Friday, 25 September 2015

Don't Panic!

Did you know that you might be able to find some First World War service information in Second World War records? A lot of the First World War service records were destroyed during the bombing of the Second World War so it can be difficult to find out what our ancestors did. 
Home Guard Regulations (D/DLI 5/1/1)
D/DLI 5/1/1 Home Guard Regulations
In 2012, The National Archives undertook a pilot project to digitise some of their home guard records.   The good news for us is that the group of records selected were those for County Durham.  The press release from the time says ‘The County of Durham was selected as a representative sample to digitise for this project, as it contains a number of different patterns of settlement; urban, rural, mining and coastal, and can therefore be considered a microcosm of the whole collection.’

The reason this is great is because one of the questions on the enrolment form is about previous military service:
“Do you now belong to, or have you ever served in, the Armed Forces of the Crown?  If so, state particulars of all engagements.”
The National Archives WO 409/27/50/959 extract from Home Guard enrolment form
Now this won’t contain the same amount of information as a service record might, and it was also up to the man enrolling to put what he thought was relevant.  However, in the absence of any other information, this is a source worth checking.  In the case of William Francis Corner, who I was looking at, it gave me the reason why the solider had only received the British War Medal despite enlisting with his brother in the Durham Pals and training with them.  He was transferred to munitions, likely due to his civilian work as a chemical analyst. 

As mentioned earlier, the man you are researching must have served with the Durham Home Guard during the Second World War period.  The records can be downloaded for £3.30 and searched here:

Friday, 18 September 2015

A helping hand

A post from Jo.

When not liaising with volunteers or adding content to the website, quite a lot of our job involves spreading the word about the project.  We visit local and family history events, taking displays and giving talks.
A helping hand, Battle of Ginchy, IWM Q4210
Helping a wounded soldier, the Battle of Ginchy, taken by Lieutenant John Warwick Brooke, 9 September 1916, 
© IWM (Q 4210)
On Saturday 12th September, I could tell my kids that I was going to work at a castle when I went to mind the stall at the Brancepeth Archives and History Group's World War One event at Brancepeth Castle.  Two days earlier, I had been back to university.   At Newcastle University, Durham at War participated in a conference arranged to publicise the work of the First World War Engagement Centres .  These are academic centres that have a number of World War One themed specialities who are trying to make links between academics and community researchers. For example, Hertfordshire University has taken on the topic of conscientious objectors and is co-ordinating research from communities and academics.

The Tynemouth World War One project, which will be known to many of you, is planning to make use of the contacts that are possible through the Engagement Centres in order to work with Dr James McConnel from Northumbria University on patterns of emigration to Canada and Australia from the North East.  Something that Durham at War has been interested in and has a number of volunteers researching at the moment.

The conference also resulted in making a few contacts who have contributed material to the site. Michael Grant of the Alnwick Museum sent us a profile of John Charles Grant (no relation) from Alnwick who had penned a poem about an Officer Training Corps in Chopwell Woods. Both are now available to look at on Durham at War. As is a page for the Tyneside Irish Brigade Association, in the "What's On" section.

The day was completed with a talk by Ian Johnson, Newcastle University Archivist, about the First World War research that the university archives have been involved in.  To illustrate a number of photographs of Armstrong College, which was used as a hospital during the war, he also took us on a guided tour of the campus.  
Archivist Ian Johnson, Newcaatle University
Archivist Ian Johnson, Newcastle University
He can be seen in the photo here holding up one of the archival photographs (a copy, of course!) next to the doorway where the photograph was taken.  Unfortunately, my camera phone isn't good enough to do justice to the old photo of military invalids gathered around the door having a crafty fag away from matron's stern gaze.

