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

The word spreads about ‘Reading at War’… even Tony Blackburn’s talking about it!

At this time of year many of us will reflect on those who have fought for their country and, in particular, on those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.

As we approach Remembrance Day,  the local press have taken a keen interest in the Reading at War aspect of the Reading Connections project, part of which aims to highlight the stories of the 146 individuals who feature in Reading University College’s Memorial Bookall of whom tragically lost their lives in the First World War. We are delighted that the Reading Post and BBC Radio Berkshire have been keen to focus on some of these incredible stories.

During their visit, two reporters from The Reading Post met myself and project volunteer, Jeremy Jones, and were shown the Memorial Book. They were introduced to some of the individuals who feature in it and explored the project’s designated flickr site. The flickr site is a fantastic resource as it not only allows people to view those individuals but it also contains, where known, further biographical details about them and their connections to Reading University College. These details are just the tip of the iceberg and, of course, we are appealing for anyone who has more information about, or photographs of, any of the individuals to get in touch.

Although we were unable to take the Memorial Book with us for our BBC Radio Berkshire broadcast, it was still very much the main focus of our discussion.

Tony Blackburn

Phillippa Heath, Tony Blackburn and Jeremy Jones at the BBC Radio Berkshire Studio  

There, Jeremy and I were interviewed as part of  Tony Blackburn’s show. Tony was incredibly enthusiastic and interested in the work we are carrying out. Not only was it a fantastic opportunity to promote the project, but it also brought to the fore the heart-wrenching stories of some of those students who gave so much.

If you missed the broadcast, it should be possible to ‘listen again’ at http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p01jryvj (the interview took place at 10.50 am on 07/11/13). All being well, the project will also feature in the Reading Post on 8th November, and a short edited video about the project will feature on their website. Our media coverage of the project will continue on Sunday, 10th November at 9 am when Guy Baxter, University Archivist, will also be interviewed on BBC Radio Berkshire about the Reading at War project.

 

Phillippa Heath

Reading at War Project Officer, Museum of English Rural Life

Berkshire in The First World War History Project visit to MERL

Danni Mills (Reading Connections Digitsation/Data Officer) and I recently hosted a visit from Berkshire in The First World War History Project group .  They were keen to see the sort of archives we have here relating to the First World War.  At first I thought we might be a bit limited on material, but once we started looking at the online database we started to find a few interesting items including  the War Memorial Book and material from Suttons Seeds Ltd, Huntley and Palmers, and the books Berkshire and the war : the “Reading Standard” pictorial record 1917-1919

Group visit_2

There was also a PowerPoint presentation of local images for World War I from the Collier Collection and Sulham House Collection.

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There was interest in this image from the Collier collection of Reading Football Club.  There is a chance we might be able to identify more people as a result of expertise in the visiting group.  Hopefully we will be able to add information to our catalogue on this photograph, and the group will be able to find further information here to add to their research.

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If you are curious about the First World War or any other aspect of our Special Collections, we are always keen to welcome individuals or groups to explore our Archives. Do not hesitate to contact us on merl@reading.ac.uk.

Also, if you haven’t done so already, don’t forget to look at our flickr site which shows those people who feature in the University’s Memorial Book who fought and  lost their lives in the First World War

Zoe Watson

Project Archivist/Project Manager – Reading Connections

War poets at the University of Reading

The WW1 memorial book at the University Reading is full of fascinating stories. The book has been digitised and can be seen on our Flickr site. Over the next few months we will be looking at some of the lives of these men and women in more detail.

To start we are going to look at two men, both who were War Poets.

Ernest Denny (1889-1917). 

Ernest Denny

Ernest Denny

Ernest Denny was a Yorkshire man by origin, born in West Wisling to parents Robert William and Ellen Hannah Denny. He trained as a teacher and during his attendance at the Reading University College he was a notable presence not only in the sporting sphere but the academic and political as well.

Denny was Deputy Tennis Captain for the years 1914-1915 but did not limit himself, as in the same year he was a member of the Student Union Representative Council, on the committee for the Debating Society, Vice President of Shells, Cofferer of the Gild of the Red Rose and Sub-Editor of Tamesis, the student magazine.

Denny was also a poet and his book ‘Triumphant laughter: Poems, 1914-1917’ was published after his death. During the war he served with the 15th battalion London Regiment and died of his wounds in Belgium. He is buried in Dozinghem Military Cemetery. Click here to see his page on our Flickr site.

Wilfred Owen (1893-1918)

One of the most famous names in the book, Wilfred Owen. Unlike Ernest Denny’s clear connection to Reading University College, Wilfred Owen’s connection is much more tenuous. Despite appearing on the list of service-people with links to the university he does not appear on the memorial itself. It appears that he first studied Botany and Latin but was encouraged by Professor Edith Morley of the English Department to change his studies to English. At this time he was a lay assistant at Dunsden.

