One hundred and twenty names are engraved on the three wooden panels of the New Barnet memorial triptych – surnames and initials that reveal almost nothing of the suffering, pain or bravery that lie behind them.

But a new exhibition at Barnet Museum, to commemorate the centenary of World War One, aims to change all that by revealing just what Barnet and its citizens went through during the Great War.

“It was originally up in the Margaret Road School in New Barnet,“ explains Mike Noronha, co-curator of the exhibition with fellow volunteer and trustee Dennis Bird, “and they gave it to us when the school became a kindergarten. We’ve had it in storage for about 20 years and have had it restored, and now it’s a fitting focus for the display.“

The exhibition contains information about both people from and events in Barnet that Mike and Dennis have been able to put together thanks to museum members, local people and groups.

In the display cabinets are pieces of the Zeppelin, piloted by Lieutenant Heinrich Mathy who was famed for his many bombing raids on Britain, that was shot down over Potters Bar in October 1916. There are also fragments of the Schütte-Lanz SL-11, commonly referred to as a Zeppelin as well, shot down over nearby Cuffley on September 3, 1916.

“There had been Zeppelin raids over Britain for a year and they hadn’t been able to shoot them down, it looked like nothing could be done about them,“ explains Mike, “and these were the first time any had been shot down. That was a brilliant thing.“

The Cuffley airship was brought down by 2nd Lieutenant (later Captain) William Leefe Robinson, who was awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions.

The exhibition features the glove of the pilot of the German ship, a photograph of Cuffley station packed with tourists come to see the shot-down airship, and one of the pieces of Zeppelin wire that the Red Cross sold to tourists to raise funds.

There are also items from the trenches such as shrapnel, hospital papers of a museum member’s father who was blinded in a gas attack and taken prisoner, photographs and letters from another member’s father-in-law who went from being a drummer boy in India to a sergeant in the occupying forces in Germany, assorted medals, and many photographs, donated by Barnet residents.

One person who features in the display is Finchley nurse Mabel Johnson, who was in charge of a hospital near Southampton and who was awarded the Royal Red Cross, a military decoration awarded for exceptional services in military nursing. Her medal features alongside other awards she received and photographs of her.

Another person you will be able to learn about is Field Marshal Julian Byng, the 1st Viscount of Vimy, the youngest child of the Earl of Strafford, who was born in Wrotham Park in Barnet and who was arguably the most successful British general in World War One. The exhibition features photographs of and press cuttings about him.

“Although he was from an aristocratic family they weren’t all that well off,“ says Mike, “so Julian trained polo ponies and sold them to make his way into military college. He was quite a character.

“He’s got quite a good claim to being one of our most prominent citizens because he went on to become the Governor General of Canada and then the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police.“

As well as gathering the information and material for the exhibition displays, Mike and his fellow volunteers have been hard at work researching each of the 275 names on the Chipping Barnet memorial, to find out when and where they died and where they lived and then putting that information into the larger context of a timeline of World War One.

“Our research gives you some idea of the different types of people from Barnet who gave their lives,“ says Mike. “There were pot men – servants in pubs – through to professionals.

“One of the things that struck me was the ordinariness of the people – they just had normal lives and they went out there and died. It really shows how Barnet and the people of Barnet fitted in to the whole of the Great War.“

  • The exhibition will be opened at the Tea in the Park event on Sunday, June 29 from 1pm, at Barnet Museum, Wood Street, Barnet. Details: 020 8440 8066,