Friday, 11 September 2015

Distant Lands

 “Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are.”  
Mason Cooley

Author=© Jorge Royan|License=CC-BY-SA-3.0
Author=© Jorge Royan|License=CC-BY-SA-3.0 
Another blog post in the series looking at the books read by Henry Wilkinson whilst a prisoner of war at Stralsund.  As our nights start to draw in, maybe there is something in this group, which includes three books involving travel that takes your fancy.  It is a long held belief that books can transport us to a different place but the idea of reading about distant lands (the South Pacific is about as far removed from the Prussian coastal prison camp as you could get) whilst in captivity must have been bittersweet.

Jupiter Lights, Constance F Woolson, published 1889, read 13 July 1918
Jack Bruce left England to fight in the American Civil War where he has married and had a child.  Jack dies of yellow fever and his wife quickly remarries, to a man who likes to drink and gets violent when he does.  Jack’s sister Eva travels to South Carolina to her retrieve her nephew and take him back to England.  Eva ends up staying in America longer than planned when events take a desperate turn.
(Summarised from reviews on Good Reads and Amazon)

Avenged on Society, HF Wood, published 1893, read 14 July 1918
A satire written in a diary style in which the author inserts himself as a character – it tries to comment on society’s penchant for romanticising criminals who got away with their crimes.
(Summarised from a review in The Spectator 15 April 1893)

A Son of the Sun, Jack London, published 1912, read 16 July 1918
A book of eight short stories about Captain David Grief, a businessman with financial interests in the islands of the South Pacific.  Set at the beginning of the 20th century, the stories tell of Grief’s adventures, inspired by the authors own experiences sailing in the region. 
(Summarised from Wikipedia)

A New England Nun and Other Stories, University of South Carolina Special Collections
A New England Nun and Other Stories, University of South Carolina Special Collections
A New England Nun, ME Wilkins, published 1891, read 17 July 1918
Published in a collection of short stories by the same story, the title story is that of Louisa Ellis, a woman who has lived alone for many years and is set in her particular ways.  Fourteen years earlier, she had promised to marry Joe Daggett when he returned from seeking his fortune in Australia.  When Joe returns, Louisa finds it difficult to adapt after such a long time alone but believes a promise is a promise.  However, she finds out that Joe has developed feelings for the woman who has been looking after his mother.  Without telling him the reason, Louisa releases Joe from their engagement. 
(Summarised from Wikipedia)

Elizabeth Visits America, Elinor Glyn, published 1909, read 18 July 1918
A sequel to Glyn’s 1900 novel The Visits of Elizabeth.  The first book takes the form of the letters Elizabeth sends to her invalid mother in England whilst she travels abroad going to the grand parties of titled relatives.  Elizabeth Visits America takes the same format except that Elizabeth is visiting America with friends and they want to see the real place, ‘the American Americans we don’t meet at home’.
(Summarised from the Edwardian Promenade blog review)
This is an example of what Newcombe and Winston say in their Library Journal article that oftentimes, they might have the sequel to a book without a copy of the original. 

A Woman of No Importance, Oscar Wilde, play first performed 1893, first printed 1894, read 18 July 1918
Oscar Wilde's audacious drama of social scandal centres around the revelation of Mrs Arbuthnot's long-concealed secret. A house party is in full swing at Lady Hunstanton's country home, when it is announced that Gerald Arbuthnot has been appointed secretary to the sophisticated, witty Lord Illingworth. Gerald's mother stands in the way of his appointment, but fears to tellOscar Wilde's [play is an] audacious drama of social scandal centres on the revelation of Mrs Arbuthnot's long-concealed secret. A house party is in full swing at Lady Hunstanton's country home, when it is announced that Gerald Arbuthnot has been appointed secretary to the sophisticated, witty Lord Illingworth. Gerald's mother stands in the way of his appointment, but fears to tell him why, for who will believe Lord Illingworth to be a man of no importance?
(Synospsis from Penguin books)

Friday, 4 September 2015

Heritage Open Day 2015

Durham County Record Office Heritage Open Day 2015

Durham at War Heritage Open Day
at Durham County Record Office, County Hall

Thursday 10 September
1pm - 4pm

10 unexpected stories from the website 
From document to Durham at War
Cocken Hall - then and 'now'
How to put your story onto Durham at War