Researching the Chronicle Collection

Over the past few months I have continued my work on the Chronicle Collection belonging to Reading Museum. With the help of Project Intern, Sarah Beattie, the 2,000 glass plate negatives selected from the collection for the online resource have now been digitised using specialist scanning equipment. This strand of the Reading Connections project is now in its final phase.

I am in the process of researching the photographs alongside Project Intern, Evelyn Williams, using diverse and interesting methods including the study of microfilm copies of the Berkshire Chronicle in Reading Library, in an attempt to identify the selected photographs in their published format and any related articles. It should be noted that Reading Library are in the process of digitalising their newspaper collections amongst other items including the Berkshire Chronicle which will make future research more accessible. Books written by local historians and select websites have also been useful in providing a history of Reading, from which to draw information from.

Boshier

In researching the photographs in the Berkshire Chronicle, I have come across many interesting local stories, for example, an escaped swan in 1945, who tired of his surroundings in the River Thames was found wandering through Reading, unperturbed by the traffic. He was eventually captured by Mr L. T. Boshier (pictured above), Keeper of the King’s Swans in Reading and was returned to the river unharmed.

Harvey

Another unusual story found in the Berkshire Chronicle is that of 19 year old, Miss Ellen Harvey (pictured above) who was badly bitten by her 7 year old male lion, Mushie, who she had trained in a ‘wrestling stage act’. The inclusion of wild animals in stage performances was somewhat acceptable at the time. The incident occurred during an evening performance at the Palace Theatre on Cheapside in Reading in 1948, shortly after beginning her first act. It was reported in the newspaper that Mushie, who had seemed agitated all afternoon leading up to the performance, took a bite from Miss Harvey’s hand, his teeth sinking to her bone. Miss Harvey soldiered through the rest of her act before seeking medical attention and during her second act of the evening was wrapped in bandages. It is claimed that during the later performance, Mushie was back to his usual self and safely ate raw meat off Miss Harvey’s face, an unofficial world record in 1948.

Sophie Fitzpatrick

Project Officer

University College Reading and The Great War

 

I should start by saying thank you to Verity Andrews and Caroline Gould for introducing me to this subject, encouraging my work and identifying many of the sources I have been examining.

The aim of the work was to try to add some detail to the names and photographs contained in the Memorial Album to gain a better understanding of the connection between the people concerned and the College.

From the College Calendars it was possible to see the examinations students had passed; the qualifications they had obtained; and whether they had won scholarships, gained prizes or become associates of the College. From details of the Student Union Representative Council and the committees of the various College societies it was possible to see the participation of some students in non-academic College life.

Once the war had started the University College Review included a list of those on Military Service. Starting with the December 1914 edition, it listed the names of those who had joined up with, where available, details of their unit and rank and the period when they had been at the College. People who had been members of the Officer Training Corps (OTC) were identified, as were those who were members of the College staff (both academic and non-academic). This list continued to be updated and appeared until the Review stopped being published after the December 1916 edition. The Review also published a Roll of Honour and obituaries of some of those who died.

Tamesis, the Student magazine, also published a Military Service list drawing on the same information used for that in the Review.

The Old Students’ Association produced its first News in November 1914. It also contained details of those On Service. The last edition published before the end of the war was dated December 1917 and the editions published until then provided more names to add to those obtained from the Review and Tamesis. From these and other printed sources, including local newspapers, it has been possible to compile a list of over 570 people, who were members of the armed forces or nurses and had a College connection; of these 146 lost their lives. The age range of those who died was 18 to 45, with the vast majority being 30 or less. Four of the deaths occurred after the Armistice, two in 1919. Whilst most of the dead had been students of the College, not all were. Some joined the OTC at the start of the war but were never students; some like Samuel Bruce McLaren (Professor of Mathematics) were members of staff; and Rex Lewin was both a former student and member of staff.

The first to die was Sergeant Herbert Westwick, who had been Instructor of the College’s OTC:

H Westwick photo Tamesis

He died on 14 September 1914 leaving a wife and three children. There was no photograph of him in the memorial album but we did find a drawing of him in Tamesis (above), which captured him in a moment of relaxation and has great warmth.

The College dead included three pairs of brothers: Herbert Charles and Leonard Leaver Hyde; Clifford Holt and Gerald Holt Rothwell; and Frank Wortley and Paul Emery May Simmons. There were also two brothers-in-law: Eric Baseden and Wilfred Drake. Herbert Melville Wright was the son of Francis Henry Wright, Registrar of the College, and Walter Thomas Lucking was the only son of George Lucking, the College’s Head Porter.

I had never heard of Ernest Denny but, having seen that he was a poet, we managed to find two books (Galleys Laden and Triumphant Laughter) in which his work appeared. The University has copies of both books, which were published after Denny’s death, and it would be interesting to know whether any of his poems appeared in print before his death in 1917.

Some of those who died had left Britain, at least temporarily, to pursue careers abroad. When war broke out some joined the forces of the countries they had moved to (Canada and New Zealand), whilst Basil George Hope Maclear returned to Britain from South Africa, where he had been farming since 1904.

One woman is amongst the dead. Florence Faithfull was born in India in 1891, the daughter of an officer in the Indian Army. Whilst we could not find her in the 1911 census her four siblings were living in Redlands Road. She served as a Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) nurse throughout the war until her death in January 1918 when she was drowned in Basra.

There are one or two mysteries. Why do the names of Francis Pearse and Wilfred Owen not appear on the Clock Tower Memorial, and who was H Turner? His name appears both in the album and on the memorial, but without a Christian name it is proving hard to discover more about him.

Not all who went to the war died; some returned to the College to resume their studies and others returned to resume their academic careers. Randolph Chell wrote about the war in With the 10th Essex in France (London 1924). Post-war editions of the Old Students’ News include details of the marriages of some of those who returned, and the subsequent birth of their children, and details of their subsequent careers. But I cannot help but wonder how many of those who did survive returned with physical or mental scars and how they managed to resume a peacetime existence. The post-war deaths of two former students are attributed, at least in part, to them having been wounded or gassed.

Jeremy Jones

Reading at War Project Volunteer