THERE’S a lot of work still to do, but the people behind the new World War One Remembrance Centre are confident they will open as planned on Saturday.
The centre at Fort Widley on Portsdown Hill is expected to open its doors to the public for the first time at 10.30am.
Starting with a timeline that begins with the sinking of the Titanic in 1912, the story of the First World War is told through photos and documents, many of them gathered from local people.
And its centre-piece is a recreation of a war-time trench, underneath a stark mural of no-man’s land.
Charles Haskell, who has been the driving force behind the centre, said: ‘It’s been a tremendous team effort – the trustees, the council, and the team of about six or seven of us who have been pulling it all together
‘There are lot of museums about the armed forces around Portsmouth, but there’s no World War One museum and a lot of what’s here is navy-related.
‘But we shouldn’t forget the army’s role around here, particularly around the First World War. I’ve been going out to the battlefields for about 30 years and I’m seriously into remembrance.
‘If people can’t get out to the battlefields to see them for themselves, we are doing our best to bring it to them.
‘We want to give them a tiny feel of what it was like.
‘And we don’t want it to be just for Portsmouth and the local area, I want to start making people aware of this centre from much further away – we want to see coaches coming here from the Midlands, or wherever.’
Chris Pennycock, who has also been working on the project, said: ‘It has been a lot of hard work to get it to this stage, but Jewsons in Havant have been brilliant with all the support they’ve been giving us.
‘Hopefully people will get a sense of what it was like in the trenches. We want people to come in and for it to be thought-provoking.’
And schools are already starting to get involved.
Caroline Buckingham, head of history at Portchester Community School, made a preview visit to the centre, and said: ‘We’re very excited about our pupils accessing local history. It’s about recognising what’s on our doorstep and trying to get the pupils involved.’
The centre is still on the lookout for more volunteers – call (023) 9279 8751.
Entry is £3 for adults, and £2 for children and students.