The widow of a historian who dedicated years of his life to ensuring war heroes were not forgotten has taken over his workload in a poignant tribute to her late husband.

Malcolm Doolin, died in March, after a six-month battle with cancer, leaving behind wife Eve Wilson.

The former teacher said her husband had been responding well to treatment and so his death hit the family suddenly and unexpectedly. 

In the weeks and months that followed, Eve received heartfelt messages from people who had worked alongside her husband on various historical projects.

East London and West Essex Guardian Series:

Eve with the book Malcolm wrote about men who fought in WWI

She said: “When people wrote to me after Malcolm died, a number of themes emerged in what people said they had valued about him.

“Among these were his kindness and generosity, his super efficiency and his ability to make other people believe in themselves and become more than they thought they could be.

“Above all, he had the ability to interest and enthuse other people in the things he was passionate about which included history, especially the history of London and of the Great War, and of silent film.”

Malcolm’s interest in the First World War was sparked by his maternal grandmother’s tales during his childhood.

East London and West Essex Guardian Series:

Eve, pictured with her late husband Malcolm, has now taken over his work

She would explain to the youngster how his uncle, her younger brother, Private Ernest Alfred Sharp, 2nd Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers, was “blown to pieces” in the spring of 1918 and had no grave. 

The native of Dover would go on to write a book about Walthamstow men who lost their lives in the Great War, entitled The Boys of Blackhorse Road: The Story of an Elementary School War Memorial.

In January, Malcolm was involved in launching a campaign to trace descendants of WWI heroes who are buried in Chingford Mount Cemetery.

East London and West Essex Guardian Series:

Malcolm speaking at an event, pictured with former Mayor of Waltham Forest, Cllr Peter Herrington

And up until three days before his death he had been out speaking to business owners in Walthamstow Village asking them to support the World War One Open Day, which will take place this weekend.

Having first proposed the event last year as a one-off, it proved to be such a hit, drawing major local history societies, Malcolm decided it had to happen again this year – especially as 2018 marks the centenary of the armistice that ended the war.

While the historian would no doubt have captivated the crowds with a speech on the day, organisers have ensured his memory will be kept alive through other means.

Eve will read an excerpt from his book and a film screening will be dedicated to Malcolm, in honour of his twin passions – silent film and the Great War.

East London and West Essex Guardian Series:

Malcolm was passionate about ensuring war heroes are remembered by the younger generations

“There was never any question but that the World War One Open Day would go ahead,” said Eve.

“All the plans were already in place, he had secured commitment from all the major players, there were spreadsheets and checklists for every aspect of it, plans for the locations of displays and a timetable for talks.

“It would have been a betrayal not just of Malcolm, but of all the other people so keen to support the event, not to go ahead, and Malcolm would simply have expected me to take it over.

“As it is, he could not have a better memorial than the open day itself and the evening screening of The Battle of the Ancre accompanied by the wonderful Waltham Forest Youth Orchestra and dedicated to Malcolm.”

East London and West Essex Guardian Series:

Malcolm died in March 2018

At Malcolm’s funeral, a friend read a poem by Mary Lee Hall, Turn Again to Life, which ends with the words, ‘Complete these dear unfinished tasks of mine, and I, perchance, may therein comfort you’.

As Eve now looks to the future and strives to continue the work of her beloved husband, she hopes his legacy will mean that those he brought together will collaborate on future projects to ensure war heroes are honoured.

“At every World War One event he spoke at, Malcolm emphasised the importance of remembrance and his hope that that would continue after the WW1 centenary is over,” added Eve.

“I am so very grateful to friends and colleagues who are helping me to continue Malcolm’s work.”
The World War One Open Day will be held at St Mary’s Church and Vestry House Museum in Walthamstow Village from 11am to 5pm on Saturday, September 15.