In Memoriam: Edward Stanley Shaw

In the past, it was common for institutions such as schools, railway companies, post offices and even private businesses to create their own war memorials. They remembered those staff who had fallen in the service of their country.

This year, as part of the Royal Armouries commemoration of the Armistice, we decided to research the history of our own families. We wanted to find out how the lives of our grandparents and great grandparents were shaped by the two world wars.

David Sweeting. © Royal Armouries

David Sweeting.
© Royal Armouries

David Sweeting, Museum Assistant

My grandmother often talked about Edward, her father, but I wanted to know more about him and my other relatives who took part in the First World War.

I looked into Edward’s experiences in the War, and also did some research into my two great-great-uncles, Alfred and Frederick Stephenson. Their stories are on display in the Royal Armouries museum at Leeds.

I knew somewhere I had the photos of the relatives I was looking for and apart from what I already knew, I wasn’t expecting much more than putting names to photos.

I found it sad that some of my relatives did not return from the War. Edward survived, injured, and whilst Alfred’s story is a tragic one, Frederick led what seems to have been an enjoyable life. I also found out that another great-great-uncle, Ambler Woodhead, was killed in action aged 21. Only three months before his death, he had been awarded the Military Medal for Conspicuous bravery.

Personally, I see the First World War as an unnecessary, devastating loss of life. I would like my relatives’ experiences to remind people that only a few generations ago, people died and suffered physical or mental trauma because nations were too eager to go to war.

Edward Stanley Shaw. © Sweeting Family Archive

Edward Stanley Shaw.
© Sweeting Family Archive

Edward Stanley Shaw, Private.16th Battalion of the King’s Royal Rifle Corps, Regiment No. C/152.

Edward was my great-grandfather on my mother’s side of the family.

He was born in Halifax in 1890, the youngest child of a family of four brothers and one sister. His father was a chemist and his siblings were school teachers and a coach builder. According to the 1910 census, Edward Stanley was an iron moulder before the war. He enjoyed playing cricket and tennis.

Edward’s Birth Certificate. © Sweeting Family Archive

Edward’s Birth Certificate.
© Sweeting Family Archive

Edward Stanley Shaw enlisted as a Private in the 16th Battalion of the King’s Royal Rifle Corps, Regiment No. C/152 on 15 September 1914. On 16 November 1915, his battalion sailed from Southampton to Le Havre, France, then by rail to Aire for more training, before arriving at the trenches.

On the Western Front, he suffered a bad leg wound. We presume the wound was from a German shell but he didn’t speak of it much to his family. It was said that he took many hours to crawl to safety and that his leg had to be amputated. He was discharged from the army on 10 May 1917.

A Medal Roll containing Edward’s name. © Sweeting Family Archive

A Medal Roll containing Edward’s name.
© Sweeting Family Archive

After he was injured in the Great War and discharged from the army, Edward met and married his wife Doris in 1918. Edward and Doris had two daughters; Margaret Shaw and my grandma Mary Catherine Shaw. He worked as a telephonist at the GPO.

Edward spent the rest of his life using wooden crutches but was able to travel to London to attend the Remembrance Sunday ceremony at the cenotaph.

To discover more stories, visit the In Memoriam exhibition at the Leeds museum and at Fort Nelson.

Collecting Cultures: M-41A ‘Aliens’ Pulse Rifle

large_di_2015_4935‘I’d like to introduce you to a close personal friend of mine. M-41A pulse-rifle. 10 millimeter, with over and under 30 millimeter…pump-action grenade launcher’.

So Corporal Hicks tells Ellen Ripley in Aliens (1986). In reality, of course, that weapon doesn’t exist yet, and this prop ‘rifle’ disguises a .45 calibre M1 Thompson sub-machine gun with parts from a SPAS-12 shotgun.

Like much of the military equipment in ‘Aliens’, the M-41A was personally designed by director James Cameron. As is usual in the movie world, the job of realising this futuristic but realistic-looking military rifle was passed to prop builders, in this case, British armourer Simon Atherton.

