Essex at War, 1914 – 1918

We are delighted to announce that the launch of the Now the Last Poppy has Fallen touring exhibition will during the Essex at War event, at Hylands House on Sunday 14th September at 12.45pm.

Essex at Ear event poster

Click on the poster to see the details, or open up a PDF version below.

The event will feature activities for all the family including re-enactors, talks and craft activities for children. There will also be a tea and cake tent, similar to those held during the First World War to raise money for injured soldiers. 100 years later, monies raised will go towards Help for Heroes.

You can download a PDF poster or a flyer if you wish to share this event.

Hylands Military Hospital

 Linda Knock, volunteer and Friend of Hylands House, tells us a little about the history of Hylands House in Chelmsford during the First World War. I wonder if V Festival participants will appreciate the rich history of the house and its inhabitants.

Our research comes under two headings – ‘Hylands Military hospital and the people who were there’ and ‘The Men of Hylands who served in the Great War’. Our task was to find ‘the stories’ of these men.   For both lots of research the Widford Choir books in the Essex Record Office and the local newspapers in the British Newspaper Archive proved invaluable.  We have also been helped by the families of the men we have found.  By building trees on Ancestry and putting a post there, I am in contact with the descendants of three men, and have been helped by a member of the Family History Society of Queensland [Australia] – I posted a request on their Facebook page and the following day one of their members went for a walk in the cemetery in Brisbane and found the family’s grave, including a mention of the soldier who died at Hylands.  The emails to the local papers unfortunately did not produce any results, but the piece in the Friends of Hylands House newsletter found the descendant of one local soldier.  Information from Luckings, the funeral directors, was very useful.

An Australian war grave for Samuel Barrow, a patient in the hospital who was presented with his Military medal on the ward, and then was sent home to Australia.

An Australian war grave for Samuel Barrow, a patient in the hospital who was presented with his Military medal on the ward, and then was sent home to Australia.

We were pleased to discover that Sir Daniel Gooch made the bedside lockers for the wards when the ground floor of his house was made into a hospital; first used by the 2nd and 3rd South Midland Field Ambulance Corps, then for Belgian soldiers and British soldiers.  Many of the latter were from Scottish regiments and the local newspaper at the time of their arrival at the Hylands Halt on the railway said  “Several Scottish regiments were represented, but as they were all in khaki it was difficult to distinguish their regiments.”  There were also soldiers from Canadian and Australian regiments and I have to admit it was easier to access their records than those over here [and at no cost].  From over 1500 men who were treated at Hylands we have only 9 names from the local newspapers.  But from those names we have found their families and their stories. One success already was the cleaning of the war graves in St Mary’s Churchyard in Widford.  I was very upset when I visited the graves in November last year to find they were green, so I emailed the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and was pleased to find that when I returned in April that they are in their original condition.

The grave of Private Gough, Canadian Infantry, in Widford churchyard

The grave of Private Gough, Canadian Infantry, in Widford churchyard

At the time of the Great War the Hylands Estate was not the park as we know it now, but a huge estate including many of the farms around – Widford Hall, Skeggs, Montpeliers, Webbs, Elms and many others, so the task was huge.  We decided to find out as many names as possible from the 1911 census and the 1918 voters list [ERO].  There were many men who were the right age, so we have a list of names, but are concentrating on producing the stories of a few.  We decided to include Widford as it was so close to Hylands and many of the men attended, or were choristers at St Mary’s Widford. The stories we have chosen so far are those of Lancelot Gooch of Hylands House, two brothers who went into the Army and the Navy at 16, a soldier and his wife who both died of influenza just after Peace was declared, a gamekeeper who lived in one of the Estate lodges, and a soldier who lived in one of the Causeway Cottages that belonged to the estate.

Eric Robinson of Widford on the Naval Memorial in Portsmouth

Eric Robinson of Widford on the Naval Memorial in Portsmouth

If anyone reading this has information about soldiers who were treated at Hylands Military Hospital, or those who were from the Estate, please get in touch.

The results of our research will be displayed in the House at the event on 14th and 15th September.

Why not visit Hylands House on Sunday 14th September to see the research presented and also to get the first glimpse of the Last Poppy touring exhibition. The official launch will be at 12:45 that day! Watch this space…

Unknown Warriors

The letters of Essex nurse, Kate Luard are due to be published this month, so 100 years on from the day that she enlisted in Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service Reserve, here is some more about our Essex heroine, from her Great Niece and editor of the new version, Caroline Stevens.

Unknown Warriors, due for release in August 2014

Unknown Warriors, due for release in August 2014

The Letters of  Kate Luard, RRC and Bar,

Nursing Sister in France 1914-1918

Preface by Field-Marshal Viscount Allenby

 

First published by Chatto & Windus  in 1930

Revised edition Hardback published by

The History Press August 2014

ISBN: 978-0-7509-5922-3

 

The words of Unknown Warriors resonate as powerfully today as when first written. The book offers a very personal glimpse into the world of WW1 nursing where patients struggled with pain and trauma, and nurses fought to save lives and preserve emotional integrity.

