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The World at War - Wirral's memories endure
GRAPHIC stories of how local people – both servicemen and civilians – stood up to the horrors and heartaches of World War 1 will feature in a special exhibition in Wirral.
Archivist Dean Johnson, who is gathering material for the centenary exhibition, said: "These are the memories of ordinary people involved in extra-ordinary situations.
"The stories contributed are extremely detailed and contain some fascinating facts. Every single one of them is important."
The exhibition – to be launched next Tuesday at the Wilfred Own Story in Argyle Street, Birkenhead – will feature more than 50 recollections from elderly people with stories to tell about family involvement in the war.
Said Dean: "Many old folk who don't have access to email want to tell us their stories face to face. We will take their details down and transcribe them ourselves for the exhibition."
Ex Wallasey paratrooper John Steedman related the story of his father's ill-fated voyage aboard the T.J. Harrison ship Dramatist which was sunk by the German raider Moewe in December 1916.
The Dramatist was sailing from San Francisco to Britain with 7,200 tons of citrus fruit and food stuffs when the Moewe – an armed merchant ship - struck.
Mr Steedman, who saw service as a paratrooper in Palastine after World War 11, wrote to Dean: "My father (John Sydney Steedman) said the commander of the Moewe was a very stern military Prussian type officer, but very correct in everything, as were the German guards and crew, who treated them as fellow merchant seamen.
"The Moewe sank some more ships but conditions were getting bad on board – too many prisoners and not enough guards or crew to look after them.
"So the commander stopped a Japanese ship, the Hudson Maru, (Japan was neutral) on January 16 1917, loaded all the 250 prisoners onto the ship and told the captain to continue his voyage to Pernambuco in South America.
"The Japanese captain complied with this order – after all he was famous having been stopped and released by the Moewe."
Mr Steedman went on: "All the prisoners were made to sign an agreement that they would not take any further part in the war against Germany – if they did and were caught they would be shot."
"The prisoners were released in South America and sent back to England. My father arrived back in Liverpool with his signed agreement and T.J. Harrison gave him a franchise to supply Harrison ships with supplies when they were in Liverpool."
Mr Steedman senior went back to sea – complete with his signed agreement – and saw out the war without bumping into the Moewe again.
The exhibition will last for four years – the length of The Great War.
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