The sleek MP5 sub-machine gun originally chosen by Cameron to serve as the rifle’s base turned out not to have an impressive enough muzzle flash, and so the old World War Two Thompson sub-machine gun was chosen as the basis. To this, he attached parts of two shotguns, the heat-shield and pump grip of the SPAS-12, and on the few examples with a working ‘grenade launcher’, a cut-down Remington 870 shotgun, concealed inside the other parts – our example doesn’t have this. Over the top went a custom housing originally made by a car body manufacturer, and a few custom parts including the wonderfully dramatic ammunition counter, which was only fitted to a few guns. A number of lightweight solid ‘stunt’ guns were also made, no doubt to the relief of the actors as this is a heavy gun.

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Our M-41A also appeared in Alien 3 (1992). After Aliens, all but one Pulse Rifle were disassembled. When the sequel called for two more ours was rebuilt and sprayed black to equip the Weyland-Yutani operatives who appear at the end of the movie. Prior to sale, it was resprayed a more recognisable colour, although the original paint, which we believe is still there under the later coats, was more of a brown colour. Although it has sustained wear and tear over the years, it had a ‘beat up’ appearance even when new, as Cameron asked for the props to be deliberately bashed up in order to look like real military service weapons. This suited his intended aesthetic, a sort of ‘Vietnam in space’, and the tale of military might defeated by the primal horror of the alien.

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Heritage Lottery FundThis object was acquired as part of the Royal Armouries’ Heritage Lottery Fund ‘Collecting Cultures’ project. It’s an ongoing project, but I think this will always be one of our star pieces; I don’t think it gets much more iconic than this. We believe that there are only six of these ‘hero’ props surviving, and ours is the only one in a museum collection. In the coming years, we hope to collect and preserve more examples of movie history alongside the more traditional arms and armour that we’re known for, and of course to display them for our visitors.

Get a closer look at this piece of silver screen history on our Collections Online website where you can see images in deep zoom.

In Memoriam: Raymond Brock

In the past, it was common for institutions such as schools, railway companies, post offices and even private businesses to create their own war memorials. They remembered those staff who had fallen in the service of their country.

This year, as part of the Royal Armouries commemoration of the Armistice, we decided to research the history of our own families. We wanted to find out how the lives of our grandparents and great grandparents were shaped by the two world wars.

Phillip Abbott, ©Family Collection

Phillip Abbott, © Family Collection

Philip Abbott, Archives and Records Manager.

My grandfather, Raymond, loved chess and we played together every Sunday after lunch. Then one Christmas he gave me his brother’s chess set – the one he had with him in the trenches. He never talked about his brother, Eric, or his own experiences of the war, and I wanted to find out more. My researches into Eric’s experiences of the War are on display at the Royal Armouries museum at Leeds.

I had my grandfather Raymond’s own family research to guide my efforts. Alongside this, I was confident that I would find out basic facts like dates of birth, marriage and death along with some general information about events in the official war diaries. I actually found more detailed information than I was expecting.

Many died during the First World War, and the lives of those who survived were changed forever. We shall never know what they experienced, but it is important that we never forget them.

Raymond Brock, © Family Collection

Raymond Brock, © Family Collection

Raymond Sidney Brock, 2nd Lieutenant, The Buffs (East Kent Regiment)

Raymond was my grandfather.

He was born in Waterloo, Liverpool, on 8 January 1899, and educated at Merchant Taylor’s School in Crosby.

Raymond was called for service in January 1917, but was granted an exemption to re-sit his final exams first. In June, he joined the Officer Cadet Corps and was stationed at Berkhampstead. It was here that he saw his brother, Eric, for the last time.

On 15 April 1918 he was commissioned in the 4 Battalion East Kent Regiment (the Buffs), and volunteered for the Royal Flying Corps. He spent 6 weeks at No. 1 School of Military Aeronautics at Wantage Hall, Reading. He then transferred to the School of Aerial Gunnery at Ealing [Armament School, Uxbridge]. On 9 October, he crossed the channel and went to the Flight Training School at Vendôme in France, but within days the armistice was declared.

