Stoke & Staffordshire

Lost Staffordshire WW1 wall hanging unveiled

Two planes, one shot down, painted on the canvas
Image caption The canvas painting depicts the major offensives the battalion fought in during WW1

A memorial canvas commemorating soldiers killed in World War One which was lost for 30-years has been found and put on display.

The North Staffordshire Fifth Battalion Memorial Canvas was created in 1923 by returning servicemen who then went to work as ceramics artists and designers.

It depicts a panorama of the battlefields which the battalion fought on between 1914-1918.

More than 1,000 local men who died in the war are named on the canvas.

Image caption The memorial canvas needs a lot of restoration work still

The artwork, more than 20m (65.5ft) long and 3m (10ft) high, was commissioned by Maj Thomas Simpson, who managed ceramics company Soho Pottery in Stoke-on-Trent, and was supported by members of the Royal British Legion.

It was last seen in 1985 and was thought lost until historian Levison Wood traced it to the Potteries Museum in Stoke-on-Trent, "after a bit of Agatha Christie detective work".

It was found hidden among more than half a million items in the museum's stores mislabelled as a tram map.

"How it survived the last almost 100 years is incredible and beyond belief," Mr Wood said.

Image caption Historian Levison Wood said the canvas is "a tribute to all the men who died"
Image caption The story told on the canvas includes many elements of war life, including trench rats

The battalion took part in every major Western Front offensive, Mr Wood said, and the canvas portrays all of them.

With the names of all the men from the area killed at war, Mr Wood describes the canvas as "the teardrops of the boys who never came home".

The Staffordshire battalion lost about 20% of its men - twice the national average.

It has been described by the Imperial War Museum as of national and international significance, drawing comparisons to the Bayeaux Tapestry due to its size and detail.

Image caption More than 1,000 men from the battalion killed in the war are listed on the painting
Image caption The council hopes the canvas will be fully restored by 2021

Abi Brown, deputy leader of Stoke-on-Trent city council said the city "couldn't ask for a more fitting tribute to the contribution of our industry, our people, our city and our county".

The cost to fully restore the canvas, only a third of which is currently displayed, is unknown, however it is hoped to be completely on display by 2021.

Image caption Passchendaele and Ypres are among the battles where the North Staffordshire Fifth Battalion served
Image caption The cost of restoring the canvas is not yet known
Image caption The canvas was painted by local potters, not artists
Image caption About a third of the canvas is going on display at The Potteries Museum in Stoke-on-Trent

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