For King and Country opens next week at the city’s National Emergency Services Museum (NESM) on West Bar. It will explore the role that police, fire, ambulance and lifeboat personnel played during the conflict, both on the front line and at home, and reveal the lasting impact the war had on the development of the emergency services.
The exhibition features stories of personal heroism from those that served on the front line, such as South Yorkshire police officer and Victoria Cross recipient George Wyatt, and decorated ambulance driver Muriel Annie Thompson. Muriel was a suffragette and racing driver.
George Wyatt was a Lance Corporal in the Coldstream Guards who left the army to become a police officer in Barnsley. He was called up to his regiment as a reservist.
He was awarded the VC for acts of conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty in France in August 1914. His battalion were fighting near farm buildings when Germans set fire to straw stacks near the British position.
George twice ran out under very heavy fire to extinguish the blaze.
Later, he continue fighting despite being unable to see as blood poured from a wound into his eyes. He ignored a medic telling him to go to the rear and kept fighting.
George, who was promoted to Lance Sergeant in 1917, went back to the police force when he was demobbed in 1919.
When can you visit the exhibition?
He retired in 1934 and died in Doncaster aged 77, where he is buried in Cadeby churchyard.
The exhibition reveals how the war opened up new opportunities for women in the emergency services at home, including the recruitment of the first ‘official’ female police constable in England, Edith Smith.
Helping to tell these stories is a collection of unique historic objects, many of them on display at NESM for the first time. These include a scrapbook created by World War One nurse Jessie Akehurst, original medical and surgical equipment, a wartime litter, badges, postcards, diaries, personal effects and even a 1916 horse-drawn Lingfield veterinary ambulance.
The exhibition is housed in a recreated trench dugout and first aid post. It also features interactive and hands-on displays to help bring this fascinating aspect of the conflict to life.
Museum curator Holly Gosling said: “World War Two is often thought of as being the first conflict that mobilised the whole country but it was World War One that set the template and which led to some huge changes in society.
"The emergency services couldn’t escape from that wave of change, either during the war or after it.
“From the millions of men who left the police or fire service to ‘do their bit’ as ordinary soldiers, to the women who took the opportunities war presented to prove themselves in a man’s world, there are so many stories to be discovered when you delve into the history of the emergency services during World War One. We can’t wait to share them with our visitors.’
The exhibition has its official launch on Thursday and will open to the public on Friday. For more information, go to visitnesm.org.uk.