It’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
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.
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.
This week I visited the 400 Years of Caribbean Contribution to British Heritage and Culture exhibition at Solihull Central Library. It is a fine collection of images and information about the role played by people from the Caribbean and people of Caribbean heritage, in some of the landmark events in British history.
Much of the exhibition is concerned with military and martial concerns. An early stage depicts a private of the 5th West India Regiment in 1812 while a section entitled black mariners shows an image of a relief mural from the base of Nelson’s Column showing a black seaman.
Naturally, large sections are dedicated to the Second World War and of course, the First, which is what prompted my interest. Much of it is biographical, with pictures, newspaper clippings and poetry dedicated to well known figures such as Walter Tull, and some (undeservedly) less celebrated ones.
Winston Churchill Millington, born in Barbados in 1893, was a member of that particular generation to have been old enough to fight in the First World War and young enough to don a uniform again for the Second. He served in the new British West Indies regiment after working in a school prior to the outbreak of war.
The appeal to men like Millington is illustrated on panels that feature the recruitment techniques used to raise volunteers. This includes general approaches, such as the ‘Empire Needs Men’ poster, as well as direct and focused campaigns, here depicted in a poster appealing to men of the Bahamas.
The exhibition is on display at the Heritage Gallery (Solihull Central Library) until Friday 31st July 2015.
Admission is free and opening times are: Monday and Thursday 9am – 3pm. Tuesday and Friday 9am – 6pm. Wednesday 10am – 6pm. Saturday 9am – 5pm. Sunday Closed.