Exhibition pays tribute to Wirral First World War hero

Richard Vass (pictured left) with Joanne Kirton of Big Heritage and Derek Millar, commercial director for Pyramids Shopping Centre.

Lt Capt Vass: A picture of Richard’s father during his Forces career.

The various items belonging to Lt Capt William Vass.

The various items belonging to Lt Capt William Vass.

First published in News
Last updated
Wirral Globe: Photograph of the Author by , Chief Reporter

TREASURED memorabilia belonging to a First World War hero from Wirral is on display at a shopping centre in Birkenhead.

Included in Lt Capt William Vass' collection is the whistle he blew to send troops 'over the top' of the trenches into battle.

The priceless items - on display in Wirral Through The Ages at Pyramids Shopping Centre in Birkenhead - were loaned by his son Richard in response to an appeal for World War One photos and artefacts.

Also on display are his late father's regimental badge, a blanket he used to keep warm in the trenches, a leather belt, a pair of binoculars and photographs.

The exhibition - set up in conjunction with social enterprise Big Heritage - is based in a shop unit and can be seen until March 29.

Richard, 80, of Irby, said his father rarely talked of the First World War traumas he went through, but treasured a box full of items of kit and photographs.

He added: "He kept it very private. I remember as a child, I tried to look inside the box and he was furious. He wouldn’t let anyone touch it."

Little did Richard know that Wirral Through The Ages project organiser, Joanne Kirton, would be moved by the story of his father that she would go to the trouble of researching his military records.

Richard was presented with his father's records, which tell the story of his brave battle career.

He recalled how his father would on rare occasions reflect about serving in France and Belgium.

Richard said: "He would tell us how they were paid in French money but would nip across the border to Belgium when they had chance to spend their wages because everything was cheaper there.

"Those were at times when the allies were doing well. You could tell by the faces of troops photographed in the war if a campaign was on the up or going badly for them. Of course many never came home again.

"The casualties were all around and they lived with their bodies infested with lice for months on end."

His father was commissioned as an officer in the field on June 25, 1915.

Joanne, a qualified archaeologist who is leading the displays at Wirral Through The Ages, looked up Lt Capt Vass in the national military archives based in London and found details about the battles he was involved in and the honours he won.

He was awarded the Allied Victory Medal, the British War Medal and 1914-15 Star Medal.

Joanne had a copy of the records made and handed them over after inviting Richard to make a return visit to the exhibition. Replicas of the different medals are also on display.

She helped put together the display chest about his father and the accompanying information.

It reveals how Lt Capt Vass fought with the Sixth Battalion, the Manchester Regiment, and was involved in a number of momentous battles including the Dardanelles Campaign at Gallipoli, Turkey, in the winter of 1915-16 when the combined number of troops killed from both sides was a devastating half a million.

After returning home from the war, Richard’s father went on to live to the age of 82, working for many years as a printer in Liverpool until he retired. He and his wife, Gladys, had three children.
 

Richard said: "I was very surprised, I did not expect this. Joanne and the exhibition organisers have done a wonderful job here, I was very glad to help out.

"I think my father would also be especially proud to know these items are contributing to an exhibition in such an important anniversary year for First World War veterans and it is in such a central part of town that anyone can pop in any time they are passing."

Joanne reports that about 6,000 visitors have already called in to see the exhibition and chat to the curator team.

“This First World War exhibition has had one of our biggest responses to date.

"I've have been enthralled just to have had the chance to speak to people like Mr Vass, their stories are so fascinating."
 

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