Deadlier than the Mail?

In the 1970s, arms and armour were a man’s world both in use and study. As a recent graduate in 1977, I was fortunate to get a toe hold on the bottom rung of the curatorial ladder in the Department of Weapons and Antiquities at the National Maritime Museum. The weapons side of the Department was all female, and as my boss had a preference for the uniform collection and had mastered its complicated identification coding, I was more thanRead more

The Birth of Stainless Steel

On the 2nd October 1913, the eve of the First World War, a routine report was written in the Brown-Firth Research Laboratory in Sheffield, the benefits of which we are still reaping today. Its author, Harry Brearley, chief metallurgist at Thomas Firth & John Brown Limited, had discovered Stainless Steel. Although his discovery sprang from a need to improve the weapons of war, Brearley had produced a material with properties that continues to provide countless benefits to mankind. By theRead more

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s campaign for better armour on the Western Front: Part four

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is best known as the creator of the great detective Sherlock Holmes. However, Conan Doyle also used his fame to campaign on behalf of British soldiers during the First World War. Conan Doyle’s conversations with the War Office, in which he suggests equipping the troops with better shields, helmets and body armour, form the subject of this blog series. In this final post of the series – written by Philip Abbot, Archives and Records Manager at Royal Armouries –Read more

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s campaign for better armour on the Western Front: Part three

  Part Three: Private Companies Written by Philip Abbot  Archives and Records Manager for the Royal Armouries in Leeds. At least eighteen designs for armour using steel plate, mail and even textiles were manufactured commercially in Britain during the First Word War, and no less than forty patents for helmets and armour were taken out in Britain between 1914 and 1918. It comes as no surprise therefore to learn that Conan Doyle also received letters from a number of private companiesRead more

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s campaign for better armour on the Western Front: Part one

Part One, Conan Doyle’s letters to The Times Written by Philip Abbott, Archives and Records Manager at the Royal Armouries. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is best known as the creator of the great detective Sherlock Holmes, although he received his knighthood not for his contribution to English literature, but for defending Britain’s conduct of the Boer War (1899-1902). When the First World War broke out he was one of a number of famous authors who were secretly recruited by the War PropagandaRead more

Yorkshire Regiments on the Somme: 1 July 1916

“… two years in the making and ten minutes in the destroying.” The Battle of the Somme was one of the bloodiest encounters of the First World War. It is chiefly remembered for the 57,470 casualties suffered by the British Army on the first day. The battle, which raged for four and a half months, was fought to relieve pressure on the French forces, who were engaged in the fierce struggle for Verdun, and to reduce by attrition the GermanRead more