He returned to England and was released from service in December to take up his medical studies at Liverpool University.

After the war, he qualified as a doctor, becoming a GP in Wrexham, and on 6 June 1925, he married Eleanor Mary Pearson.

On 22 September 1934, there was an underground explosion at Gresford Colliery. Raymond joined the rescue team, but they could not reach the injured men. On 26 November 1982, the colliery’s head gear wheel was dedicated as a memorial to the 266 miners who had died. Raymond, aged 83, was too ill to attend the ceremony.

Raymond and the rescue party,  © Family Collection

Raymond and the rescue party, © Family Collection

To discover more stories, visit the In Memoriam exhibition at the Leeds museum and at Fort Nelson.

In Memoriam: George Ernest Hollis

In the past, it was common for institutions such as schools, railway companies, post offices and even private businesses to create their own war memorials. They remembered those staff who had fallen in the service of their country.

This year, as part of the Royal Armouries commemoration of the Armistice, we decided to research the history of our own families. We wanted to find out how the lives of our grandparents and great grandparents were shaped by the two world wars.

Lindsay Shepherd © Kelly Haycock

Lindsay Shepherd
© Kelly Haycock

Lindsay Shepherd. Visitor Services Manager, Fort Nelson

I was trying to find out more about my mum’s maternal grandfather as very little was known about him. This grew into finding out about many different family members, including some I never knew existed. I decided to focus my research on my great-great-uncles; Bill and George. Bill’s story is on display in the Royal Armouries museum at Fort Nelson.

I only expected to confirm basic information on different individuals, like where they were born, marriages, children, but there is so much more to it than that. It was amazing to find other living relations we didn’t previously know about and to discover what happened to George. There is now so much more to the family tree than just names and dates of birth.

George and Bill were only young when they joined up. The war changed their lives and their family’s lives greatly and we should always remember that.

George, in a group of Artillery men © Hollis Family Archives

George, in a group of Artillery men
© Hollis Family Archives

Corporal George Ernest Hollis, Royal Garrison Artillery 113 Heavy Battery, Service number 42231

George was my great-great-uncle on my mother’s side of the family.

He was born and raised in Brize Norton, Oxfordshire. He was the ninth child of Thomas Hollis, a carpenter/wheelwright, and Emily Packer.

George joined up at the same time and place as his younger brother, Bill, and they fought in the Royal Garrison Artillery 113 Heavy Battery together. Their service numbers are one digit apart.

George was killed on 24 September 1918 during active service.

George’s grave at Templeux-Le-Guerard. ©The War Graves Photographic Project

George’s grave at Templeux-Le-Guerard.
©The War Graves Photographic Project

He is buried in Templeux-Le-Guerard communal cemetery extension and British cemetery. This is recorded on the Commonwealth War Graves site. His name is also listed on the war memorial in Long Hanborough and in the church in Church Hanborough Oxfordshire.

The war memorial in Long Hanborough where George is mentioned. © Lindsay Shepherd

The war memorial in Long Hanborough where George is mentioned.
© Lindsay Shepherd

He was awarded the Victory medal, British medal and 1914 Star.

To discover more stories, visit the In Memoriam exhibition at the Leeds museum and at Fort Nelson.

In Memoriam: Rafe Grenville Rowley-Conwy

In the past, it was common for institutions such as schools, railway companies, post offices and even private businesses to create their own war memorials. They remembered those staff who had fallen in the service of their country.

This year, as part of the Royal Armouries commemoration of the Armistice, we decided to research the history of our own families. We wanted to find out how the lives of our grandparents and great grandparents were shaped by the two world wars.

Ellie Rowley-Conwy © Royal Armouries

Ellie Rowley-Conwy
© Royal Armouries

Ellie Rowley-Conwy, Conservator

I knew that my Great-Grandfather Geoffrey had died at Gallipoli. Last year I went there with family, as it was the 100-year anniversary of the campaign. It was a great experience.