This photograph is of Kate in her QAIMNSR uniform which appeared in the Parish News of Birch, Layer Breton & Layer Marney in November 2002.  For the full article 'Village People in World War 1'  see www.bretonheath.me.uk/history/centen28.htm

This photograph is of Kate in her QAIMNSR uniform which appeared in the Parish News of Birch, Layer Breton & Layer Marney in November 2002.

The book’s author was one of a select number of fully trained military nurses who worked on ambulance trains and in casualty clearing stations during the First World War, coming as close to the front as a woman could. Kate was already a war veteran when she arrived in France in 1914, aged 42, having served in the Second Anglo-Boer War. At the height of the Battle of Passchendaele, she was in charge of a casualty clearing station with a staff of 40 nurses and nearly 100 nursing orderlies.

She was awarded the RRC and Bar (a rare distinction) and was twice mentioned in Despatches for gallant and distinguished service in the field. Through her letters home she conveyed a vivid and honest portrait of war. It is also a portrait of close family affection and trust in a world of conflict.

In publishing some of these letters in Unknown Warriors her intention was to bear witness to the suffering of the ordinary soldier.

‘It is a tale of heroism, modestly told, but unsurpassed in interest by any War novel yet written’  Field-Marshal Viscount Allenby.

The new edition features:

  • Introduction co-authored by Christine Hallett, Professor of Nursing History at the University of Manchester, and Tim Luard, former BBC Correspondent and great-nephew of Kate Luard.
  • Postscript including unpublished letters both from Kate to her family and those to her in France.
  • Produced by her own family the revised edition offers a fitting tribute to her remarkable work.

 

The original letters written by Kate and those to her from her family are held in the Luard archives at the Essex Record Office, Chelmsford.

You can find out more on the website: http://kateluard.co.uk or search our blog archive for more.

100 years on…

And so the commemorations to mark the centenary of the start of the first World War has begun…

There will be many events and plenty of TV coverage to keep us all informed of what happened 100 years ago, and we will be encouraged to ‘Remember’, to look back and reflect, to weigh up what that war means for us today.

Frank Bernard Lane

Frank Bernard Lane

For me, I know that one of my great grandfathers, Frank Bernard Lane, served for his country and although I never knew him I appreciate what he sacrificed for us, although I do know that he survived the Great War, unlike many of his friends, I suspect.

I have read many stories of bravery from our wonderful project researchers and have been impressed at the willingness of men and women to step into the unknown and risk their lives for the ‘greater good’. I hope you manage to have a look back through our archived blog posts to discover some of the stories. I also hope you get a chance to see the touring exhibition, when it is ready from September 2014 onwards, at your local museum or library, where you can read more fascinating stories.

Essex Poet, Luke Wright (photo courtesy of martin Figura)

Essex Poet, Luke Wright (photo courtesy of Martin Figura)

We were pleased to present the first of five completely original poems written by local poet, Luke Wright. He has taken the research given to him by our project manager, Tony Morrison, from our volunteer researchers, and turned it into a wonderful, reflective poem about what was going on in Essex, 100 years ago. Please do read it and let us know what you think.

In addition, the Essex Record Office and our partner museums have begun to work on education sessions or resources for secondary schools. Chelmer Valley High School, in Chelmsford has already held an art competition in conjunction with both the Essex Fire Museum and the Essex Police Museum. You can see their art work on our Project Partners: Schools page.

If you get a chance, do have a look at the EROs most recent blog post: ‘And so the mad Dance of Death has begun’: a look at the Essex County Chronicle of 7 August 1914, which is an extensive look at the Essex Chronicle’s reports from 100 years ago.

Whatever you do to remember, always remember that these were ordinary human beings like you and I, sucked into a frightening and traumatic experience beyond their control. What would you do today? Would you be first in line to sign up to go to war and serve for your country? Or would you have held back, with dread? None of us can say…

Sarah Girling, Project Manager

Our first poem release!

We are very excited to announce that with just a few days to go until the centenary of the First World War, acclaimed Essex Poet Luke Wright has written his first poem for the project.

Entitled August Bank Holiday, Essex, 1914

You can read it on the official press release and on our new ‘Our Poems’ page.

This is what Luke said about his poem:

This is the first poem I have written for the project, it’s a sort of patchwork of scenes from the bank holiday weekend before war was declared. I thought it was fascinating that a lot of British people were on holiday that weekend. We know all know the sinking feeling of going back to work after holiday, these seemed like a very grim extreme of that. I wanted to get across the normally of life going on in Essex with this incredibly abnormal thing looming in the background. I think it’s hard for us to imagine what being at war in that way was like, so for this project I want to focus on the things we can get our modern heads around, to paint a picture of life in Essex at that time. By illustrating the happy normality war wrenched away from people I hope to get down to how awful it must have been. It’s a real challenge to write about something so big, but I hope that by focusing on small details I’ll bring it to life one hundred years later.

