This year we commemorate 100 years since the start of WW1, and there will be a display by the Alresford Museum committee of WW1 memories from us all in the Alresford Library cabinets. The first set of objects will be on display for May and June 2014, and a second set in July/August, and if we have a lot of items, also a third set. What does WW1 mean to you and your family?
In the display to start in May, as an example, the Museum Committee have collected some items from their family histories relating to WW1: some of these are from my grandfather, who fought in that war. He had no links to Alresford, but the items on display will be relevant to most of that generation of men who went off to fight, whether from Alresford, or in his case from Leeds in Yorkshire. What would you wish to display to remember that time, for your family? Please show us the items, let us put them on display, on loan for a few weeks, with a story about what they meant at the time, and what they now mean to you. Contact us through the NATT website, www.towntrust.org.uk, or via Nick Denbow on phone 734824 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
During May/June some of the items on display are:
Princess Mary Christmas Box
This Christmas presentation box was sent to every soldier fighting in Christmas 1914, ie the first Christmas in the war, by Princess Mary, the seventeen year old daughter of King George V and Queen Mary. The purpose was to provide everyone wearing the King’s uniform and serving overseas on Christmas Day 1914 with a ‘Gift from the Nation’. The contents of the box varied considerably; officers and men on active service afloat or at the front received a box containing a combination of pipe, lighter, 1 oz of tobacco and twenty cigarettes in distinctive yellow monogrammed wrappers. Non-smokers and boys received a bullet pencil and a packet of sweets instead. Indian troops often got sweets and spices, and nurses were treated to chocolate. Many of these items were despatched separately from the tins themselves, as once the standard issue of tobacco and cigarettes was placed in the tin there was little room for much else apart from the greetings card.
The box design was by Messrs Adshead and Ramsey. Actually, the funds for the box came from a press appeal to the British public made in November 1914, via an advertisement inviting monetary contributions to a ‘Sailors and Soldiers Christmas Fund’. The picture here comes from a box now offered for sale, still with the original contents, for GBP300. As you might expect, empty boxes are sold regularly, there are a lot around, and are worth maybe £50 on Ebay! (A recent Bargain Hunt BBC TV programme saw one sold at auction for £10)
WW1 Diary from East Africa
The soldiers in WW1 were expressly forbidden to keep diaries of their time at the front, or anywhere else, as these would have been invaluable to the enemy, if they had been captured, in knowing troop movements and routes, amongst other things. However, a lot of soldiers wrote such diaries, even if only after the war, in order to get the memory out of their minds. My grandfather was one of the latter, and he had many months to do this, recovering from malaria in a UK convalescent hospital, after fighting in East Africa (Tanganyika) with the Royal Engineers. Much of the text of the diary section of his record is already re-published on the website www.dockraydiary.wordpress.com . The diary and his medals will be on display in the library cabinet. Other diaries and memoirs are on show, one as reported in the previous story on this website.
John Triggs of West Meon
Prior to the Great War, John Triggs of West Meon joined the Hampshire Cycle Regiment, and then volunteered for the Hampshire Regiment after the outbreak of war. He fought at the battle of the Somme in Summer 1916, and was killed in the October of that year. His story is given separately on the www.alresfordmemories.wordpress.com website, and this page will be shown in the library.
The Telescope Scout Regiment
Look-out posts, or scouts, were the primary methods of obtaining military intelligence about enemy intentions in WW1. Most scouts were issued with a telescope, to enable them to see the approaching enemy, observe troop movements or aircraft, or to identify where the cannon fire was landing to advise the artillery to move their aim up or down, right or left. Many of these scouts were hoisted up on barrage balloon type platforms, to better see over the enemy lines.
Other “Officer of the Watch” telescopes were developed for the Royal Navy. These were made by Dollond, BCC (Broadhurst Clarkson Company), N+Z (Negretti & Zambra), Troughton & Simms, Ross, and others. On display currently is an “Officer of the Watch” telescope that saw service off the Belgian coast, with its owner, Captain Haselfoot of the Royal Navy. In later years Capt Haselfoot was famous for sighting a “Sea Serpent” with a long swan like neck, in the North Sea – rather like what we imagined that the Loch Ness monster looked like.
What can you add?
Send us your memories, or loan us your Grandad’s or Great-Grandad’s souvenirs, or his medals, with a brief explanation about what they are and who he was, where he fought etc, and we will be delighted to display them and record them on line. Or maybe your grandmother has memories of working in a different style of job to help the war effort here at home, in WW1?