Exploring the trauma of combat through the First World War heritage of Overbeck's

Pictures and artefacts from Overbeck's history as a hospital for the war wounded

This project will share the stories and experiences of soldiers affected by the trauma of the First World War and their convalescence at the VAD Hospital at Overbeck’s. Through partnership work with veterans' mental health charity Combat Stress we will explore how the experiences of soldiers 100 years ago reflect the lives of modern-day service men and women and how the therapeutic activities developed at Overbeck’s can have real benefits for veterans suffering from PTSD, stress and anxiety today.

Overbeck's as a First World War convalescent hospital

During World War One Overbeck’s was transformed into a VAD Hospital for men suffering from shell-shock caused by their experiences in the trenches. They left behind a wealth of stories of their time in this “little piece of heaven”; friendships were made, husbands and wives met and innovative therapies helped people recover, before returning to the battlefields of northern France. This project will deliver a programme of activities, research and exhibitions to engage audiences young and old with heritage and see how the experiences of the past can tell us something about life today.

Combat Stress wasfounded at the end of the war, thousands of servicemen returned home with shell shock. They received little or no sympathy from the public and many were locked away in mental war hospitals and asylums. Others suffered in silence.

About Combat Stress

Combat Stress is the UK’s leading charity for veterans’ mental health.

Founded in 1919, they have helped thousands of veterans from every conflict deal with trauma related mental health problems such as anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Demand for their services is at an all-time high - over 2,000 new veterans reach out for help each year. New referrals to the charity have almost doubled in the last decade.

To help veterans rebuild their lives they provide a range of free services at treatment centres and through regional community teams, including short-stay clinical treatment, a specialist PTSD Intensive Treatment Programme, occupational therapy, a Peer Support Service and a free 24-hour Helpline (0800 138 1619).

Find out more at combatstress.org.uk.

The films we are showing help us tell these stories:

Pathe films – First World War archive films

Liberating Lives film - Combat Stress invited four veterans to share their thoughts and feelings on camera about how their lives have changed since receiving treatment from the charity. Despite never having met before, the veterans quickly formed a bond. The conversation was guided by Combat Stress’ Senior Clinical Psychologist Dr Manveer Kaur.

Charity video - Since 1919 Combat Stress has supported veterans with trauma-related mental health problems. Over the last century, the charity has developed its services and now offers evidence-based clinical programmes, treatment and support alongside a 24-hour Helpline. However, one thing remains the same – the impact that PTSD can have on veterans and the people around them. Watch veterans Paul, Tom and Dave talk about their experiences of living with PTSD and how treatment from Combat Stress changed their lives.

The work will be exhibited throughout 2019 for our visitors to engage with and to see that heritage is not something that exists in a historical vacuum but has enormous relevance to the contemporary world.