a half million lives, including my granddads?
“I can’t remember the dates when I deployed on what were minor hiccups compared to World War One, but I can tell you the dates I came back.
“If this had been the celebration of the end of the war then I would not have had any problems with that, in fact I would have fully supported it.
“In this time of financial difficulties I would suggest that money could go to a better cause such as the NHS, MOD or police service.”
A Hartlepool council spokesman said: “The First World War left millions dead or wounded and devastated a generation.
“This project will commemorate that brave and tragic sacrifice and help people of all ages across the Tees Valley, including a generation which has had no direct contact with anyone who took part in the war, to explore and understand the conflict and the irrevocable impact which it had on their local communities.
“As the First World War began in 1914, we feel it is fitting to begin our commemoration on the 100th anniversary of that year and this mirrors the timing of the national commemoration initiatives which are being led by the Government and the Imperial War Museum.
“The timing will be especially poignant for Hartlepool people, given the 1914 bombardment of the Hartlepools by the Germany Navy.
“We were looking forward to working with the Combined Ex-Servicemen’s Association and we very much hope that it will reconsider its position.”