WORK has begun on a £3m museum that will showcase Oxfordshire’s proud military heritage.
After a successful fundraising appeal, contractors have begun to clear ground for the the Soldiers of Oxfordshire Museum , in Woodstock.
The £3.5m museum, in the grounds of the Oxfordshire Museum, at Fletcher’s House, in Park Street, will showcase collections from the county’s two historic regiments.
The trust behind the project says it will “facilitate the understanding of how conflict and military service have affected the people and hist-ory of Oxfordshire”.
The museum’s recently-appointed director, Ursula Corcoran, said: “It’s very exciting to go down there and see that the site is being cleared and we’re under way.”
Individual donations and grants raised over the past 10 years mean all the money to build the museum is in place , with its opening pencilled in for October next year.
Miss Corcoran said: “It makes you feel very enthusiastic that people have actually supported the project and are so supportive of the aims.”
Two galleries will display some of the 3,500 artefacts from the Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry and the Queen’s Own Oxfordshire Hussars, a Territorial Army unit also known as the Oxfordshire Yeomanry.
She said: “We have just started delving into the collections to decide what we want.
“We have been finding items from the trenches in the First World War and things to do with the Home Front.”
A poignant find is a horse’s hoof used as an inkwell during the First World War, which is expected to attract interest in the wake of the recent movie War Horse.
A small museum and the trust’s archives used to be housed at the former Slade Park Territorial Army barracks in Oxford until 2008, when the site was sold for housing. The TA units moved to Edward Brooks Barracks in Abingdon.
Miss Corcoran added: “Although there have been various temporary exhibitions of items from the collection, it is the first time it will have a permanent home. It’s about reaching a wider audience.”
Special exhibitions are already being planned to mark the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War in 2014 and the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo in 2015.
Sofo trust vice-chairman Colonel Tim May, who turned the first shovel of earth for the foundations yesterday, said: “Now the real work of creating the museum can begin.
“We can start to think of the activities we can offer in this building to engage and attract new audiences.”
County council cabinet member for communities Judith Heathcoat said: “The county has a rich and fascinating military history and I am confident that the finished museum will provide a window on the past and be a fitting tribute to those who continue to serve our country.”
A decision has not yet been taken on whether there will be an admission charge for visitors.
For more information about the museum and the trust, see sofo.org.uk or call 01993 813832.
The Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry was formed in 1881 by a merger 43rd and the 52nd regiments of foot.
The 2nd Battalion was sent to France in 1914 at the start of the First World War.
On D-Day in June 1944, troops from the regiment took Pegasus Bridge on the Caen Canal in Normandy.
The regiment became part of the Royal Green Jackets in 1958.
The Queen’s Oxfordshire Hussars can trace their roots back to yeomanry units formed in the county in the 1790s.
Nicknamed the Queer Objects on Horseback, after its initials, the regiment sent men to the Boer War and served in France throughout the First World War.
The unit remains part of the Territorial Army today, in the shape of the Banbury-based 5th (Queen’s Own Oxfordshire Hussars) Signal Squadron.