A great deal is, of course, already known about Wilfred Owen and is well known as a war poet. He was born in Oswestry in 1893 to Thomas and Harriet S Owen (known as Susan), Wilfred was a teacher by trade. He served in the First World War as a Lieutenant in the 5th Battalion of the Manchester Regiment and was killed in action on the 4th November 1918 at the age of 25. He was awarded the Military Cross for bravery at Joncourt in October 1918 a mere month before his death. Click here to see his page on our Flickr site

 

Historic World Objects: photography and beyond

Felicity McWilliams – Project Officer

This summer was very busy for the Historic World Objects team. By the middle of July we had pretty much put together the final shortlist of the six hundred objects from the Historic World Objects collection that will be featured on the new Reading Museum online catalogue. The next stage was to make sure there are good quality photographs of each of the objects to accompany their online catalogue records.

Photography in progress

Photography in progress at the Reading Museum store.

To this end, Greta, Ollie and I spent a significant portion of the sunny months of July and August inside Reading Museum’s remote store, an Aladdin’s cave of objects in a warehouse-style building on the outskirts of Reading. Buildings designed for objects rather than people don’t always make fantastic working environments, but the lack of natural daylight did mean we could control the light applied to the objects during photography very well! We had two days of training from the University’s photographer and used new photography equipment supplied as part of the project – a fancy DSLR camera, a pop-up illuminated background, and flash lights with soft-boxes and umbrellas. We hope that, once they’ve been tweaked during the editing process, the new photographs will really make a valuable addition to the online catalogue.

A recently photographed object from the Historic World Objects collection.

A recently photographed object from the Historic World Objects collection.

I am now moving on with the research phase of the work on this collection. A new member of the team, Adam, will also be working on this with me for one day a week. We will be carrying out further research into the objects, documentation and collectors. This research will then enable us to write short pieces of text to accompany the basic object information on the online catalogue records. Adam and I will be starting by researching some of the collection’s known collectors. These include Dr Joseph Stevens, the first curator of Reading Museum, and Robert Gibbings, an artist and wood engraver who collected objects whilst travelling in the Polynesian Islands. Last Friday Adam and I attended a Museum Ethnographers Group study day in Birmingham, entitled ‘Researching Donors of Museum Ethnography’. The day was full of really useful tips and advice, and we made some real progress researching some of the donors whose names we had taken along to the event. We hope that some of the objects in the HWO collection will be brought to life in new ways by the stories of the people who collected them and brought them to Reading.

Reading at War – WW1 commemorations and Flickr

By Hayley Whiting – Digital Content and Online Engagement Officer

A key theme of the Reading Connections project is Reading at War. The University of Reading holds in its archive a volume put together to commemorate those servicemen and women who fell during WW1 who were connected to the then Reading University College. It contains photographs of many of those listed on the war memorial built on the London Road Campus and those images have now been digitised and made available on Flickr.

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At team of volunteers, myself and Ceri our intern have researched the service history, personal details and connections with the College for all those listed in the memorial book. This information, with the photographs, is now available on a dedicated Flickr site. The aim is for others with connections to these servicemen and women to add any information they have and the process will be one where others can gain from our research and us from them! All the information will be transferred to our online catalogue.

There are so many fascinating stories behind the photographs and the research has revealed that the College had connections with war poets, Wildred Owen and Ernest Denny, artists, eminent mathematicians, teachers and more. Each name in the volume reveals a huge sacrifice and the research has been heart-wrenching at times. There are some names for which we have not been able to discover the connection to the College, such as Francis Edward Bradshaw-Isherwood, the father of the writer Christopher Isherwood, and the Flickr site provides a way of reaching those who may be able to add vital information to aid our research.

E Denny W photo

The end result of this project will ensure that the contribution of those connected with the University of Reading who lost their lives in WW1 will not be forgotten.  Explore the Reading Connections Flickr site to learn more.

The Chronicle Collection

Sophie Fitzpatrick – Project Officer

One strand of the Reading Connections project is to create a web resource, in which material from the collections will be made viewable online. I am working largely on the Chronicle Collection belonging to Reading Museum; a photographic collection impressively boasting over 20,000 images taken between 1938 and 1962 for use in the Berkshire Chronicle Newspaper – now the Reading Chronicle.

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A large and interesting collection, the Chronicle’s content is diverse and covers a wide range of subjects such as war and peace, school, dance, theatre, religion, fetes, weddings, monuments and statues, sport, railways, trams and trolley buses, road accidents, floods, work outings, pubs, agricultural shows, Royal visits and famous visitors (including authors, politicians, theatre performers, film stars, sports men and women, musicians, artists, singers and variety show personalities), all centred in Reading and its surrounding geographical areas.

I have spent the last few months carefully selecting 2,000 images from the collection for the online resource which will essentially create a ‘shop window’ into the diversity and scope of the images the Chronicle Collection has to offer.