My research into his role in the First World War and his death at Gallipoli are on display in the Royal Armouries museum at Leeds.

I had no idea about the role Geoffrey’s brother Rafe played in the war. I knew that he was known as ‘The Admiral’ so I was expecting some Naval action. His career was quite a surprise!

I would like Geoffrey and Rafe to be remembered, as I don’t have much of a sense of their characters despite them being family. This doesn’t feel right when they both gave so much.

Rafe Grenville Rowley-Conwy © Rowley-Conwy family archives

Rafe Grenville Rowley-Conwy
© Rowley-Conwy family archives

Rear-Admiral Rafe Grenville Rowley-Conwy

Rafe was my great-great-uncle.

He was born in 1875 in Bodrhyddan Hall, like Geoffrey, his younger brother.

Rafe joined the Navy as a second lieutenant on 14 December 1894. By 1911, he had been promoted to Commander and in 1914 he had the command of HMS Mentor.

During the First World War, Rafe was at the battle of Heligoland, the first naval battle of the First World War. Family history credits him with firing the first shot of the war during this battle but it could just be hearsay.

He also took part in the battle of Dogger Bank on 24 January 1915 while serving on HMS Mentor. The Mentor got a torpedo hit on the SMS Blucher. This hit, combined with attacks from other ships totalling around 70 shells, resulted in the Blucher sinking and the loss of 792 crew.

The sinking of the SMS Blucher © IWM (Q 22687)

The sinking of the SMS Blucher
© IWM (Q 22687)

Rafe was promoted to Captain in December 1916 and later commanded the HMS Parker and 15th Destroyer Flotilla, Grand Fleet, for which he received a C.M.G. in Marcha, 1919.

He eventually retired with the rank Rear-Admiral.

Outside of his naval career, Rafe was High Sherriff of Flintshire in 1929 and was then appointed Lord Lieutenant of Flintshire on 3 July 1935. He served in this post until his death.

During World War Two, Rafe returned to the Navy and served as commodore of convoys in the North Atlantic. His 67th birthday was appropriately celebrated by bringing 67 vessels safely into Liverpool from Halifax. The U.S.A. awarded him their Distinguished Conduct Medal.

Rafe’s Medals © Rowley-Conwy family archives

Rafe’s Medals
© Rowley-Conwy family archives

Rafe died on 4 April 1951. He never married or had any children but according to his obituary he was; ‘recognised as a fine seaman and an outstanding flotilla commander.’

To discover more stories, visit the In Memoriam exhibition at the Leeds museum and at Fort Nelson.

Object of the Month for January: The Ming Sword

To celebrate the Chinese New Year and Spring Festival, and to kick-off our Eastern Warriors: China theme for February half-term, the Ming sword has been chosen as February’s Object of the Month by Natasha Bennett, Acting Curator of Oriental Collections.

The Ming Sword

This sword is one of the greatest treasures in the Oriental Collection at the Royal Armouries. It is heralded as one of the most beautiful, detailed, and intricate examples of ornate metalwork still in existence from the early Ming period. It is particularly precious because armour and weapons from the time of the Ming dynasty (1368 to 1644) rarely survive. The name ‘Ming’ was adopted as a dynastic title because it means ‘bright’ or ‘shining’, and this stunning sword certainly lives up to that association.

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A Sword can mean many things…

Chinese swords tended to fall into two main types; the straight, double-edged jian, and the single-edged dao. By the time of the Ming era, the dao dominated as the practical choice for both military and civilian use, but the more archaic jian retained great significance as a symbolic object. It could be used to demonstrate social and professional rank, respect, power, wealth, favour, and artistic taste. Swords such as this played an important role in courtly culture and diplomacy, helping to forge and even sever links through the processes of gift-giving or intimidation.

This particular sword is clearly a high-status object. The hilt and scabbard are richly ornamented in gold, silver and semi-precious stones. The three-dimensional monster-mask forming the guard is exquisitely worked with its flaming, curling mane and jaws which seem to clamp around the top of the blade. Sinuous, beautifully detailed dragons furl within cartouches on the pommel and scabbard.

