Free Event: Family History at the University of Nottingham

FHDIt’s a familiar tale — an ancient family album filled with black and white photographs, yellowed and dog-eared with age, the faces of young men and women in uniform gazing proudly from the pages.

The problem is the only people who knew them in life have long since passed away, often taking the many stories of these brave ancestors to their grave.

Now, The University of Nottingham is to offer a helping hand to people interested in finding out more about the part their family may have played in the First World War at a free community open day later this month.

Hidden Histories — First World War Family History Day will take place on University Park campus on Tuesday July 21 and will feature a range of speakers who will share their expertise and offer beginners tips and advice on how to make the best start in researching their past.

Keynote speakers for the day include:

  • A representative from the Imperial War Museum who will talk about the museum’s Lives of the First World War — an online resource which offers the opportunity to commemorate service men and women through a mix of official records, photographs and personal testaments
  • Anne-Marie Kramer, a lecturer in The University of Nottingham’s School of Sociology and Social Policy, who will speak about the development and use of family history
  • Professor Kurt Barling who will offer insight into the Middlesex Family History Project, which is seeking family stories and photographs of those who served in the Middlesex Regiment from their descendants
  • East Midlands Oral History Archive, which has been gathering oral histories of the home front in Leicestershire and Rutland during the First World War
  • Nottinghamshire Archives, home to the World War I: Nottinghamshire Memorials Project, a resource commemorating local soldiers who fought and died in ‘Flanders Fields’.

The event will also feature exhibitions from the University’s Manuscripts and Special Collections department and Laxton History Project.

The Hidden Histories — First World War Family History Day takes place on Tuesday July 21 from 9.30am to 4.30pm in the Department of History, Lenton Grove and the Digital Humanities Centre on University Park Campus. A buffet lunch is included in the day.

The event is completely free but it is essential that those interested in attending register online beforehand.

Remembering the Chilwell Munitions Explosion

Munitions workers at Chilwell
Munitions workers at Chilwell

Some of you may recall our blogpost on the Chilwell munitions factory explosion. The disaster, which occurred 97 years ago this week, destroyed much of the No. 6 Filling Factory, which had been used for adding the volatile chemicals to shells prior to shipment to the frontline. 134 people were killed and a further 250 injured and the blast could be felt as far away as West Bridgford.

If you’re interested in finding out more about the disaster, and hearing some of the recorded testimonies of people who remember it, you may be interested in a series of events organised by Excavate Community Theatre.

This weekend (4th and 5th July), an exhibition will be held in Beeston Town Square, with photographs and audio interviews from relatives of those who worked at the factory. A new play about the disaster will also be performed at 11am, 1pm and 3pm on the Saturday and 12pm and 2pm on the Sunday.

On Sunday, from 10am to 2pm, Chetwynd Barracks, which lies on the site of the factory, will be open to allow people to visit the memorial on the site and to see a small exhibition.Pedestrian entry will be from Chetwynd Road; vehicular entry from Swiney Way where photographic ID will be needed.

A series of related events will also be held at the White Lion pub in Beeston. On Saturday night, an evening of First World War storytelling will begin at 7.30pm (tickets £6 on the door, or £5 advance from the pub). On Sunday, the pub will hold a screening of the BBC film The Killing Factories,  with an introduction from the director Tony Roe. This will start at 7pm and will be free of charge.

The project has been funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and Broxtowe Borough Council.

Chilwell2For more information, please visit excavate.org.uk

Heritage training in Derbyshire

record_office_logo_final_purpleThe Derbyshire Record Office is offering a series of training sessions that are aimed at community heritage groups looking to commemorate the anniversary of the First World War. However, they are open to anyone who is interested. The sessions will be half days based at the Record Office in Matlock. They cost £3 per person, not including refreshment. If you wish to sign up for any of the training sessions, please phone the Record Office on 01629 538 347.

Details of the individual sessions are below:

A Guide to Copyright

12th March, morning, 10.00 – 12.30
21st April, afternoon, 1.30 – 4.00

Paul Beattie, Archivist, Derbyshire Record Office

Paul is the longest serving Archivist in the Record Office with 15 years’ experience. He has an extensive knowledge of the collections and understanding of the legislation surrounding them, particularly the new orphan works copyright legislation.

