Communities invited to explore their war heritage

issued by Heritage Lottery Fund of British troops boarding modified B-type LGOC buses at Arras, Fran

issued by Heritage Lottery Fund of British troops boarding modified B-type LGOC buses at Arras, France, 1917 as communities are to be given a share of a £6 million grant to help them mark the centenary of the First World War, the Heritage Lottery Fund has announced. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Wednesday May 15, 2013 - Credit: PA

Communities across the region will be able to bid for a slice of a new pot of cash to help them explore and conserve the heritage of the first world war and deepen their understanding of the conflict.

In the run up to the centenary of the 1914 to 1918 war, the Heritage Lottery Fund has made £6m available up to 2019 to mark the 100 year anniversary, pledging to hand out at least £1m each year.

At the launch of the Then and Now programme yesterday, Norfolk MP Keith Simpson (pictured below), who sits on the prime minister's advisory board for the first world war centenary, urged communities in the region to bid for the money.

He said: 'I am very keen to encourage as wide a participation as possible at a local level. Work is already going on in Norfolk.

'We are very lucky that we have a good number of local historians who have written about Norfolk and the first world war and over the past 15 to 20 years there have been a lot of other organisations which have been looking at the conflict.'

He said organisations like the Western Front Association and many local villages had carried out research and Reepham School was looking at the men behind the names on its village war memorial.

Mr Simpson, who is a military historian and has written books about the first world war, added: 'This is a great opportunity for young people to think about what happened 100 years ago. Why we went to war, what happened to the men, the impact the war had on Norfolk, the work of women, conscientious objectors, prisoners of war, refugees and naval bombardments and air raids –which are usually associated with the second world war.'

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He added: 'It is going to provide a great opportunity to discuss the first world war in terms of the impact on Norfolk's community.'

Sebastian Faulks, who wrote the acclaimed first world war novel Birdsong and also sits on the advisory group, said the grants provided an opportunity for every street, town or village to make sure they remember the cataclysmic events of 100 years ago.

He added: 'It is a chance to learn and to commemorate in whatever way they choose.''

The lottery fund has already invested £12m in projects that will mark the centenary of first world war.

Last October, the prime minister set out the government's plans to mark the centenary of the first world war, commencing in 2014, which included plans to refurbish the first world war galleries at the Imperial War Museum.

Culture secretary Maria Miller said: 'It is completely right that we mark the centenary of the first world war with a national programme capturing our national spirit and saying something about who we are as a people. 'But what we do also needs to help create an enduring cultural and educational legacy for communities.'

Chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund Dame Jenny Abramsky added: 'The impact of the first world war was far reaching, touching and shaping every corner of the UK and beyond.'