At either side of the pommel are the Eight Buddhist Emblems of Good Augury (‘ba jixiang’): the wheel of law, the standard, the treasure jar, the pair of fish, the endless knot, the lotus, the parasol, and the conch shell of victory. The Sanskrit inscription halfway down the scabbard has been translated by specialists in the past as ‘Honorific Sword’ or ‘Precious Sword’; this could be a reference to Buddhist symbolism and the jewels or emblems associated with monarchy.

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Picture 667

Tibetan Buddhism had become established in China during the Mongol Yuan dynasty (1279–1367) and became further entrenched during the early Ming period.

Features of the decoration present on the hilt and scabbard are closely aligned with the ornamentation of other iron ritual objects which were commissioned by the early Ming emperors to send as gifts to one or other of the great Tibetan monasteries.

It is therefore highly likely that this sword was produced in the court workshops of the Yongle emperor (1403–24). Moreover, the sword suggests distinct Tibetan influence in its overall form, and the pattern-welded blade is probably a later replacement which seems to be of Tibetan manufacture. It may well have been bestowed on an allied Tibetan ruler to promote diplomatic relations, or presented to a powerful monastery to gain favour. Alternatively, it may have been made for the Yongle emperor himself.

Visit our collection online to discover more about this object.

Commemorating Queen Victoria’s Funeral, 2nd February 1901

To commemorate the anniversary of the death of Queen Victoria, this blog post takes a look at an object from our collection with a distinguished place in history, the gun carriage that carried the late Queen on her final journey from Osborne House.

The day of Queen Victoria’s funeral, Saturday 2nd February 1901, came with excellent weather. Reporting from Osborne House on the Isle of Wight, The Times noted that ‘the sky was cloudless and blue; the Solent looked like the Mediterranean itself.’ [1] Outside the House had quietly gathered leading members of the European aristocracy, local school children, Isle of Wight dignitaries, leading members of the staff of the Commander-in-Chief of Portsmouth, convalescent soldiers, and tenants of the estate. The paper continued;

‘Then, quite suddenly, the note of a naval and military ceremonial seemed to break silently. The gun carriage and horses and men of ‘Y’ Battery, Royal Horse Artillery, took up their position and the bearer party of bluejackets marched in from the left, and were drawn up.’

The Royal coffin was slowly brought ‘outside upon the gun carriage, with the Highland servants and pipers in full dress. Almost at the same moment, the Grenadier Guards received the word of command, and slow-marched, wheeling to the right, until they stood, a sinuous avenue of scarlet, with towering bearskins, followed the curved lines of the road from the Quadrangle into the drive. All eyes were fixed upon the coffin as it moved slowly forward on the gun carriage and on the drooping Royal Standard that draped it partially’ as well as ‘the little group of Royal personages, so small it seemed, but yet so great, who walked sadly behind.’

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From here the funeral cortege proceeded slowly down the hill into Cowes and to Trinity Pier from where the Queen’s coffin was passed into the custody of the Royal Navy for conveyance to Portsmouth and then to London.

The gun carriage referred to is currently on display at the Royal Armouries Museum of Artillery at Fort Nelson. It features a 15-pounder Field Gun and carriage.

References:

[1] No. 36369, The Times, Monday February 4th, 1901, page 5. ‘Funeral of the Queen.’

In Memoriam: George Braithwaite

In Memoriam

In the past, it was common for institutions such as schools, railway companies, post offices and even private businesses to create their own war memorials. They remembered those staff who had fallen in the service of their country.

This year, as part of the Royal Armouries commemoration of the Armistice, we decided to research the history of our own families. We wanted to find out how the lives of our grand-parents and great grand-parents were shaped by the two world wars.

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Jenny Lamb, Team Administrator (Operations) at the Royal Armouries © Royal Armouries

Jenny Lamb, Team Administrator

George Braithwaite was my Great-grandfather.

