POPPIES have taken over Odiham as the village gears up for this weekend.

Poppy gardens, comprising of cast iron poppies bearing details of those 69 named on the Odiham War Memorial, have now been planted in Odiham schools and on approach roads, as part of a programme to recall, explain and remember.

The final poppy garden will be planted beside the War Memorial, next to a British Legion “Tommy Silhouette”, on Thursday, November 8, where 70 pupils from Mayhill School will bring forward a poppy, recalling the opening ceremony of 1920 when children of Odiham each carried forward a wreath in memory of one of the 69 names inscribed on the War Memorial.

The 70th poppy is dedicated to the “unknown soldier of Odiham”, remembering anyone from the parish who had moved away or perhaps died of wounds after demobilisation. In addition, a permanent Peace Garden with 69 permanent poppies is under construction by Odiham Parish Council to be ready for November 11 this year.

Poppy gardens are part of the Odiham Remembers the First World War project organised by the Odiham Society to explain and remember the events of 1914-18 and the sacrifice, compassion and valour of the people of Odiham during those years.

The project was awarded a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund that has complemented smaller donations by the Odiham Society and Hampshire County Council. Volunteers, including Dr Sue Smith, have been researching the stories and families of those who fell for approximately 10 years - and this project will enable that research to be disseminated freely to schools and the public through events, exhibitions, publications and a website.

A key foundation of the project is a First World War exhibition in All Saints Church which opened in October and will run until the end of November. The scene is set on the approach to the Church through the Bury, where British and Hampshire Flags fly alongside those of the armed forces as well as others representing allies and countries of the Commonwealth in the First World War.

Outside the church, six British Legion silhouettes are stood by the avenue of trees: a soldier, a sailor, an aviator, a commonwealth soldier, a nurse and a woman (representing mothers, wives, sisters, sweethearts and munitions workers). To the left is a poppy garden of 70 poppies arranged by year in chronological order of death: giving the name, rank, service and regiment, and date, place and age of death of each of those remembered on the parish War Memorial.

Inside, the Exhibition explains the history of the First World War from 1914-1918 through the stories of those from Odiham who died, arranged chronologically according to date of death. It stretches clockwise along the north and south walls of the Norman church, which was built on the site of the former Saxon minster.

Additional displays cover the fundraising and opening of the War Memorial, the Hampshire Regiment during the First World War, Conscription, Women and the First World War, and Voluntary Auxiliary Hospitals, Belgian refugees who were welcomed and housed in Odiham, the Victoria Cross awards to Manley James and Rev William Addison, who were born in the parish, and other topics of importance and interest.

The 69 remembered on the Odiham Memorial reflect casualties who died on land, at sea and in the air; as well as two women who died, one working in an Auxiliary Hospital and one who died from TNT poisoning caused by working in a munitions factory.

The Exhibition opened strongly early in October with a “Remembrance with Flowers” week, which combined fresh autumn flowers with poppies; and was organised and designed by Helen Smith, assisted by an industrious team of helpers. A collateral benefit has been donations given to the Royal British Legion by visitors and a donation to the same charity included with every “Poppy” that graces poppy gardens around Odiham - and poppies outside private homes.

John Champion, project manager for the Odiham Society said: “Our aim is to explain and remember; working closely with local schools, including Robert Mays which has catchment extending well beyond Odiham parish.

“Poppy Gardens and our exhibition are key foundation events, but the project will continue through next year as we author publications and a website that will interest and inform all ages; also preserving painstaking research that will be easily accessible by future generations of school pupils and students.

“Additionally, we will gather and collate First World War stories handed down by their parents, uncles, aunts and grandparents - before such insights into 1914-18 are lost forever.

“I am very grateful for grants, especially from Heritage Lottery Fund, which have allowed us to turn the hard work of volunteers into something tangible with a lasting legacy.”