Whilst the photographs selected will reflect the varied nature of the collection, ‘war’ and ‘peace’ are particularly strong themes and link to the 2014 ‘Reading at War’ exhibition at Reading Museum. I have therefore selected a moving image from 1939 of a child being fitted for a gas mask to share with you.

Many of the images selected for the online resource are in the form of glass plate negatives which are currently in the process of being digitised using specialist scanning equipment. As this strand of the project evolves, I’ll be sure to keep you updated of my progress.

Internship Blog Post – Ceri Lumley

I have recently begun an internship with the Museum of English Rural Life. The draw of local history, and in particular that of rural tight-knit communities, was something which as a person with strong rural welsh roots felt something of a personal pull. I jumped at the chance to continue work in the same vein as volunteering I had done at university on projects concerned with the local community. This is not to do the Museum of English Rural Life a disservice as their collections are vast and eclectic, but the chance to work for and in an archive which at its heart celebrates, remembers and commemorates the local people and area, was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.

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Writing this, I am still in the initial stages of my time here, but already I have been introduced to a wide variety of activities and work by the friendly and knowledgeable staff and the foundations are being laid for the next couple of months. Whether I am keeping busy uploading information to the ‘Reading Connections’ Flickr site in preparation for the World War One commemorations next year, digitising glass plate negatives with the new ‘GUARDIAN’ camera or repackaging the Suttons Seeds trade records, there is always something to be done and it’s all great experience. Alongside this, I have been introduced to the reception desk and I am due to have my first session in the archive reading room, there might even be the opportunity to help with the fantastic events in the Museum’s summer program, where (at least for a couple of hours) I get a return to childhood.

What I love about this type of experience, which I hope is not only a step towards my future career, is how every now and then, often in the most unassuming box of documents, something stands out. Something unexpected is always welcome in these obviously precious, but normally everyday documents. Whether this is simply the handwriting of an old letter or, as I came across yesterday the wonderful but also slightly haunting photograph of a gentlemen in the John  Tarlton collection. I was transfixed by this man’s expression and the ability of the photographer in capturing it. I hope to come across more documents like this, and, if all goes well, this internship will help in allowing me to do so in my future career in archiving fingers crossed.

Reading Connections – April to July update

It has been a busy few months for the project team – working out what we need to do, how we are going to do it, and then getting stuck into actually doing it.  We have also been skills sharing and recently the team learnt about writing blogs and social media from project team members Greta and Felicity, and Liz McCarthy UMASCS Librarian.

There have been a few exciting new developments we’ve posted blogs on previously – the new camera and the creation of the A-Z list of the archives of Museum of English Rural Life list and two interns starting on the project, one based at MERL and one at Reading Museum.  The interns will post a blog on their experiences on the project soon.

The Brook, Chalgrove

Updates on the project themes:

Reading at War

Evacuee Archive – the cataloguing of the collection is on-going.  We are working to make the archive available by October.  The catalogue will be available on our online database and the archive will be available for consultation in the Reading Room

World War 1 commemorations – Hayley is setting up a Flickr site.  The new intern Ceri will be assisting with adding information for each photo .  The University’s book of remembrance of those members of The University College Reading who fell in the War 1914-1918 is now available on the online database with images attached.  Hayley is also working on a WWI temporary exhibition.

Craft

Greta has been working on cataloguing corn dollies at MERL, so far enhancing 142 records.  She has also been working on craft connections aspect of the theme and connecting with new craft groups and re-establishing links with previous MERL contacts.

World Cultures – Historic World Objects at Reading Museum

Felicity, Greta and Ollie have been working towards the main task of creating an online portal to a selection of 600 Historic World Objects.  So far the target of 2738 objects have been checked, 1000 objects have been long listed and then 600 of these shortlisted.  Felicity, Greta and Ollie have recently had photography training from University photographer Laura Bennetto, and have started photographing objects, photography is nearing completion.

Local Collections – photograph digitisation and cataloguing

Danni has digitised 1386 and catalogued 1067 Collier negatives.  Sophie has been long listing negatives of Reading Chronicle at Reading Museum and has begun scanning them, completing approximately 250 so far.  Danni has also been sharing her digitisation skills with Sophie and helping her to get started.

Village Collections

Ollie has recently been to East Hendred, with Bridget Yates who is working on researching Lavinia Smith.  They have lots of leads to follow up relating to The Lavinia Smith collection at MERL.  There will be a seminar in the autumn series on this. 

Great progress has been made on the project by the whole team. Look out for more posts on different aspects of the project and we’ll give an update again later in the year.

NEWS: A-Z of MERL collections launched

We are very pleased to announce the launch of the A-Z index of MERL’s archive collections which has been undertaken as part of the Reading Connections project.

This is an extremely useful resource and excellent tool for users to find out what collections are held in the archives and to learn more about individual collections. Each collection has its own page with a description of scope and content and a link to the catalogue record in our Adlib database.

The A-Z currently has links to over 200 collections. This is a work in progress and more collections will be regularly added.

This is an important milestone for the project team so well done to all those who have contributed!