The Copyright session will be aimed at helping you understand more about the recent changes in copyright regulations and where that leaves heritage and community groups who wish to publish images and articles, or anything else which may be under copyright. What can you do? What can’t you do? What is right and what is copyright?

A Guide to Digitising your Images

12th March, afternoon, 1.30 – 4.00
21st April, morning, 10.00 – 12.30

Nick Tomlinson, Picture the Past

Nick has a commercial background in computing, data handling and image digitisation. He has been at Picture the Past for 13 years, managing the creation of the project and overseeing the inclusion of over 114,000 searchable images to its database.

This session will provide a simple guide to what to aim for when considering scanning your images. It will include file types, resolution, output sizes and suggested scanner settings. Come and find out the best way to digitise your images to suit your purpose.

Researching WW1

25th March, morning 10.00 – 12.30
27th May, morning 10.00 – 12.30

Karen Millhouse, Archivist, Derbyshire Record Office

Karen has six years’ experience as an Archivist at the Record Office, having previously served as Assistant Curator, Maritime Collections at the Maritime Museum, Liverpool.

The Research session will help you to find the information you want. It will give guidance on where to find and how to use historic records. There may be documents and sources that you have not thought about, or were not aware of. The session will help you find the information most relevant to your needs.

Exhibitions & Preservation

15th April, (2 courses)
Morning 9.30 – 12.45
Afternoon 1.15 – 4.30

Karen Millhouse, Archivist, Clare Mosley, Assistant Conservator, Lien Gyles, Senior Conservator, Derbyshire Record Office;

Karen is responsible for the Record Office community outreach programme and the collection displays in the exhibition cases at the Record Office.

Clare has six years’ experience at the Record Office and has a foot in both exhibition and conservation camps. Clare has helped Karen arrange many displays of the Record Office collections over the last two years, but her main role is as Assistant Conservator.

Lien has twenty years’ experience as an archive conservator and is responsible for the preservation of the collections at the Record Office.

The combined Exhibition and Preservation session will give you ideas for how to present an interesting and informative display based upon your photos and ephemera and will explain how to ensure that they will still be around for the bi-centenary. It will show how to make the best out of possibly limited material and resources to create an attractive and interesting display. The preservation training will ensure that you know the best way to handle and display historic items so that they do not suffer inadvertent damage. What might be harmful to the artefacts you have and what should you do to help preserve them for future generations? Find out at this informal, hands-on workshop.

Oral History

18th May 9.30 – 12.45 & 1.15 – 4.30

Colin Hyde, East Midlands Oral History Archive Outreach Officer, University of Leicester

The East Midlands Oral History Archive is recognised as a leader in the subject of oral history. Colin’s involvement with oral history goes back to the original Leicester Oral History Archive which was set up in 1983. Colin advises on all aspects of oral history work. He has worked with many community organisations in Leicestershire & Rutland, giving talks, training sessions, retrieving existing oral history recordings, and encouraging and supporting new work.

The session will provide you with the skills and information you need to undertake your own oral history project within your community. What equipment do you need? What questions do you need to ask? What should you do with your recordings.

Applying for HLF ‘First World War: then and now’ funding

30th March, morning, 10.00 – 12.30
8th April, morning, 10.00 – 12.30

Glynn Wilton, Derbyshire Lives Through the First World War, Project Officer

Glynn is employed by Derbyshire Record Office to help community groups commemorate the anniversary of the First World War, from the creation of a project idea, to the application for funding.

Glynn has 30 years’ experience of working in museums, interpreting collections, creating exhibitions and applying for funding. The session will help ensure that you meet the outcomes required for a successful project, it will give you the skills to develop your idea and complete a funding application.

 

Mutinies and Death Sentences in the Foresters, 1914-18

Foresters
The Sherwood Foresters, pictured here in 1916

Now this looks like an interesting project. The Nottingham Radical History Group have used their long-standing experience of investigating and remembering radical moments from history to examine the cases of the 103 Sherwood Foresters who were sentenced to death or sentenced on mutiny charges during the First World War.