I looked forward to having an insight into his ‘logistical’ war experience, but I was more interested in finding out about his attitude, impressions and general state of mind. My family still has his diary, so I was lucky to find out about this in his own words.

What was notable was the unrelenting “Keep Calm and Carry On” attitude of George’s diary. Stoicism is a defining family trait, so it is no surprise that George was the same. Yet to remain uncomplaining and even cheerful in such traumatic circumstances is impressive to say the least.

George’s brothers also enlisted and all three returned, unharmed, from the war. It feels absurd to describe them as ‘lucky’, but at this moment in time, they were.

We hope that we will never fully comprehend what their generation experienced, but while the chaos and carnage of war is still a reality for millions of people, the least we can do is try.

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George Braithwaite © Braithwaite Family Archive

In Memoriam: George Braithwaite

George Braithwaite
Battalion dispatch cyclist
The King’s Liverpool Regiment

George was born in Kendal in 1893 but the family are recorded as living in Crook in 1897. Sometime between 1899 and 1901, they moved to Sedbergh, where the family still have connections today.

George joined the King’s Liverpool Regiment on 4 September 1914, and arrived in France 6 months later.

He kept a detailed war diary. Despite witnessing unimaginable horrors, his (sometimes disconcerting) good humour prevailed. Here are just a few of his diary entries.

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A map of Ypres, hand-drawn by George Braithwaite © Braithwaite Family Archive

Friday 12th March 1915. Sunny.

“Last night while I was slumbering, the village had been severely shelled and one house had a direct hit, inside being full of men…Lt Cleary, my platoon officer was just commencing to dig a grave for a fellow officer who had been killed during the night, when a shell burst and blew away one of his legs and part of his side. So we had to dig a grave for him as well. This is a good start and we haven’t got to the front line yet!”

Tuesday 18th May 1915. Wet.

“The trench was in an awful condition, water up to one’s breast. I felt so tired I did not feel the cold water which appeared warm, and match sticks to prop my eyes open could not have kept me awake. I was absolutely out to the world. If the Germans had made a counter attack, I have no idea how we would have dealt with it. Shelling was terrific throughout the night.”

Wednesday 19th May 1915. Wet.

“During my journey across the open country, Jerry was sending over Coal boxes in blocks of four. These came dangerously close which forced me to jump into the communication trench. I had not travelled far when approaching a duck board which spanned the trench I was suddenly, and for no apparent reason, pulled back by a hand on my right shoulder. On looking back I saw no one and at that very moment an 8.9 shell fell on the other side of the duck board. Had I proceeded, I would have become another victim of this war.”

Friday 27th August 1915. Sunny.

“Spent a pleasant evening from 8-12 pm singing songs. First the Germans and then ourselves. What a war!”

Monday 25th Oct 1915. Very wet.

“Appointed Battalion dispatch cyclist. Carried and delivered the Battalion’s first dispatch to Brigade Machine Gun Corp.”

Tuesday 26th Oct 1915. Fine.

“Yes I am going to love this new life. It also means no fatigue duties, no parades, just carrying dispatches from Battalion to A, B, C and D coy, and all other units connected with the Battalion and when in the line, adjoining Battalions. How exciting. I have just been allocated a new cycle…”

Tuesday 15th June 1915. Sunny.

“Late evening I was sniping at the enemy from the back of the trench. One hour later one of the C company was passing the spot where I had been, and got one in the abdomen from an explosive. Terrible sight, insides hanging out.”

Thursday 1st June 1916. Sunny

“Had a pleasant ride to Sailly Labourse via Noeux Les Mines. Met a Sedbergh soldier Stanley Banks. Naturally we enjoyed a good talk, he is expecting leave and I asked him to call on my parents and give them the news as to my whereabouts etc.”

Monday March 5th 1917. 3” Snow

“Heavy fall of snow in the night hindering our traffic and line operations. Having made a nice fire, I find I have a few rats for company, quite tame. Expect to move in a day or two.”

