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VIDEO: Victoria Cross heroes museum plan for Doncaster

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A Doncaster charity has revealed its plans to create a museum dedicated to Victoria Cross winners, which it hopes to base in the borough.

The Victoria Cross Trust, which operates from offices on Nether Hall Road, plans to start the process of becoming an approved museum with the Arts Council in the next few weeks.

Its chairman wants to set up the museum in Doncaster as it is a central venue for visitors from all across Britain, but says he will take the scheme elsewhere if a suitable site cannot be found here.

Chairman Gary Stapleton had previously hoped to set up a World War One museum in the borough, but that project stalled because of difficulties finding a suitable location.

He said he had already received inquiries from some other local authorities about the plan.

Mr Stapleton set up the Victoria Cross Trust last year to campaign for the upkeep of the graves of Victoria Cross winners, because of concerns many in Britain were falling into disrepair.

Among those it has been involved with is that of medal winner Thomas Bryan, in Arksey.

Mr Stapleton is looking towards lottery funding to get the scheme on its feet.

The trust has already started to build a collection of memorabilia which would be used at the museum, and it is believed some items may be available on loan from other collections.

Mr Stapleton said: “The museum would not be about the medal itself, it would be about the people who have won it.

“The medals in the museums are not usually the originals anyway, they are replicas. Kids are not really interested in the medals themselves, it is just like a room full of tin.

“Our idea is we will tell the story of the men themselves - where they came from, the battles they fought in, and the social aspects of the wars they fought in.

“The Imperial War Museum only looked backs to 1914, but we would include things from 1856, with the Crimean War and the Boer War included in the exhibits.

“We don’t expect to ever own a Victoria Cross.

“We still think Doncaster is the ideal place for the museum, but we are getting in touch with authorities in other areas as well to see what potential there is.”

The plan would see the museum staffed by forces veterans, and the trust is hoping to find a void property which it can rent at a low cost.

Mr Stapleton said an application to be registered as ‘working towards’ being an approved museum was set to be submitted in the next few weeks with the Arts Council. Full accreditation would be applied for when a site is found.

The trust already has a collection of items but is appealing to the public for items from any of the wars from the Crimean War until the current conflict in Afghanistan.

There have been seven winners of the Victoria Cross from the Doncaster area, all of which would be featured in the museum regardless of whether it ends up in the borough.

They were Thomas Bryan, who is buried in Arksey, George Wyatt, tunneller William Hackett, from Mexborough, Thomas Jackson, who lived in Mexborough, Laurence Calvert, from Conisbrough, and Grp Capt Gilbert Insall, from near Bawtry, who all won the medal in World War One, and John Harper born in Hatfield Woodhouse, who was awarded the medal in World War Two.

Councillor Bob Johnson, Doncaster council’s cabinet for tourism and veteran’s champion, said: “Doncaster Council is happy to support new businesses and tourist attractions where possible and would be happy to speak to the charity about their business plan and if there is any help the council can offer.

“The council is proud of the borough’s brave servicemen and women, past and present.”

 

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