The project was deliberately chosen because of the high profile nature of the centenary. The group’s researchers soon realised the scale of their task and that their investigations would require them to familiarise themselves with the often arcane legal and organisational landscape of the military.

They have documented their approach in a brilliantly detailed initial pamphlet, which covers their work and the pattern of their investigations. It’s a fascinating example of the historical process and is written in an engaging and, at times, necessarily angry manner with footnotes that are as lively as they are informative.

The second in the series of pamphlets is also available. This begins the case study approach that the group has selected and focuses on the story of Private W. Harvey, who was sentenced to death for desertion in February 2015 (a sentence later commuted to two years’ hard labour).

As with the best works of history, this core story expands to examine the situation and context that surrounds it. Consequently, the pamphlet includes material on the lives that the soldiers left behind when they went to war and the experiences that the regiment offered once they had done so.

More information, and copies of both pamphlets, can be found on the People’s Histreh site

 

‘I looked towards Chilwell and I saw a wall of black smoke rising into the sky’

Chilwell resident Michael Noble looks at a dark event from the district’s wartime past…

It wasn’t over by Christmas. The extended duration of the war wasn’t entirely unexpected (eagle-eyed members of Kitchener’s New Army will have spotted that they’d signed up for ‘three years or until the war was over’) but it wasn’t necessarily planned for either. Several months of heavy shelling, with hungry guns well-supplied by rail, led to the rapid depletion of high explosive shells by early 1915. The resultant ‘shell crisis’ was a notable scandal in many combatant countries and in Britain led to political turmoil that saw the creation of a coalition government and the founding of a Ministry for Munitions, led by David Lloyd George.

Munitions workers at Chilwell
Munitions workers at Chilwell

Existing arms factories were brought under tighter official control and several new installations were created, among them No. 6 Filling Factory at Chilwell in Nottinghamshire. The dangerous duty of the filling factories was to take the explosive chemical compounds and add them to the empty shells that had been made for the purpose. The Chilwell factory, like many such places, was staffed largely by women, nicknamed ‘munitionettes’ or ‘canaries’, owing to their yellow complexions, caused by their absorption of poisonous chemicals.

The Chilwell factory was efficient (evidence suggests that Chetwynd was a hard taskmaster) and filled over nineteen million shells during the war. It was, nevertheless, dangerous work. Factory staff wore rubber boots in an effort to avoid making sparks that could set off a deadly conflagration. Rings and shoelaces were banned. You can never be too careful. Sadly, you can still never be careful enough. On the 1st July 1918 a massive explosion occurred, destroying much of the installation, killing 134 people and injuring 250 more.

A plaque at the burial site of the killed workers
A plaque at the burial site of the killed workers

The disaster had an understandable impact on those who survived it. It did not, however, break their spirit or commitment and the factory continued to produce shells, achieving its highest weekly output within a month of the explosion. The event was subjected to a thorough investigation and, while Chetwynd suspected sabotage, this could not be proven.

Of course, the factory did eventually cease production several months later when the Armistice was declared. The site is now owned by the Ministry of Defence and is home to the Chetwynd Barracks. a memorial to those who died in the explosion was erected in the grounds and still stands today. A plaque offers some details of the events of wartime, but like the factory staff themselves, remains focused on the output of shells:

Erected to the memory of those men and women who lost their lives by explosions at the National Shell Filling Factory Chilwell 1916 – 1918
Principal historical facts of the factory
First sod turned 13th September 1915
First shell filled 8th January 1916
Number of shells filled within one year of cutting the first sod 1,260,000
Total shells filled 19,359,000 representing 50.8% of the total output of high explosive shell both lyddite and amatol 60pd to 15inch produced in Great Britain during the war
Total tonnage of explosive used 121,360 tons
Total weight of filled shell 1,100,000 tons

If you’d like to find out more about the Chilwell Filling Factory, you can hear an audio recording of Emily May Spinks, recalling her time as a teenage employee and her memories of the explosion. A 30 minute documentary, The Killing Factories is also currently available on the BBC iPlayer.

The impact of the explosion
The impact of the explosion