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Dorking Local History Group

I gave a presentation about my Group Photograph project to Dorking Local History Group at the Friends' Meeting House in Dorking on Tuesday 3rd October 2006. I started by showing my Animated Film, and I then took questions. These led me to discuss how I had gone about my research as well as further details about the individuals in the photograph and the historical contexts (including the projection of some of the photographs I have collected along the way).

I had a lot of individuals come and chat to me afterwards - and a lot of positive comments both in the feedback forms that people returned to me and in the emails that came to me direct - of wich these are a small selection (the first one below being from the Group's Convenor):

'It was a new type of evening for us, but it was exceptionally well received. Several members made a point of telling me how much they got out of it & I have absolutely no regrets. Thank you so much for sharing your results with us. We will certainly recommend it to as many people as we can. The animation alone gave us much food for thought but being able to hear something of the work you put into it made it even more interesting. We were impressed how immersed you were in all those lives even though you have stopped active research into them.'
'The film was fascinating and so inventive. It kept everyone spellbound.'
It was the most moving experience I have ever had at the meeting over the last 22 years, engendering a deep sense of the brevity but also the preciousness of individual human lives.  In addition to the animation itself, I found your presentation of your research, and the stories, photographs and anecdotes arising from it fascinating and involving.
Review in the Dorking Advertiser:
Dorking Local
History Group

ON THE wall of a pub in Wimbledon some years ago, Andrew Tatham noticed a large group photograph of First World War soldiers.
   As he studied the faces he was moved to wonder what had happened to them, whether any memory of them remained.
   A short while later, in the course of some family history research, he looked at another group photograph in a military museum.
   Here were 46 men officers of the 8th Battalion, the Royal Berkshire Regiment, at their training camp on Salisbury Plain in May 1915.
   One of them was Andrew's great-grandfather, but about the rest he only knew their names, listed in rows beneath the picture.
   These two photographs and the feelings they inspired led
him to embark on a project which would occupy a great deal of time over the next seven years and would eventually take him not only to 23 counties in England but also to South Africa, Scotland, Canada, Australia and the USA.
   He made contact with the families of every man in the 8th Battalion photograph (plus four of their comrades who missed it) traced the descendants, and amassed documents, letters, anecdotes and more photographs.
   Andrew, with an interest in film, has made a 30 minute animated flick using video, painting and music to show the family trees of the 46 men, growing over time from 1864, when the oldest was born. The cumulative effect of the presentation was very moving, and one became intensely involved with these glimpses of individual lives at moments of joy, or solemnity, at
work or on holiday, but always subject to the remorseless onward rush of time, change and chance.
   At the end of the film Andrew Tatham responded to eager questions with a wealth of fascinating information about his project and the discoveries he made.
   He found the families first by searching through Battalion records, Army lists, Wills Registers, electoral registers, telephone directories and then setting up a website and contacting living descendants all over the world.
   It was a stimulating meeting, and we were most grateful to Andrew for his presentation of an impressive piece of historical research which was also an equally impressive work of art.

Patricia Bennett

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