We are looking forward to more of Luke’s poems.

Where The Poppies Now Grow

Author, Hilary Robinson, shares with us why she wrote her latest book Where the Poppies Now Grow.

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The Story Behind The Story

Seeing the beautiful and moving pictures of primary school children planting poppies as part of the World War 1 commemorations has been truly inspiring.

13.tifThe educational initiative by the Royal British Legion aims to help young people understand the impact but it will also, undoubtedly, encourage them to find out more about members of their community who were affected by the conflict.

If I’d had the same opportunity when I was a child I may have been inclined to find out more about my great uncle, Sjt, G B N Johnson who fell on the tenth day of the Battle of the Somme.  He was just 22 years old.

For it was many years later, at a family wedding, that my great aunt told me how devastated her mother Jane, my great grandmother, had been when she learned of the death of  Norman.

The shock was devastating.

Every morning, thereafter, for the rest of her life,  Jane would stand at the top of the stairs and visualise the excited commotion of the morning when Norman returned home on leave for what was to be the last time.  Gripping the bannister she would pause and say “it’s alright Norman I’ll be with you soon.”   And even then, frustratingly, I didn’t ask much more.

In 1914  Norman was working in a gentleman’s outfitters in Reading.   He’d volunteered to fight for his county, like so, so many others.

The great uncle of my illustrator, Martin Impey, also fell at the Somme.  Arthur Sainty died a few weeks later aged just 19.

And so it seemed wholly appropriate that we should dedicate our book Where The Poppies Now Grow, to them.

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The story, specially written for young children, is a work of fiction and, in homage to the war poets, has been written in rhyme. Through the words and the pictures we have tried to recreate the sense of duty and pride of the time and to celebrate the human condition.  That, no matter what, friendship is a more powerful force than conflict.

Martin Impey’s incredible artwork is true in detail – right down to the black buttons (instead of brass)  of the Rifle Brigade – of which both our uncles were part.03.tif

Our aim is the same as that of the Royal British Legion – to engage young children in that period of history so that they will develop an appreciation for the scale of suffering which was to shape the 20th century world.

It has been an honour to play a small part in the centenary commemorations and to indirectly support the work of the poppy planting initiative.  We were particularly humbled when one reviewer paid us the ultimate compliment by saying that after reading Where The Poppies Now Grow, “children will never look at the poppies in the same way again.”

Hilary Robinson

July 2014

Where The Poppies Now Grow by Hilary Robinson and Martin Impey is published by Strauss House Productions.

You can purchase Where the Poppies Now Grow, and Hilary and Martin’s other First World War themed book The Christmas Truce on Amazon. A third book will be available so watch this space…

 

Epping Forest District and World War One Community Project

Epping Forest District Museums Audience Development Officer, Francesca Pellegrino, tells us about their community project.

Epping Forest District Museum is working on a project to help document the links between the district and World War One. The Museum does have a selection of World War One objects within the collection but we felt it was important to discover any other stories, memories or objects that people had and make a record of these.

As part of the project the team will be going out and about into the district, holding Heritage Events in various venues for people to drop in with anything they might have to share with us. The objects will be recorded and stories documented and these records will become part of the Museum’s collection.  Once the Museum reopens after redevelopment we have plans to commemorate World War One through our displays but in the meantime the Museum has a small community cabinet exhibition planned for August this year. The exhibition will be put together from items discovered on these heritage documentation days and will be on display in the reception of the Civic Offices in Epping from August.

Our first event took place at Budworth Hall in Ongar on Saturday 21st June. The event was run alongside the Ongar Millennium History Society and we had around 100 people turn up on the day to hear about our project, the Museum’s redevelopment and see some of the objects on display from the History Society. In particular it was great to see the guest book from the Cock Inn in Ongar which is part of the History Society’s collection.

cock inn guest book

This image shows pages from the book, signed by soldiers from the South Mid. Royal Engineers passing through Ongar on 22nd August 1914.

Several people brought objects and memories to share with us and hearing the stories and seeing the objects was a special experience for the team, both fascinating and emotional. It was great for the Museum team to be able to document some of these stories. One gentleman had objects and papers relating to his uncle and father who both came from Ongar and fought in the First World War. Below you can see his father’s discharge papers.

discharge papers

Discharge papers for G. Perry

You can find out more on the website,  Museum blog or Facebook.

We are still looking for stories and objects connecting the Great War and the district. If you have anything you might like to share with the Museum team then please get in touch via email museum@eppingforestdc.gov.uk or telephone 01992 716882.