Tuesday September 24th 1918. Showery

“Early this morning Jerry sent over 5-9 shells containing invisible gas. Many of comrades at Brigade Hq were gassed, including myself. First symptoms were blindness and sickness. When I realised I was affected and going blind, I immediately put the tube of my respirator into my mouth, which action saved my life, although at the time I did not know it.”

To discover more stories, visit the In Memoriam exhibition at the Leeds museum and at Fort Nelson.

Behind the scenes at the Leeds museum

Museum Maintenance Week

16 – 22 January

Throughout Maintenance Week, our Museum Maintainers will be doing what they normally do behind closed doors in front of our visitors at the Leeds museum.

Looking after the national collection of arms and armour is a big job and an even bigger responsibility. Many of our objects are extremely important in the history of arms and armour, and though they might not look it, many of them are quite fragile too. We have to make sure that the conditions we keep then in are just right.

This means keeping the galleries and the cases clean and dust free (dust attracts pests, which can cause untold damage to our objects), monitoring the environment carefully so that our many metal objects don’t start to rust, and making sure that our textile objects are kept safe from damaging light levels.

As well as looking after our objects, we also have a responsibility to help people learn and discover more about them. This means making sure that all of our object labels are up to date with current information.

We work hard to make sure that our objects are looked after to the highest standards. Usually this work is done behind the scenes, once our visitors have left for the day, but we wanted to share with everybody the kind of work we do on a day-to-day basis to care for our collection.

All Maintenance Week our Museum Maintainers will be carrying out this important work while the museum is open, and will be on hand to chat to visitors about the work we do. From 16-22 January, all week we will be:

  • Checking that our objects are not being damaged
  • Cleaning inside and outside the cases
  • Making sure our lighting levels are just right
  • Checking and replacing any labels
  • Checking our pest traps

If you see us at work please feel free to ask any questions. We’re easy to spot in our Museum Maintainer T-shirts!

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Museum Maintainer (Interpretation Officer) Sadie all ready for Maintenance Week – and #MuseumSelfie day!

In Memoriam: Thomas Cross

In Memoriam

In the past, it was common for institutions such as schools, railway companies, post offices and even private businesses to create their own war memorials. They remembered those staff who had fallen in the service of their country.

This year, as part of the Royal Armouries commemoration of the Armistice, we decided to research the history of our own families. We wanted to find out how the lives of our grand-parents and great grand-parents were shaped by the two world wars.

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Arran Cross, Retail Special Projects and Buying Manager, Royal Armouries © Fern Merrills

Arran Cross, Retail Special Projects and Buying Manager

I have always had an interest in military history, particularly the First World War and Second World War.

For this project, I researched what both of my great-grandfathers did during the First World War. The things I found out about Cecil Darling are on display in the Royal Armouries museum at Leeds.

I knew that many of my ancestors had served in both wars and wanted to know more about the medals and battlefield trophies I have inherited.

It was interesting to learn about the battles that both Thomas and Cecil fought in. Reading the war diaries of their units was fascinating. Family stories of how of how badly Thomas was affected by his experiences are explained by the horror of what he experienced at the Somme.

I want my relatives to be remembered because they both have fascinating stories and the battles they fought in across the different theatres played a key part in winning the war.

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Private Thomas Cross © Arran Cross

In Memoriam: Private Thomas Cross

8th (Service) Battalion, Yorks & Lancaster Regiment

Thomas Cross was my great grandfather.

He grew up in Sheffield and was a Hot Roller in a metal strip mill before he joined the Army. Thomas volunteered to join the Sheffield Pals Battalion as a private and served the entirety of his war as part of the 8th Yorks and Lancs.

He saw action at the battle of the Somme, near the village of Ovillers where only 68 of the 680-strong battalion survived. He also saw action at Passchendaele in the battle for Messines and with the Italian resistance effort, fighting on the Asiago Plateau and at the Battle of Vittorio Veneto where he served until the end of the war.

To discover more stories, visit the In Memoriam exhibition at the Leeds museum and at Fort Nelson.